Law: The dangers of drinking andadvising: The problems brought by the recession have caused some lawyers to turn to alcohol, writes Susan Wallach
Wednesday 19 October 1994
Charles Elly, the president of the Law Society, has suggested recently that the dangers of alcohol should be stressed to young lawyers at the training stage. for young lawyers. He said that the culture and lifestyle of solicitors, and the pressures they face 'positively encourage drinking'.
Alcohol is a factor in a small but significant number of cases before the solicitors disciplinary tribunal, Mr Elly said. He was speaking to the Lawyers Support Group (LSG), a body formed in 1983 with half a dozen six members. Now 180 lawyers are on its books, with around 100 having joined joining in the last two years.
The recession has undoubtedly had an effect, according to Barry Pritchard, one of the group's officers. 'It has produced pressures people don't know how to handle, and they've turned to alcohol to relieve the stress,' he says.
Alcohol abuse is a wide-ranging problem that affects so many people, not only just the drinker, he says. 'The idea of being drunk in charge of a client is very worrying. But I can't criticise too much as I had the same problem myself.'
He joined the LSG as a client in 1984. Now fully sober, he was made redundant a year ago. 'I was a sole practitioner for a number of years. I went the same way as so many.' he says. He relates a tale of lunches to drum up business, the pressures of running and developing a practice, and actually doing the work as it came in. 'I was putting a tremendous amount of pressure on myself,' he says.
His practice was absorbed into a local partnership, but his drinking continued and after three years his partners asked him to resign. He returned to sole practice, which allowed him more privacy for drinking binges. 'I reached the stage of drinking three bottles of vodka a day,' he says. 'I would even go into the office at weekends to have a quiet drink.'
In 1977 he began to take money from client accounts to pay for his habit.
'Looking back it was obvious that I'd get caught, but alcohol convinces you that you can get away with it,' he says.
He repaid the money he had taken, but an investigation by the Solicitors Complaints Bureau led to restrictions on his practising certificate - he had to reapply each year for the certificate and provide statements signed by two solicitors vouching for his competence. - which were removed in 1991.
These restrictions were removed in 1991. At the time of his heaviest drinking, he left his wife and two children.
No statistics are available on the numbers of lawyers with alcohol-related problems, although LSG is conducting a survey to collect information on their incidence in the profession. The only currently available figures are from the US, and these are horrifying, Mr Pritchard says.
'Most states reckon that of the cases before disciplinary tribunals, some 70 per cent are related to 'substance misuse'. They also reckon that 10 to 20 per cent of Bar members have an alcohol problem. They are not necessarily alcoholic, but they drink too much to do their jobs properly.
'Here, my guess is that 10 per cent of the profession have a problem. Of those, probably one per cent of that 10 per cent are full-blown alcholics,' he says.
So far as he knows, drug abuse among lawyers has not taken the upturn here that it has in the US. 'But unless people are honest with us, we won't know,' he says. 'If we find it is a problem, we would look at our terms of reference and get expert help.'
What Charles Elly has done, Mr Pritchard says, is raise the profile of the problem. 'In the mid-Eighties80s, the Law Society's attitude was that there was no problem,' he says. 'It is only in the past three years that we have made any real progress.
'Also The society is now much more concerned now with the cost of misconduct, which is substantial. There is a correlation between that and people drinking and doing things they wouldn't do if they were sober. The majority of alcoholics are as honest as anyone else, but your ability to think goes, inhibitions go and you end up emptying the clients' account to pay your booze bill.'
The LSG is hoping to set up a system whereby it is warned of problems, and can then offer an 'assistance programme' to the individual concerned. 'We will be open to anyone ringing to say that X has a problem,' Mr Pritchard says.
'We have had approaches from one or two firms, asking us for advise advice on handling a problem with an employee. It is better to get him or her back into active employment. If the price is a couple of months' treatment, it is probably still far more cost-effective than starting again with a new employee.'
Another call concerned an employer who proposed to take on a woman lawyer, aware that she had once had a drink problem. 'I could tell them what to look out for, signals that she had started drinking again,' Mr Pritchard says.
She served a probationary period, was contracted permanently and 'seems to be OK'.
The LSG sees the drink problem from all angles and in all its aspects, from some who may be drinking too much to others who can't stop and are on the verge of intervention in their practice, bankruptcy, or criminal charges.
The problems are not exclusive to sole practitioners, Mr Pritchard says. 'I would think it is roughly equally balanced between them and partners,' he says. 'We do define lawyers fairly widely to include costs draftsmen, legal executives, barristers, and university professors. We have had a couple of judges in the past.'
Unfortunately, neither judge was a success story. Generally, however, the group's success rate is high - 70 per cent - 'bloody brilliant,' says Mr Pritchard.
Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk
Interest-only mortgages return to give more flexibility to borrowers
Bargain Hunter: Exclusive discount on a SmartGlider - a self-balancing electric scooter
My Tinder date asked for a refund when I declined a second meet up
Bank-beating exchange rates on your international payments
Be warned of the dirty tricks the bailiffs pull
- 1 What marriage would look like if we actually followed the Bible
- 2 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 3 The Chinese city where men have 'three girlfriends because there are so many women'
- 4 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
- 5 Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees
iJobs Money & Business
£16000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Foreign Exchange Dealer is re...
£20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40/45k + INCENTIVES + BENEFITS: SThree: The su...
£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...
Day In a Page
This five-bedroom home in Sutton Coldfield is arranged over three floors, with a detached garage to the rear and a driveway at the front of the property.
In an elevated position above the bay, this four-bedroom home offers sea and headland views. There is a decked balcony and sun terrace - plus coastal walks on the doorstep.
With four bedrooms, this spacious maisonette in a mid-terrace period-style house in Holland Road is well-maintained and offers high ceilings and period features.
The terraces of this two-bedroom penthouse apartment offer panoramic views that stretch over fifty miles from the cliffs of Beachy Head.
In the heart of the coastal village of Mumbles and moments from the pier, this five-bedroom Victorian terrace is set over three floors and retains many original features.
In a sandbanks location, moments from the beach, this three-bedroom apartment has a large open-plan living area and a south-west facing balcony.
This four-bedroom home has an annexe accessed from the side of the house, with potential for improvement and conversion subject to the necessary permissions.
In the heart of the hamlet of Wardley, this five-bedroom period home offers countryside views and a stylish interior, with original features and open fireplaces.
Offering countryside views and landscaped gardens, this three-bedroom Grade II-listed lodge has a spacious conservatory and a large cellar that could serve as a workshop.
Set in approximately 1.5 acres, this four-bedroom home comes with a second, detached property that's currently used as an annexe.
In the hamlet of Newchurch, this former parish church is now a four-bedroom home complete with clock tower and eyrie.
Offering scenic views from a large balcony and sun terrace, this four-bedroom home has a wraparound garden and a heated swimming pool.
Offering views across the Humber and East Yorkshire Wolds from a glass panelled balcony, this four-bedroom barn-style home befits a life of leisure.
This four-bedroom home offers versatile accommodation with annexe potential; features include a hot tub, sauna and Norwegian BBQ hut.
Well-located for schools, colleges and the town centre, this contemporary thatched cottage offers flexible living space with six bedrooms.
Built in 1907, this four-bedroom Edwardian period home has been refurbished by the current owners, retaining many original period features.
Surrounded by landscaped gardens, this five-bedroom home offers living space across three floors.
This lovely country home in Burnham Market is currently run as a popular holiday cottage, with five en suite bedrooms and colourful gardens.
This three-bedroom 17th-century former village bakery is just a few miles from the East Sussex coast.
Set on a landscaped plot, this light and airy four-bedroom home comes with a log burner in the lounge, a fitted kitchen and an open-plan ground-floor layout.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Built on a former chapel site, this impressive four-bedroom home boasts balconies, stunning views and contemporary modern living.
This three-bedroom house is situated in a quiet mews and set over three floors. Features include glazed staircases and high ceilings.
A period townhouse set over four floors, this five-bedroom home was built in the 18th Century and retains many original features.
With five bedrooms, this spacious home offers beautiful gardens and modern interiors - set within the popular market town of Bingley.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
In the pretty market town of Bungay, this grade II-listed Mill House is arranged over four floors, offering four bedrooms and three reception areas.
This first-floor flat comes with two bedrooms, an impressive open-plan reception room and two lovely roof terraces.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Moored at Taggs Island and reached via a pretty garden, this two-bedroom houseboat has a vaulted reception room and skylit garden studio - currently a beauty salon.
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
A contemporary house spread over three storeys, this three-bedroom detached home has large sliding doors that open out to the River Quaggy.
Moored in Chelsea's Cheyne Walk, this houseboat offers two double bedrooms and a teak deck that's ideal for al-fresco dining.
This former village bakery, dating back to the 17th century, is now a three-bedroom detached home just a few miles from the East Sussex coast.
On the picturesque Isle of Man, this four-bedroom character home has a ground-floor shop that's currently run as a newsagents and a flat that would make an ideal holiday let.
In a new collection of flats, this first-floor two-bedroom apartment offers ample entertaining space and a prime view of Furze Green from a private balcony.
This three-bedroom stone-built cottage currently trades as the village store with a restaurant in the annexe and family accommodation on the upper floors.
Previously two semi-detached properties, this five-bedroom home is spread over three floors with a large breakfast kitchen, orangery, office and gym on the second floor.
This five-bedroom home enjoys countryside views over the Blyth estuary to Southwold, offering flexible living space with a ground-floor annexe - ideal for use as a holiday let.
Close to the market town of Eye, this four-bedroom detached home offers a double-height living room which takes the place of the original, 19th-century, chapel nave.
Dating back to the 19th century, this four-bedroom home needs modernising. Spanning three storeys, the red-brick house has a fireplace, a small terrace and a cellar.
Just outside of Cambridge, this single-storey home offers three double bedrooms, a living room with vaulted timber ceiling and ladder steps that lead to a mezzanine study area.
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn.
A former coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, an attached office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Located beside an impressive Victorian viaduct, this four-bedroom home has an open-plan living area that is glazed on two sides, with skylights and high ceilings.
A former furniture workshop, this three-bedroom home has high ceilings and painted brick walls, in a village setting only fifteen miles from the coast.
This five-bedroom stone townhouse features a pine staircase and an Inglenuk fireplace, double doors from the lounge give access to an enclosed courtyard.
This five-bedroom, detached home blends traditional and modern design; the sleek kitchen features a gas hob and oven set within an exposed chimney breast.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.