Widely publicised research findings that 15-24% of lawyers will suffer from alcoholism during their careers may underestimate the problem, the legal health support charity LawCare said this week.

Among senior solicitors the figure is nearly one in three, a spokeswoman told the Gazette.

Research shows that 18% of solicitors who have practised for between two and 20 years are ‘drinking alcoholically’, rising to 30% for those who have practised for more than 20 years, she said. ‘The national rate is just 10%, which suggests the legal profession has a very serious problem indeed.’

Solicitors typically conceal their addiction by binge drinking only at weekends and evenings, or by drinking just enough during office hours to give the impression that all is well. Such ‘high functioning’ alcoholism accounts for between 75% and 90% of all alcoholics, according to US research.

LawCare warns that alcoholism is a progressive disease and ‘dependence will make it harder and harder to cope with the work until the practitioner is a liability to his firm, his clients and his family’.