Many legal malpractice actions arise out of underlying problems attorneys have that are unrelated to the legal matters they are handling. According to various studies, up to 60 percent of all legal malpractice cases relate to alcoholism. Drug addiction is another underlying problem that is often at the root of legal malpractice cases. The prevalence of drug and alcohol addiction is even greater in disciplinary matters with addiction being involved in 50-70 percent of all disciplinary actions.
The Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board has recently added a new addiction to the list of problems faced by attorneys. A Pennsylvania lawyer blamed addiction to video games for the disciplinary violations that caused him to be suspended for three years. The 89-page disciplinary opinion contains 17 different charges and concludes the attorney violated 15 different rules of professional conduct including various sections of Rules 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.15, 1.16, 3.3 and 8.4.
Malpractice avoidance requires recognizing when your behaviors diminish your ability to represent your clients. It also requires recognizing patterns of behavior in other attorneys in your office which affect their representation of clients. The studies cited above suggest that up to 25 percent of attorneys have problems with alcohol abuse, add to that drugs, gambling, and now video games, and you have a good likelihood that there is an attorney in any firm who is a problem just waiting to happen. There are resources to address these issues before they become serious problems, including the well respected Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers. If you, or an attorney you know has an addiction problem, get help before it becomes a legal problem as well.