Lawyers in Recovery Have Low Claim Rates

December 13, 2012  Posted in: Addictions, Nature of the Profession

A recent study by the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program (OOAP) has demonstrated the truth of a belief long held by most insurers, state bars and assistance programs; that getting lawyers into recovery saves lives and dollars. (The Oregon Attorney Assistance Program, funded by the Oregon State Bar Professional Liability Fund, provides a broad range of services to attorneys, including assistance with alcoholism and chemical dependency.)

The OOAP study involved 55 recovering lawyers who were in private practice for five years before and after their sobriety dates. The first portion of the study examined the incidence of malpractice claims for that ten year period, while a second portion looked at discipline complaints.

During the five years before sobriety, these lawyers had 83 malpractice claims filed against them, whereas the number dropped dramatically – to 21 claims – in the five years after sobriety. This represents a 30% annual malpractice claim rate before sobriety, and an 8% rate after sobriety.

The same lawyers had 76 discipline complaints during the five years before sobriety and 20 discipline complaints during the five years after. This represents a 28% annual discipline complaint rate before sobriety and a 7% rate afterwards.

These statistics show that malpractice and discipline complaint rates for lawyers before recovery are nearly four times greater than those in recovery.

Lawyers in recovery also have lower malpractice and discipline complaint rates than the general population of lawyers. In Oregon, the current annual malpractice claim rate for lawyers in private practice is 13./5 %, compared to 8% for lawyers in recovery. The current annual discipline complaint rate for Oregon lawyers is 9%, compared to 7% for lawyers in recovery.

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