Volume 35

Passing the State Bar but Not Your Local Bar? The Effects of Rising Alcohol Consumption on Noncommunicable Diseases and What the Legal Community Can Do to Protect Attorneys

by Jeff Willis

It is no secret that many attorneys experience a significant amount of stress while working the long hours demanded by their respective positions. Complex matters, high-profile clients, and 2,000-hour billable requirements are enough to break down even the most determined attorneys, and adding a global pandemic to the mix has only further exacerbated attorney stress levels. This exorbitant stress has become so extreme that a whopping 19% of attorneys report having anxiety while 28% report experiencing depression. What then can attorneys do to help abate all of the stress inherent in the industry? Unfortunately, there is one answer that often seems to prevail: turn to alcohol and other substances.

The legal profession and alcohol consumption have become so inexplicably intertwined that it is difficult to imagine the legal environment any other way. Firm-wide happy hours signal the end of a long week, lavish dinners with free-flowing drinks mark the close of a deal, and even films and television shows often depict attorneys with a glass of scotch in hand. Perhaps unsurprisingly, attorneys also have much higher rates of problematic drinking and substance use habits, even when compared to other highly educated professionals; a survey of 12,825 attorneys revealed that 20.6% of participants drank at a level consistent with problematic drinking while the rate for other professionals lies at 11.8%, and the rate for the general population at a meager 5.3%. While the legal community is hardly blameless for its struggle with problematic drinking and substance use behaviors, the alcohol industry itself is significantly augmenting these issues.

Part I of this Note will begin by examining the growth of the alcohol industry, its effect on noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), and the increased risks that Covid-19 has imposed on people who are afflicted by these diseases. Next, it will discuss the effects that Covid-19 has had on alcohol consumption for professionals and how the industry is targeting young adults specifically. Part II will then suggest the proper role that the United States government should play in taxing and regulating the alcohol industry. Finally, Part III of this Note will start by examining the problem of alcohol and substance abuse in law schools and what law schools should be doing to mitigate these issues. It will further explain how these problems persist for practicing attorneys and the role that law firms should play in the battle against alcohol and substance abuse.


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