John G. Browning 2017-10-19 01:26:56
A Story Our Profession Needs to Hear Brian Cuban’s latest book, The Addicted Lawyer: Tales of the Bar, Booze, Blow, and Redemption (Post Hill Press, 2017), is a courageous and candid—painfully so at times—account that puts a human face on the statistics about alcoholism, addiction, and depression in the legal profession. Cuban, who was one of the keynote speakers of the 2017 State Bar Annual Meeting, has previously shared glimpses into his downward spiral of addiction in earlier writings, including a previous book and a recurring column on the legal blog Above the Law. But this is his most soul-baring and powerful narrative yet. Not only does it benefit from, and reference, the most recent and authoritative study yet on alcohol and substance abuse among lawyers (a landmark 2016 study conducted by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs), but it also deftly weaves Cuban’s own personal memoir with accounts of other lawyers and law students in recovery around the country. The Hazelden-ABA study serves as the touchstone for Cuban’s book, and its alarming findings have given renewed energy to the warnings sounded by the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program and its counterparts at bar associations throughout the U.S. Between 21 and 36 percent of practicing attorneys qualify as problem drinkers, with 28 percent reportedly suffering from depression. Even more troubling is the fact that lawyers often don’t seek help for such behavioral health issues, in large part due to concern over their professional licenses, reputations, and reaction from clients and their firms. The Addicted Lawyer brings a human dimension to the cold, hard numbers by sharing Cuban’s tortured odyssey beginning with his childhood as a chubby, depressed tween overshadowed by his brothers and suffering from body dysmorphia and eating disorders. Cuban chronicles how his early experimentation with liquor and marijuana soon escalated during college and law school and how his desperation to fit in as he navigated the Dallas social scene as a young lawyer led to cocaine addiction. Cuban relates how his addictions and battles with depression exacted a fearful toll on his personal life and his professional career, leaving failed relationships, jobs, and detox attempts strewn in their wake. What adds to the book’s already powerful impact are the first-person accounts shared by other lawyers and law students, like the recovering pill addict who hit rock bottom and dropped out of an Ivy League law school. That person got help, began helping others as an addiction counselor, and eventually returned to complete his law degree at Stanford University before devoting himself to legal issues faced by those in recovery. Indeed, The Addicted Lawyer offers multiple tales of inspiration, including that of Cuban himself: clean and sober since 2007 and married since 2016. Cuban has shared his tale of recovery and redemption with audiences nationwide and he has likely inspired others to get help. Yet at the same time, this engagingly written book educates as well, with Cuban sharing academic studies and interviews with experts in addiction and psychology as well as with a lawyer who has represented impaired colleagues in disciplinary proceedings. The result is a work that is equal parts frightening, eye-opening, and yes, inspiring. The story of how Cuban and other lawyers in recovery have exorcised their personal demons is one that our profession needs to hear. JOHN G. BROWNING is a partner in Passman & Jones in Dallas, where he handles commercial litigation, employment, health care, and personal injury defense matters in state and federal courts. He is an award-winning legal journalist for his syndicated column, “Legally Speaking,” and is the author of the Social Media and Litigation Practice Guide and a forthcoming casebook on social media and the law. He is an adjunct professor at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law.
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