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Win the Case Against Substance Abuse in the Legal Profession

A law firm is a seemingly an ironic place to screen employees for substance abuse or addiction. Long hours and the drive to build a portfolio of victorious cases has proven to motivate lawyers to resort to alcohol or drug use. Not only are lawyers at risk of losing their license, but the reputation of your law firm could be at stake if the proper measures are not put in place early on in your hiring process.

A study by the American Bar Association found that alcohol abuse among attorneys in the United States is at a higher rate than other professional occupations. Mental stress was also a significant result. Younger lawyers demonstrated higher stress levels than their older peers, which showed a strong correlation with risk of developing an addiction.

“Peter, one of the most successful people I have ever known, died a drug addict. . . Of all the heartbreaking details of his story, the one that continues to haunt me is this: The history on his cellphone shows the last call he ever made was for work,” said Eilene Zimmerman in an article she wrote in the New York Times about her successful ex-husband’s untimely death.

Don’t judge a book by its cover, or its bar exam score. A study performed by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism described one-fifth of Americans suffering from alcoholism as “high-functioning” individuals. The high-functioning individuals portrayed in this study are usually middle-aged, well-educated, and have stable jobs and families.

Some symptoms of alcohol-use disorders include:

  • Unusually high tolerance to alcohol
  • Drinking in secret
  • Ritualistic drinking
  • Keeping or hiding alcohol at work
  • Demonstrating physical withdrawal symptoms e.g. nausea, sweating, irritability, and shaking

Years of education and expertise are sometimes accompanied by arrogance and the naïve belief that professionals are in full control of their substance abuse habits and can stop addictive behavior from taking over. These substances have chemical effects on our brains that can trigger addiction, no matter the daily, weekly, or monthly dosage.

Sometimes losing one’s license to practice or harming an employee or client isn’t enough of a cautionary factor for lawyers to stay away from unhealthy habits. No matter the size of the law firm or the scope of its work, lawyers should undergo a drug screening just as much as any other profession, if not more. Keep clients safe and your workforce healthy. Contact us today to put a proper drug screening program in place at your law firm. Fill out an online contact form or call us at (888) 636-3694.

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