Is there a link between attorney substance abuse and malpractice?

If you count yourself among the many people across California who have ever needed legal representation, you probably placed a lot of faith in your attorney, hoping that he or she would do everything in his or her power to help you win your case. When attorneys abuse alcohol or other substances, however, it can hinder their ability to appropriately and adequately represent you.

According to the American Bar Association, attorneys are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs than those across other professions. Additionally, there is a link between attorney substance abuse issues that continue without treatment and an attorney’s odds of being named in a legal malpractice suit. Just how common is alcohol abuse among the nation’s lawyers?

According to one study, about 18 percent of all lawyers struggle with alcohol abuse, compared with only 10 percent of the general population. Furthermore, research suggests that most attorneys who struggle with alcohol and drug abuse early on find that their problems only exacerbate as time goes on. For example, while 8 percent of pre-law students acknowledged “problem drinking,” 26 percent of law school graduates admitted having the same issue.

Problem drinking and the abuse of other substances can affect your lawyer’s ability to represent you in many different ways. It can make him or her more likely to miss deadlines, for example, and it can also affect attorney judgment, among other potential ramifications. In one study conducted by the American Bar Association, 27 percent of the nation’s lawyers who were involved in disciplinary cases had problems with alcohol misuse.

While this information about the link between attorney substance abuse and malpractice is informative in nature, it is not a replacement for legal advice.