Law: The dangers of drinking andadvising: The problems brought by the recession have caused some lawyers to turn to alcohol, writes Susan Wallach

Drinking and advising clients are unhappy bedfellows, but there is evidence that alcohol abuse is a growing problem for solicitors.

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.

(Photograph omitted)

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Life and Style
fashionThe supermodel on her career, motherhood and Cara Delevingne
News
i100
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    COO / Chief Operating Officer

    £80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

    Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

    £400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

    Market Risk & Control Manager

    Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

    SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

    £320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments