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Confronting Addiction in the Law Firm

Legal Management Magazine  |  April 21, 2017

Numerous warning signs are consistent with an impaired employee who has a drinking problem. Before listing many of these typical signs, a word of caution: Many of these can be due to reasons besides a substance use issue. They can be due to mental health issues, situational life matters (divorce, money problems, family situation), physical challenges and various other reasons. It is important not to “diagnose” any particular situation, but to help yourself or another by addressing the matter openly, and then, if appropriate, seeking expert consultation or assessment.

The goal is simply for you and your coworkers to be healthy and productive and to provide (or access) support to help treat the temporary or chronic condition. The key is that further consequences and damage — to all concerned — do not occur, and that the individual can begin to get better and heal. If you or the individual refuse to be treated accordingly, then at least the law firm has assisted to the extent possible. Decisions can then be made as to the current and anticipated job performance.

Some specific possible warning signs of a drinking problem at the firm:

1.    Isolation
2.    Change in regular patterns
3.    Disappearing at unexpected times
4.    Lots of excuses for unexplained issues
5.    Change in physical appearance
6.    Significant weight gain or loss
7.    Red eyes
8.    Lots of breath mints or mouthwash
9.    Becoming defensive when not appropriate
10.    Change in behavior — advent of fast talking, loud talking, loud laughter, extended periods of silence

See story in Legal Management Magazine
Featured Staff
Executive Director of the Legal Professionals Program
Link Christin is an attorney and a licensed and board-certified drug and addiction counselor.