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Alcoholism in law: is it a taboo subject or is there a lack of awareness?


23% of US attorneys admit to heavy drinking. In Spain, on the other hand, experts rule out that it is a problem

The consumption of alcohol in the legal profession is a common practice in our country that, however, does not seem to constitute a problem.

However, according to a survey by the American Bar Association (ABA), one in five American lawyers says they have a drinking problem.

A percentage that exceeds the rate of alcoholism among the general population, which is close to 11%.

In Spain, the data in this regard are almost non-existent.

The only information comes from a survey carried out by Iberian Lawyer in 2018, which reveals that eight out of ten Spanish and Portuguese lawyers have suffered from some type of mental health disorder throughout their careers.

Excessive alcohol consumption ranked fourth among the problems cited by lawyers, behind stress, anxiety and depression.

In the absence of figures, several questions arise.

Doesn't this problem exist in Spain?

Or is it a taboo subject?

Marisa Méndez, psychologist and professor at IE Law School, rules out that there is a problem with alcohol among lawyers.

"I do not consider it to be endemic, although there may be isolated cases."

Dolors Liria, psychologist and commissioner of scientific affairs at the Institute of Mental Health of the Lawyer (ISMA) agrees with this vision.

However, the expert admits that, due to its own characteristics,

the legal profession is a profession that can promote consumption on certain occasions, although without reaching the extreme of addiction.

"Among the legal group, social events are common, from meetings with clients or colleagues to professional conferences, and it is common for alcohol to be involved," he says.

In addition, Liria adds another factor that can favor the intake: stress.

Thus, lawyers are usually subjected to high pressure and demands, in many cases higher than that of other professions "which are, after all, risk factors for the consumption of toxic substances such as alcohol."

An extreme confirmed by Manel Atserias, head of CSR and well-being at Ambar Partners, who recalls that professionals are subjected to marathon days and an excessive workload, "which contributes to them seeing drinking as a quick way to escape" .


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Mediterranean culture

Is alcohol consumption among lawyers a taboo subject?

For George Artley, from the International Bar Association (IBA),

it is rather a lack of perception of drinking spirits as a problem.

"European culture, and especially Mediterranean culture, sees it as something sophisticated," he explains, while in Anglo-Saxon countries there is a greater stigma on who drinks within the work environment.

However, Artley does admit that there may be some reluctance to treat alcohol consumption when it becomes an addiction, and not when it is something specific.

After all, it is a mental health problem and, as such, “it is subject to strong stigmatization”, completes Tomás Gabriel, lawyer and international relations commissioner at ISMA.

Along these lines, the lawyer explains that law firms promote an image of excellence, "which makes it difficult for lawyers to recognize that they have a problem."

For its part, Atserias points out that if alcoholism is a taboo subject it is because the traditional legal sector has fostered a culture of fear.

“If you speak, your career is over.

And if not, lawyers have that perception ”.

A result that qualifies as counterproductive, "since it is being encouraged not to seek professional help."

Young lawyers

On the other hand, the ABA report revealed that

younger lawyers are more likely to consume alcohol excessively.

Thus, the highest intake rate was recorded among lawyers under 30 years of age, followed by those between 31 and 40 years of age.

Interestingly, the percentage declined as lawyers aged.

As Liria explains, this is explained because, when starting to exercise, young people may have the feeling that they will not respond well to the demands.

In addition, he adds that, when starting a job, especially if it is the first contact with the labor market, "a feeling of pressure to win the position can arise", which increases stress and, ultimately, the risk of consumption.

Tips to avoid excessive intake


Following the results of the ABA study, Lawcare, a body dedicated to the health care of British lawyers, published a guide with tips to avoid excessive alcohol consumption among legal professionals.

The first is to keep a diary in which you should write down all the drinks you drink each day, under what circumstances they are taken and how you feel after taking them.

After a couple of weeks, they recommend analyzing the notes, looking for patterns "and, in general, being honest with yourself."


On the other hand, the entity advises to speak with family, friends and / or colleagues to ask for help.

Also, it is advisable to go to the family doctor and honestly explain how much you are drinking.

On the other hand, and to avoid consumption directly, it is best not to frequent environments conducive to drinking alcohol, such as bars.

Instead, it is preferable to go to a coffee shop or the cinema.

In addition, the entity is in favor of being creative and trying new non-alcoholic beverages, such as exotic fruit juices or smoothies.


Finally, another technique that can help those who want to overcome their addiction to drinking is to find a new hobby or interest to dedicate time and energy to, as well as find a friend or partner who also wants to reduce alcohol consumption, and serve as support.

Source: elparis

All news articles on 2021-01-21

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