by Jonathan Goodliffe, Solicitor and Deborah Brooke, Senior Registrar, The Bethlem and Maudsley Hospitals, London

(A research study commissioned by the Law Society and the Solicitors' Indemnity Fund. Published in the New Law Journal, January 1996).



"Alcoholism is the most common, serious illness likely to affect a professional in the first fifteen years after completing graduate education(1)".


Alcohol misuse amongst lawyers adversely affects their professional performance. Charles Elly, President of the Law Society from 1994-95, stated(2) that it is in the interests of the legal profession to support its members with drink related problems. At present, however, the legal profession in the United Kingdom has no formal system for obtaining help for afflicted practitioners, although plans for setting up such a system are under discussion.

As far as is known the problem of lawyer alcoholism in the UK has not been researched. Establishing the impact of drinking problems within a profession is difficult because of the tendency of the drinker to cover up the real source of his problems. Clinical assessment is complicated by this "denial(3)" and by the fact that the drinker might also suffer from other disorders secondary to drinking, which may mask the true picture.

Apart from publicity arising from the conviction of a lawyer for driving while intoxicated or for some other incident involving drunkenness, the bulk of the published evidence for drinking problems in the legal profession is contained in the findings and orders of the Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal. Some solicitors facing disciplinary or criminal proceedings will explain and seek to mitigate their conduct by mentioning their past drinking and claiming that they are now sober(4). However, many complaints against solicitors are taken up by the Solicitors' Complaints Bureau and are dealt with without publicity. They may result, for instance, in a reprimand without disciplinary proceedings as such. Thus the extent to which misconduct is connected with alcohol or drug addiction can only be guessed at. The latest figures provided by the Office of Public Censuses and Surveys, dating back to the 1981 Census(5) suggest that male judges, barristers, advocates and solicitors are over - represented among those dying from cirrhosis of the liver (for which the most common cause is alcoholism).

In the USA, a recent report to the House of Delegates by the American Bar Association Commission on Impaired Attorneys mentioned that:

"A 1987 Washington State Bar Association survey of a random sample of Washington attorneys revealed that 18% suffer from alcoholism, and another 12% are clinically depressed. Impairment was also associated with substantial costs, e.g. attorney malpractice and the Washington State Bar Association discipline process. Other bars have estimated that 40 to 75% of all complaints stem from lawyer impairment(6)."

Bissell & Haberman(7) carried out an extensive survey of lawyers and other professionals in the United States in recovery from substance misuse, documenting the similarity of drinking histories across professions, the rarity of comment or intervention from colleagues or superiors and the efficacy of abstinence-based treatment approaches.

This paper reports the occupational factors which contribute to the development and maintenance of drink - related problems among lawyers, and their professional consequences. This data was collected as part of a survey of lawyers who had experienced drinking problems. The paper concludes with suggestions for improving the recognition and management of these problems. A companion paper will report the subjects' clinical details, and their experiences in seeking treatment.



In 1994 the Law Society Trustee Limited and the Solicitors' Indemnity Fund provided funding to the Lawyers Support Group (LSG) in connection with proposed research into the incidence of alcohol problems within the legal profession. LSG was formed in 1983 as a self-help group for lawyers with alcohol and drug problems and was registered in 1991 as a charity. It interprets "Lawyer" as including solicitors, barristers, judges, magistrates, legal executives, court officials, academic lawyers, law students and anyone else connected with the administration of the law. Although LSG is the only organisation in the United Kingdom aimed specifically at lawyers with alcohol or drug problems, its membership is not necessarily representative of alcoholic lawyers in Britain as a whole.

Until 1994 LSG's activities were almost exclusively based in London. In 1994 branches of LSG were established in the North West and the West Midlands. There remain, however, large parts of the country where LSG has no membership at all or no active membership. There are, no doubt, many alcoholic lawyers (both drinking and in recovery) with whom LSG has not been in contact. When LSG establishes new contacts, the names and addresses in question are added to its list and remain there until the member in question dies, moves without giving a forwarding address, or asks for his or her name to be removed. All data on LSG members remains confidential.



A survey was carried out of the membership of LSG and of any other lawyers who admitted to having or having had an alcohol problem. Advertisements were published in the Law Society's Gazette and Bar News. A questionnaire was designed for the study, with a structured component to elicit basic demographic and clinical information, and also sections with open - ended questions to which respondents could give personal views and interpretations.


The questionnaire was posted to 167 subjects, of whom 61 (37%) responded. Two of the respondents had responded to the advertisements. The others were existing members of the Lawyers Support Group. Of the 61, eight (13%) were women. The average age of the men was 49 and of the women was 37. All subjects reported alcohol dependency, and seven (12%) reported additional drug dependencies. These were mainly prescribed tranquillisers; only three respondents had ever used illicit drugs. Subjects reported that, in retrospect, drinking was a problem at a mean age of 29.

Fifty two subjects (85%) had stopped drinking, for an average period of about five years. Of those who had stopped drinking, some still regarded themselves as having alcohol problems, because of the need to consolidate recovery.



Of the 61 respondents, 43 (71%) were solicitors, 8 (13%) were barristers and two were legal executives. Three respondents had qualified abroad.

At the time of the survey, those practising as solicitors were much reduced in number, to 29 (48%) of whom nearly half (13) were sole practitioners. Seven were in partnerships of up to five and nine were in larger partnerships. The rest of the respondents were distributed as follows: eight (13%) were barristers, four (6%) were students, legal executives or unqualified clerks, eight were employed outside the legal profession, nine (15%) were unemployed and three were retired.

Solicitors in sole practice had a shorter average period of abstinence (two years) than the barristers and the solicitors in partnerships (five years).


Respondents were asked to indicate the area of their practice. In many cases respondents indicated more than one area. For the 40 lawyers in private practice, the four most frequent areas of practice were conveyancing, crime, general litigation and family, representing the staple work of the average high street lawyer.



The questionnaire incorporated a list of adverse occupational consequences of alcohol misuse, and subjects were asked to indicate whether they had experienced these; frequency of reporting is shown in Table 1. Some of these consequences only apply to solicitors. Others only apply to barristers. The consequences in question are, therefore, more common within the relevant professional group than the table suggests.

Table 1

Professional consequences reported by lawyers with alcohol problems, n=61

lunchtime drinking 47 77
sickness absence 38 62
missed appointments/court hearings 31 51
losing interest in remaining up to date with the law 29 48
trouble with the police 29 48
warnings from employers/partners/clerk/members of chambers 25 41
losing driving licence for drinking and driving 22 36
losing job/partnership/place in chambers 22 36
losing clients 21 34
inability to meet fee targets 18 30
unable to perform effectively in court 18 30
difficulties in finding a job/chambers tenancy 17 28
other problems 16 26
employers, partners or clerk reluctant to provide good work 15 25
study difficulties &/or failing exams 13 21
being ostracised by fellow practitioners 10 16
breach of accounts rules 8 13
disciplinary proceedings 8 13
loss of confidence of instructing solicitors 7 12
negligence claims 7 12
reprimands from professional body or criticisms from judge / magistrate 6 10
complaints to the Law Society or Bar Council 6 10
insolvency 5 8
intervention under the Solicitors Act 1974 4 7

It is noteworthy that the most common consequences, experienced by half or more of the respondents, reflect a personal loss of enthusiasm and efficiency. One third had problems with finding and keeping a job. However, decreased effectiveness was infrequently followed up by colleagues: only about one third of respondents received warnings and perhaps 10% experienced more formal interventions, for instance, partners insisting on the subject accepting treatment for his condition.

The highest risk group for serious professional problems in this study were those whose alcohol related problems had been experienced when they were sole practitioners. 19 of the subjects (31%, compared to 9% in the profession as a whole(8) were in this category).

Four solicitor respondents had been struck off. Two had been suspended from practice. Three others had been the subject of disciplinary proceedings, reprimand or intervention under the Solicitors Act 1974. Of these only one, a solicitor disciplined in relation to a drink driving offence, had not been a sole practitioner at the relevant time. Two barristers had also been the subject of disciplinary proceedings.

The discrepancy between the statistics and the "consequences" reported in Table 1 arises because some of the respondents did not attribute the disciplinary proceedings they had faced to their alcohol or drug addiction.

Subjects were asked to write about the impact of alcoholism on their professional lives and two thirds of the respondents did so. This anecdotal data is described under the headings of "contributory factors", "problems at work", "colleagues' responses", "experiences of treatment" and "rebuilding". Some details have been changed in the interests of confidentiality. In addition, many subjects described the personally devastating effect, and the chaos, of untreated alcohol addiction. It must be remembered, therefore, that these professional consequences were usually attended by loss of family relationships, homelessness, accidents, physical illness or a combination of each of these factors.


Contributory factors - "a drinks cabinet was installed in the office"

Most subjects were of the view that they had always "enjoyed a drink". One man was convicted of being drunk and disorderly before qualifying. Family matters were also quoted as contributing, such as alcoholism in parents or spouses. However, it was clear that some subjects had encountered work-related situations, including stress and heavy workloads, that had led to an increased alcohol intake. One man described the alcoholic drinking of the senior partner, to whom he was articled. Some respondents commented particularly on social aspects of their work that had encouraged heavy drinking:

"I became a `rainmaker' - a business getter. Drinking worked for about five years of my professional life as I raced around the cocktail circuit."

"I worked for an international company ... there was the inevitable large amount of board-room lunches, evening cocktail parties and long-distance business trips."

"I started in a small firm as an advocate, mixing with clients and police in pubs, etc. and gradually spent more and more time in pubs."

For some, alcohol had been an attempt to solve work-related difficulties, such as disagreements with partners. Personality problems were also mentioned:

"I was an inadequate and oversensitive young man, without any "common sense" and generally a mess as a result of a traumatic childhood."

"I was a very moody person with regular periods of depression which often coincided with things going wrong at work or silly errors made on client matters."


Problems at work - "I am amazed at what I got away with"

Respondents were asked whether their standards of honesty and fair dealing with clients and fellow professionals had fallen as a result of their drinking. 19 subjects (31%) answered "yes". However, the answers clearly depended on personal interpretation of the concepts of "honesty" and "fair dealing". The question was described as "rhetorical" by one respondent. Although specific examples were given, such as improper use of clients' money, many respondents remarked on a pervasive decline in interest and commitment:

"A tendency to give negative advice to clients which was an easy way out of having to do work which deep down I did not then feel up to."

"Not getting best results owing to lack of knowledge of file, poor presentation of case ... letting down colleagues who had to cover up for me."

"Misleading clients about progress on matters, fictitious timesheets showing time spent on client matters, covering things up on job applications."

"While I remained honest, I don't think that my clients received `fair dealing' from me."

Other subjects remarked on the deleterious effects on work due to a preoccupation with drink, specifying that the need to avoid withdrawal symptoms had become a preoccupation which overwhelmed other commitments:

"I feel towards the end of my drinking, I really couldn't care what result I obtained for a client. I wanted to negotiate quickly `at the door of the court' so that I could get to a nearby pub."

Although it was thought that others had not noticed this preoccupation at the time, in retrospect it was realised that it was obvious to all, from partners to the ladies in the lunch room "where the drinks cabinet was housed". Apart from drinking to relieve withdrawal, others remembered impaired performance due to the effects of alcoholism, such as memory impairment, and absenteeism from the mid - afternoon.

Colleagues' responses - "personal and professional ostracism"

"Isolation" emerged as the most common description of subjects' experiences as their drinking became ever more damaging. This partly originated with themselves, as they sought to hide the consequences of their drinking from colleagues, but it was also contributed to by colleagues:

"I was becoming interested in nothing other than alcohol. My office was moved to an annexe .. there was a tendency for me to be forgotten within our large organisation."

"Drinking led to an intervention [under the Solicitors' Act 1974] in my practice and its eventual destruction. It left me totally isolated in the professional community where I practised as a solicitor. I was left without any friends."

"There was a total lack of understanding by my partners at the time as to the nature of alcoholism."

There were some instances of colleagues making well-intentioned interventions, and their subsequent frustration when the situation failed to improve:

"Three years ago my partners expressed concern. I admitted I had a problem, and sought medical help. I returned to work, but the drinking crept up and finally I was asked to resign."

"I was suspended to "sort myself out". I spent six weeks alone in my flat drinking heavily. I went back to work and was sacked."

"I was given a "second chance" but I then committed a very serious offence ..."

Resignation or being asked to leave was a common outcome for our subjects. Many tried sole practice at this stage, but without effective treatment for their addiction, the results were not encouraging.

However, colleagues' responses were, occasionally, reported as helpful. For example, colleagues had been instrumental in levering at least four subjects into treatment. Two of these were partners in large firms and the third a lawyer employed in industry. The organisations of which they were members were, accordingly, better placed than most to carry a colleague whose earning power is suspended for a significant period.

"Under pressure from my senior clerk and with exceptional support from my head of chambers I dried out in a private clinic."

"My partners gave me no choice but residential treatment ... their generosity and understanding cannot be overstated."


Experiences of treatment - "I was putting on an act"

"Initially I successfully covered up the true extent of my drinking. After I admitted it, there was a reluctance on the part of my doctor to accept the importance of my addiction. This resulted in fewer meetings with my psychiatrist and more attendance at AA."

Our subjects were candid about their experiences of treatment. On the one hand many considered that the doctors whom they had consulted had misunderstood the nature of their problems. Doctors are poorly trained in substance misuse. Alcoholism is under-detected in hospital practice and family medicine, partly because of uncertainty about diagnosis and partly because of a sense of therapeutic impotence(9).

On the other hand it was possible to be economical with the truth when ambivalently seeking medical treatment or counselling, so that the true extent of a drinking problem remained concealed. The "denial" that is inherent in alcoholism leads the patient to cover things up, and an unwary doctor can be persuaded to collude in this denial. Perhaps the social standing of lawyers, and their skills in manipulating feelings, increase the likelihood of such collusion.

In treatment, these behaviours militate against the honest self - appraisal that is a crucial part of recovery. A treatment centre has commented that lawyers hide behind the "need for confidentiality" and their senior position in society to avoid a therapeutic confrontation. They can be authoritarian and tend to value logic and reasoning instead of acknowledging emotions. Too great a value placed on intellectual justifications can be an impediment to change, and can also be used to devalue the therapeutic endeavours of staff. Such defences are challenged in group therapy, and lawyers, as highly achieving professionals, do have considerable personality strengths which can sustain them through successful recovery(10).

It must also be noted that treatment approaches based on "cutting down" were frequently mentioned by subjects. In fact, most subjects were clearly dependent and an abstinence - based model would have been indicated under these circumstances. The majority of respondents had achieved sobriety via such approaches (primarily Alcoholics Anonymous).


Rebuilding - "I had lost whatever contacts I ever had"

Successful rebuilding proved to be a difficult endeavour. Some practitioners were lucky enough to be offered a job by friends, but for those who were starting afresh in late middle age opportunities were few:

"I was 48. Most jobs are aimed at people qualified for not more than 5 years - unless they have a client following."

"I am confronted by ageism and the stigma of my illness and my professional suspension."

"Local practitioners express their pleasure at my recovery but even 12 years on they are not willing to back their words with employment."

Rebuilding could be particularly difficult for those at the beginning, as well as at the end of their careers. A trainee solicitor who was dismissed for drunkenness commented:

"The Law Society was made aware by the firm that my training contract had ended and why. They made no comment (not to me anyway) ... I haven't had a drink since the day I was sacked ... I haven't found articles yet and wonder whether it will be possible, given the reference I've no doubt I will receive."

Nonetheless, some colleagues had been supportive, and some subjects reported that they had been able to retain the majority of their old clients. Virtually all those who had been able to rebuild reported that there were no problems in keeping sober at work, although they tended to avoid social functions where there would be alcohol.

Many subjects considered that sobriety and the experience of alcoholism had made them more effective in the practice of the law:

"I have totally rebuilt my practice which now flourishes. I have a particular interest in criminal trials in which I act as the prosecuting lawyer. In nine tenths of these alcohol is involved in one way or another. I am fed up of hearing probation reports which recommend that clients have seen the folly of their ways and are now drinking less. I sometimes justify my role as that of bringing alcoholics to their "rock bottoms" and as such prison may not be a bad thing."

Subjects were ambivalent about the role of the Law Society. Mostly, respondents had not been subject to the attention of the Law Society; if they had it was reported as a punitive experience:

"An intervention under the Solicitors' Act 1974 meant that my practice was taken over by a neighbouring practice without compensation; I was sent a bill by the Law Society for the costs of the intervention which I had no means to pay."

Solicitors who have been the subject of disciplinary proceedings are sometimes issued with a practising certificate only on condition that they practise in "approved employment". There were sometimes delays before the Law Society would approve such employment.

Another respondent reported receiving help from the local Law Society, and also from the Ethics and Guidance Department of the Law Society. Generally, however, advice about rebuilding was hard to find:

"There is no immediate source of information or guidance. It is a very lonely uphill struggle. It would help if the Law Society could direct people like me to simple professional guidance in confidence."

All of these difficulties amount to "second penalties" on top of the destructive effects of addiction on career, relationships and health. Subjects reported that even many years later, they were still being penalised:

"The firm sponsored me through the Common Professional Examination and Law Society Finals and want their money back."

"I am still being pursued for professional fees due 10 years ago."

Many of the comments about the Law Society dated back to experiences in the 1980s. In 1989 the Law Society started taking an interest, at official level, in the subject of lawyer alcoholism and Charles Elly took up the subject during his 1994-95 presidency.



Limitations of the study.

There are clear limitations due to the selected nature of the sample and the low response rate. The low response rate itself is no doubt partly a factor of the large passive membership of LSG (see "Background to the research project" above). Many of those to whom questionnaires were sent explained that they were unwilling to complete them because reliving the memory of their drinking days was too painful.

This is, however, the first such survey in the United Kingdom, and the qualitative data are of interest. There are important implications for the legal profession. The main findings are that there are organisational aspects of legal work which may contribute to the development of an alcohol problem and that the consequences of such problems are potentially damaging to the profession. Subjects reported "second penalties", in terms of difficulties in returning to the profession after recovery.


Comparisons with general data on lawyers.

The sample is too small to be representative, in quantitative terms, of alcohol problems in the legal profession and so definite conclusions cannot be drawn; but it is of interest to compare our data with all solicitors and barristers. In terms of age, our respondents had a mean age overall of 48, and this seems comparable with the average age of solicitors with practising certificates - 41 years (data supplied by the Law Society).

Thirteen percent of our respondents were women with an average age of 37. Women now account for 29% of solicitors under 40 with practising certificates. However, alcohol problems are less common among women, so our sample again accords with expectations.

The number of solicitors who are unemployed is not known, but it is probably not more than 3%. Thus it appears that more of our sample than might be expected are unemployed. Although our respondents started their careers with the expected excess of solicitors, attrition has occurred among the solicitors so that they are now under - represented. Not only are they reduced in numbers, but those in sole practice are over - represented. However, caution is needed in interpreting small numbers.

Only 12% of our sample reported problems with drugs other than alcohol. The drug problem in the USA, by contrast, seems more significant. 27% of the referrals to the New York State Bar Lawyers Assistance Program in the year 1993-94, for instance, involved addicts whose primary drug of choice was a substance other than alcohol(11).

Sole practitioners.

Although numbers are small, solicitors in sole practice emerge as a worrying group. They are over - represented so far as serious professional problems are concerned and among those who have been suspended and struck off. Those who remained in sole practice had a shorter period of sobriety, on average, than the barristers or solicitors in partnerships.

There are a number of possible explanations for the concentration of serious problems amongst sole practitioners. Many solicitors with serious drinking problems may in practical terms not be able to practise except on their own. Sole practice has its own particular stresses, such as professional isolation and the need for the lawyer to cover a wider range of legal cases. Moreover in a partnership there will usually be controls or safeguards, or in some cases the firm may be content to ignore the problem and "carry" a partner or employee who is not pulling his weight.

A solicitor who has recently stopped drinking will usually find a job as an assistant solicitor or a locum, or indeed a long break from work, less stressful and more conducive to recovery than working as a sole practitioner, or even as a partner.

The findings and orders of the Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal indicate that there are many other sole practitioners whose professional problems arise from alcoholism, depression or related health problems(12). Disciplinary proceedings against partners or employees of firms of solicitors involving serious misconduct are less common, and it is even less common for alcohol to be mentioned in such cases(13).

A study commissioned by the Law Society in 1991(14) gathered information on the 47 solicitors whose activities (referred to as "defaults") had given rise to claims on the Solicitors' Compensation Fund in 1987. Sole practitioners were in the majority (41 of the 47 subjects). Of the sole practitioners, three were alcoholic and one had a gambling problem. A further 17 had suffered from difficulties which may have been exacerbated by drink, such as "stress/depression" and "family problems". The study showed that "the main type of work that gave rise to defaults was conveyancing", no doubt because this type of work involves handling substantial sums of money whereas, for instance, criminal work usually does not. It should be noted, however, that whereas a sole practitioner who misuses client's money may give rise to a claim on the Compensation Fund, the same activity on the part of a partner is more likely to be absorbed by the partnership, or to give rise to a claim on the firm's fidelity insurance cover - unless the firm as a whole defaults.



This survey confirms the work of Bissell and Haberman(15), which documented the low rate of intervention with professionals whose performance is compromised by alcoholism. Only one - third of their lawyer subjects were able to remember any adverse comment from colleagues or superiors about their drinking during their entire drinking career. The equivalent proportion of our subjects is only slightly larger (41%). It appears that the combination of uncertain management and denial of the problem, made familiar by their study of different professional groups, is also found in the British legal profession.

At present, it seems to be possible for a lawyer to be regularly picked up drunk in the street by police, but for the Solicitors' Complaints Bureau to refuse to take action because there was no evidence of dishonesty(16). It was rare for the colleagues of our subjects to recognise the existence of a drinking problem and to take appropriate action.


Professional negligence

Even though many subjects reported that their professional performance had been affected and that they were lucky never to have been sued, only seven respondents reported professional negligence claims, although one pointed out he would not necessarily have been notified by his former firm if there had been any claims. It is perhaps not surprising that alcoholism is publicly associated with disciplinary proceedings but not with professional negligence, since in a negligence claim the acts and defaults of a defendant are judged by reference to an objective duty of care, whereas in disciplinary proceedings evidence of alcoholism and recovery therefrom may make the difference between striking off and suspension, or between suspension and a fine(17).

It does not follow from this that alcoholism is an irrelevant factor in professional negligence. In the downward progression of the drinking lawyer it can be expected that the standard of his work will deteriorate before he gets to the stage of stealing client funds or otherwise committing professional misconduct. Research has indicated(18) a strong co-relation between severity of alcohol dependence and severity of alcohol-related problems. If the profession wishes to attempt more than a "fire-fighting" approach to professional negligence, it must be important to identify cases where the relevant acts or omissions are alcohol related, so that appropriate action may be taken to ensure that they are not repeated(19). In the defence of negligence claims, information of this kind will often be important. If, for instance, the negligent solicitor is still drinking when the claim comes to trial his recollection may be a mixture of fact and fantasy and will therefore be particularly unreliable and vulnerable to cross-examination. Even if he is sober, his memory of disputed events may be impaired.


Other professionals

The management of impaired lawyers might be improved if the legal profession were to study the model used by the medical profession. The General Medical Council (the medical profession's regulatory body) submits any information which calls into question a doctor's fitness to practise to a preliminary screener for health. If the evidence for impairment is sufficient, the practitioner is invited to have an examination of his (or her) health. On the basis of this report, the doctor may be asked to agree to medical supervision, and, if necessary, to limitations on practice. This is a confidential procedure which does not involve any restrictions upon the doctor's registration. More formal interventions are required in only a minority of sick doctors(20). There is good evidence that the outcome for addicted doctors in experienced treatment centres is much better than for unselected clinical populations(21).

In the dental profession, under a "Sick Dentists' Scheme" funded by the profession, volunteers who are all practitioners in recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction, identify those who require help, confront them, and help to arrange for them to receive treatment and ultimately to return to practice. In the United States of America and Canada, many State and Provincial Bar Associations have established a "Lawyers Assistance Program" ("LAP") with a full time director to achieve the same purpose(22). The activities of the LAP are usually supported by volunteers. In California, the "Other Bar", an association of lawyers in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction, work in conjunction with the LAP. Addicted lawyers are thus helped to rehabilitate themselves, and the profession retains the benefit of their training and expertise.



Three priorities are to: (i) protect the public and the profession; (ii) establish systems for identifying and helping lawyers with drinking problems and monitoring them in recovery; and (iii) help those concerned to rebuild their careers. With appropriate administrative structures, the evidence from other professional groups suggests that these can be achieved.

Many medium sized and large firms might perhaps follow some of their major commercial clients by adopting health policies in order to identify alcohol problems at an early stage. Private medical insurance is sometimes offered by these firms as a benefit to their employees. However such insurance often excludes treatment for alcohol dependence, as does the insurance scheme sponsored by the Law Society itself. The personnel director of a major firm reports:

"I am pleased to say that all the cases [of alcoholism] we have had to date have emerged at the other end of the tunnel. To the best of my knowledge all are still in the profession though not all have remained with us. We have begun to develop a culture at partnership level where it is legitimate to discuss these things in a reasonably open way without fear of ridicule, or recrimination(23)."

The development of this culture throughout the profession would facilitate the acknowledgement and management of alcohol - related problems, to the considerable benefit of afflicted practitioners, the whole profession and its clients.


[This work was supported by grants from the Law Society Trustee Limited and the Solicitors' Indemnity Fund Limited]



1. 1 Bissell, L & Haberman, P.W. (1984) "Alcoholism in the professions" (New York, Oxford University Press).

2. 2 in, for instance, a speech on 10th September 1994.

3. 3 Talbott, G D, "Denial in chemical dependence: special issues for impaired physicians", Psychiatric Medicine, 3,349 (1987).

4. 4 Goodliffe, J, "Alcohol and depression in English and American lawyer disciplinary proceedings", Addiction (1994) 89, 1237.

5. 5 Office of Population Censuses and Surveys, "Occupational mortality 1979-80, 82-83". London, HMSO, 1986.

6. 6 American Bar Association Commission on Impaired Attorneys, "Report with recommendation to the House of Delegates", August 1995.

7. 7 "Alcoholism in the Professions", see note 1

8. 8 Figures supplied by the Law Society.

9. 9 Brooke, D, Edwards, G & Taylor, C, "Addiction as an occupational hazard: 144 doctors with drug and alcohol problems". British Journal of Addiction, 86, 1011.

10. 10 Letter from Galsworthy Lodge to the authors.

11. 11 New York State Bar Association Lawyers Assistance Program, annual report (1994).

12. 12 Goodliffe, J (1994) op. cit, at note 4

13. 13 For an exception see the decision of the Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal in Chalkley (1992 No 5141) in which a solicitor who had defrauded his partners admitted to being an alcoholic.

14. 14 Skordaki & Willis, "Default by solicitors", Law Society, 1991.

15. 15 "Alcoholism in the professions", see note 1 above.

16. 16 See report of findings and order of the Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal in Duncan (1993) No 5153 6218/1992.

17. 17 Goodliffe, J (1994) op. cit, at note 4

18. 18 Drummond D.C. (1990), "The relationship between alcohol dependence and alcohol related problems in a clinical population". British Journal of Addiction, 85, 357-66.

19. 19 Kirk R. Hall, 1994, "The Link between malpractice loss prevention and lawyer assistance progams", paper prepared for the American Bar Assocation Commission on Impaired Attorneys, National workshop for lawyer assistance programs.

20. 20 See, generally, Russell G. Smith, "Medical discipline, the professional conduct jurisdiction of the General Medical Council, 1858-1990", Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1994.

21. 21 Shore, J, "The Oregon experience with impaired physicians on probation: an eight-year follow up", Journal of the American Medical Association, 257, 2931.

22. 22 See for instance the 1993 - 1994 annual reports of the District of Columbia Lawyer Counselling Program and the New York State Bar Association Lawyer Assistance Program).

23. 23 Extract from letter to authors.