The 2016 research findings from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyers Assistance Programs (CoLAP) collaboration indicate that 20.6 percent of respondent attorneys “experienced problematic drinking that is hazardous, harmful, or otherwise consistent with alcohol use disorders at a higher rate than other professional populations.” (Krill, P., Johnson, M.A., and Albert, L., The Prevalence of Substance Use and Other Mental Health Concerns Among American Attorneys, Journal of Addiction Medicine, Feb. 2, 2016.) The same study found that 28 percent of the respondent attorneys reported depression, 19 percent reported anxiety, and 23 percent reported significant stress.
The findings surprised the researchers because they indicated that these difficulties had a much higher frequency in the first 10 years of practice. The difficulties were more prevalent for junior associates in large firms. The study also looked at possible barriers to seeking professional help for the attorneys who participated. Two barriers were identified: 1) not wanting others to find out they needed help, and 2) concerns regarding privacy or confidentiality.
In the early years of a lawyer’s career, there is more stress, more possibility of developing or exacerbating a diagnosis that needs treatment, and a fear of being found out as needing professional help.