The Student Bar Association (SBA) at Rutgers Law School’s Camden location hopes to raise awareness of a harmful and often ignored issue: substance abuse and addiction among law students and lawyers.
“A lot of people think going to the bar every other night and drinking is the only way to have fun,” says Sam Kovach-Orr, president of the SBA. “It’s ingrained into the national culture of law school and the legal profession.”
As part of the SBA’s “Sober January” campaign, all law students at the Rutgers–Camden campus are invited to participate in the initiative and pledge to refrain from drinking alcohol and using non-prescribed substances during the month.
The student government group is offering social activities on Friday evenings in January as alternatives to going out and drinking alcohol on the weekend.
On Jan. 12, the SBA is holding a potluck dinner with board games at the law school. On Jan. 19, Co-Dean Michael Cahill will host an Oxford-style debate involving faculty and student teams on the proposition “Is there a Central Jersey?”
The events will be held in the law school’s Faculty Lounge.
Members of the SBA became interested in the issue of alcohol and substance abuse in the legal profession after reading an article in the New York Times about a California attorney’s secret addictions and how his family learned about them after he died.
A 2016 report by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association found that about 21 percent of lawyers qualify as problem drinkers.
The report showed that 75 percent of the lawyers surveyed didn’t even respond to questions about drug use. Of the lawyers who admitted using drugs, the most common drugs were cocaine, crack, stimulants, opioids, marijuana, and hash.
“That spurred a lot of conversation in the law school,” says Kovach-Orr. “As part of the student government, we felt compelled to organize something to help fight back against that reality.”
The SBA hopes to continue offering other events throughout the semester.
Currently, the program is only offered in Camden, but the group hopes to expand the invitation it to the Newark campus and to Philadelphia-area law schools.