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Women Lawyers and Alcohol Abuse: How Stress Is to Blame

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

Despite crashing into a parked car, the lawyer was not going to miss her court appearance.

Layne C. Savage had represented many criminal clients, only this time she was appearing for her own crime: driving under the influence. Savage, who allegedly had five times the legal limit of alcohol in her system, pleaded no contest.

Her case, unfortunately, is too common in the legal profession. But it is also surprising because it reveals a little-known fact about alcoholic lawyers -- more women than men have drinking problems.

Significantly More Women

According to a recent study in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, significantly more female than male attorneys are problem drinkers. Statistically, the rate is 39.5 percent for women and 33.7 percent for men.

The new study draws back the curtain on a problem that has plagued the legal profession for years. And it is not getting any better.

Five years ago, surveys showed about 13 percent of lawyers are alcoholics. Last year, the number was up to 21 percent. The earlier reports suggested more men than women were problem drinkers, but the latest report has changed that conclusion.

"So what's causing women in the legal profession to drink so much?" asks Britini De La Cretaz, writing for Tonic.

It's the Stress

Cretaz explores the reasons, including demographics. She says that white women with higher incomes, education, and socioeconomic status correlate with higher rates of alcohol consumption.

Younger lawyers are more prone to abusing alcohol, too. They typically start in law school. Rashida Richardson, a 30-year-old lawyer in New York City, understands.

"If you're a privileged white woman and you're now being forced to deal with certain stressors that you've never had to deal with... then you don't necessarily have the skill set or ability to cope in healthy ways," she said.

After her drunk-driving arrest, Savage got counseling to deal with her problem. She lost her license to drive and to practice law for a while, but she survived.

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