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; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
- 1 Rihanna 'nude photos' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
- 2 Frank Lampard equalises for Manchester City against Chelsea: how Twitter reacted
- 3 Stamford Hill council removes 'unacceptable' posters telling women which side of the road to walk down
- 4 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 5 Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
iJobs Money & Business
£80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...
£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...
Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...
£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...
Day In a Page
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize