Addiction can strike any lawyer. Studies suggest that as many as 15% of attorneys have some kind of substance abuse problem. They are also 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression compared to professionals from 28 other industries. Their prestige and their egos complicate the situation, often preventing them from asking for help.
Impaired attorneys create special challenges for themselves, their firms, and their colleagues. A disproportionate number of malpractice and disciplinary claims relate to substance abuse, as do the in-firm conflicts that arise between these attorneys and their co-workers. Firm leaders may turn a blind eye to these problems for fear of drawing unwanted attention to the practice. Ignoring the issue is not an option, but there are serious legal issues in addressing the problem.