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Addiction Risks For Attorneys During COVID-19

You’ve heard us say many times that addiction does not play favorites. It can strike a successful executive just as easily as someone who is homeless or unemployed. And a recent article from the American Bar Association Journal makes a point to highlight that fact. The noted attorney-focused publication shared new stats that put lawyers at a particularly high risk for developing a dependency during COVID-19.


Sharing statistics from attorney interviewees, the ABA Journal called out the added struggles lawyers may face during this time of quarantines. Writer James Gray Robinson (who, himself, practices law) describes many in the field as “social creatures,” who now have to completely re-adapt their lives.


Robinson believes that there is also a steep learning curve facing many attorneys right now as they adjust to the virtual life. And we happen to agree, as Zoom court hearings are a bit of uncharted territory.


“Lawyers are now having to figure out how to practice law, relying more than ever on their computers,” Robinson writes. “This is making them even more isolated. Since we are social creatures, having to live our lives digitally is putting more pressures on an already stress-filled situation. Lawyers need to know that these pressures can exacerbate an alarming situation that they are already facing. Being at home 24/7 can result in heavier and more frequent substance abuse, primarily because lawyers don’t have to go out in the real world and function.”


He then begins to throw out new stats that may surprise many. According to ABA Journal research, 36 percent of all practicing attorneys have struggled with alcohol abuse at one point in their life (up from 21 percent just a few years earlier). Beyond that, as many as 45 percent of all lawyers experience depression during their careers.


Many factors have been said to contribute to this, including long hours and time away from family (attorneys also have a higher than average divorce rate). There is also a tremendous amount of stress related to this field and it is known to be quite competitive. So if you add in limitations from COVID-19 quarantining, you can already see the slippery slope.


Robinson closes his piece with an interesting observation about the personality type of attorneys. One, that he believes, could already set them up to be prone to an addiction.


“Ironically, the same factors that make a good lawyer also can drive a lawyer to addiction,” he concluded. “Behaviorists believe that people who are driven to be lawyers are motivated by a desire for justice for themselves and others. This can be caused by the same factors of abuse, neglect or trauma that lead to addiction. It is a zero-sum game for lawyers because the only acceptable outcome is to be perfect.”