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Lawyers and addiction

Sarah David

Sarah David

There are few people in America today who have not experienced the challenges of addiction either individually, through their families or among their friends. It is no secret the opioid epidemic has reached unprecedented levels but drug addiction and treatment for drug addiction has been a problem in our society for decades.

Last year, the New York Times highlighted the challenges addiction presents to the legal profession, citing studies that indicated one in three practicing lawyers are “problem drinkers,” defined as individuals who engage in “hazardous, harmful and potentially alcohol-dependent drinking.”

The Bar Association of Montgomery County has not shied away from this important issue facing our profession. Its Lawyer Assistance Committee is a confidential group that tries help those experiencing any mental health or substance use disorder. On March 7, the committee is hosting Brian Cuban, a lawyer and brother of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who will speak about his book, “The Addicted Lawyer: Tales of The Bar, Booze, Blow and Redemption.” Cuban has been a vocal advocate of ensuring lawyers have resources to cope with the serious stresses that come with the job.

Addiction is a serious problem in the legal community — not merely the tendency to use alcohol and drugs to offset stresses but also the pressure to sideline self-care in favor of meeting deadlines and intense workloads. There are no clear answers to this problem but we will not find solutions without open discussions. Cuban recommends firms and bar associations do exactly what this event will do — highlight resources in the community for lawyers who fear they are suffering from addiction and make sure they are aware that there are paths to recovery.

Alisha Jacobsen, an attorney and a recent member of the Lawyer Assistance Committee, heard Cuban on the Maryland State Bar Association’s website. Jacobsen shared the link with the committee, which then invited Cuban to Montgomery County.

“Brian’s book, The Addicted Lawyer, is an honest portrayal of his and others’ struggles with drugs, alcohol and eating disorders, but he also provides various sources for recovery,” Jacobsen said.

Jacobsen added she has experienced the ripple effects of addiction, growing up with family members and friends who suffered from alcoholism  She hopes the event will shed light on potential routes to recovery because, as she explained, “Fortunately, with some, I saw the positive effects of recovery as well.”

What can you do to help? Talking to your firms about sponsoring events like this one is a place to start (the Lawyer Assistance Committee is still looking for sponsors of this event). There are also countless nonprofits and organizations throughout the state that serve as resources for people facing addiction.

“An Evening with Brian Cuban” will take place March 7 at 5:30 p.m. in Courtroom 3E of the Montgomery County Circuit Court. Cuban will be signing books at the event following his presentation. Any law firm or other organization who wishes to be a sponsor can send a tax-deductible donation by check made payable to The Montgomery County Bar Foundation 27 West Jefferson Street, Rockville, Md. 20850. In the memo section of the check, put in “Lawyer Assistance.”