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Is drug and alcohol use legal malpractice?

Drug and alcohol use is common across many professions and groups of people. Even legal professionals can suffer from addiction or use disorders. In fact, there have even been some studies that indicate that lawyers may consume alcohol more often than the average American.

Of course, as long as this drug and alcohol use is legal, it isn’t malpractice. For example, an employee or an attorney who has a few drinks while watching a football game with their friends on the weekend doesn’t need to worry about any serious professional ramifications. They’re not breaking the law and it’s not affecting their job.

But what if it does?

The problem comes when this drug or alcohol use does start to impact how well the lawyer can perform their duties. If the use or abuse is so severe that they make avoidable mistakes or can’t offer proper counsel to their clients, then this could be an example of legal malpractice.

For example, perhaps the lawyer was using illegal drugs and lost track of time, causing them to miss important court dates. Or maybe there was a hearing in the morning and it was clear that the lawyer was still impaired from a night out drinking the previous evening, severely impacting how well they can actually make legal arguments in court. In a situation like this, it certainly could be legal malpractice and it may cost their client a case that they otherwise would have won.

What can you do?

Understandably, it’s very frustrating if you feel hired professional legal services and the lawyer did not deliver the caliber of services you deserved. Their drug and alcohol use may have cost you your case. Fortunately, though, there are steps you can take, so be sure you still look into all of your legal options.