Why Lawyers In America Drink So Much

Editor’s note: The following is an answer to the question posted on Quora, “Why do lawyers drink so much?” We have reprinted the answer with permission from the author.
A threshold question: Do they? Yes. This is clear anecdotally among lawyers and law students I know, and it’s also borne out empirically [1].

Well, why? The short version: Practicing law sucks enough to drive anyone to drink. Plus, even if you are a (rare) happy lawyer, three years of booze-soaked law school have probably turned you into a lush.

The long version: Lawyers, it turns out, tend to be depressed, anxious, to suffer from mental illnesses, to be more likely to get divorced, and to be more likely to think about and commit suicide. Lawyers, especially those in big firms, generally report low levels of job satisfaction. A large part of this seems to be the increasing hourly requirements of lawyers — at a big firm, 60 hours a week is an average workload, with lawyers staffed on busy deals often working much more.

Lawyers are below average for physical health — for lawyers working at big firms, this is probably because they eat SeamlessWeb every night but never have time to go to the gym. If you’re depressed, pondering suicide, involuntarily single, fat, and coming off of a 20-hour day, that fifth of Jack is probably the only thing standing between you and throwing yourself off a bridge.

Moreover, lawyers get socialized into drinking. Every other lawyer drinks; most law students do too. Law school is full of free booze, and frequent binge-drinking-fests called, hilariously, “bar reviews” [2]. Even if you aren’t depressed and divorced and fat, three years of consequence-free binge drinking in law school aren’t going to disappear immediately once you enter the workforce.

[1] See On Being a Happy, Healthy, and Ethical Member of an Unhappy, Unhealthy, and Unethical Profession, 52 Vanderbilt Law Review 872, 876 (text available at http://www.averyindex.com/happy_…). Lawyers have twice or more the alcoholism and substance abuse rates of the general population. This article’s chock full of data on the legal profession and how terrible it is; any unsubstantiated claim I make is based on this piece.

[2] Get it? See, it’s a pun. No, it’s not that funny.

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