Law: The lawyers' tale: a problem shared

Keith is an alcohol-dependent sole practitioner from the East Midlands. The Law Society intervened in his practice on the grounds of suspected dishonesty. He attended LSG and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and underwent in-patient patient treatment. Members of the LSG gave evidence on his behalf at his disciplinary tribunal hearing. He was suspended from practice for two years. 'This was better than we expected,' Barry Pritchard says. 'He could have been struck off the roll for that offence.

Before he could return to work as a solicitor, Keith had to produce a medical certificate pronouncing him 'fit to practice'. He is now doing well at work, with four years' sobriety to his credit.

Geoff was a partner in a West Country firm. He began drinking at work, fell out with his partners and resigned in a fit of pique, which he probably wouldn't have done if he had not been drinking. He joined another firm and two weeks later attempted suicide in the office one Saturday morning.

Fortunately, a partner found him in time. Geoff had in-patient treatment for depression and he himself - rather than the medical profession - recognised that he had an alcohol problem. He joined LSG after seeing its advertisement in the Law Society's Gazette. Eight years later, he is now back at work and fully recovered.

Mary from the north of England rang Barry Pritchard at 10 in the morning a month ago. 'She had clearly been drinking,' he says. 'I persuaded her to go to her GP. Initially she was reluctant, but she did go that morning. He referred her to a psychiatrist whom she saw the following day. She is now receiving regular treatment.'

A member of Bob's family rang Mr Pritchard from South Wales having read a report of Charles Elly's talk to the LSG. 'I made a few suggestions and as a result his family persuaded Bob to accept that he had got an alcohol problem. In the last week he has joined the group.'

Case histories (names and details changed)

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