A common calendar entry for many lawyers and other professionals is “Drinks with [X]”. However, there are growing concerns about the effects of alcohol consumption on the legal profession.
The Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) wants to raise awareness of these issues and suggest alternative approaches for our work and social lives.
We’re not trying to stop people drinking alcohol. We’re trying to promote insight and choice and create a healthier, more inclusive approach to work-related activities. Drinking habits are an individual’s responsibility.
The impact of alcohol on the legal profession
Our survey on junior lawyers’ wellbeing highlights that alcohol:
- contributes to mental ill-health in the legal profession
- is used as a coping mechanism by those under pressure at work
A healthy approach to alcohol can have a positive impact on many areas of our lives.
Mental and physical health
Harmful drinking is the biggest risk factor for death, ill-health and disability among 15- to 49-year-olds in the UK, according to a government review.
Bullying and harassment
A recent study from the International Bar Association (IBA) shows that many incidents of bullying and harassment at work involve alcohol, which can increase the risk of misconduct.
Diversity and inclusion
Many people can be excluded from events where alcohol is a focus or expectation, for reasons including health, religion and personal choice.
It’s estimated that between 3% and 5% of all absences each year – up to 17 million working days – are lost due to alcohol, costing the economy more than £7.3bn.
What we’re doing
In January 2020, the JLD launched a best practice guide for employers on how to approach alcohol in the workplace.
In November 2019, committee member Laura Uberoi wrote a blog about the ways firms are moving focus away from alcohol.
In July and October 2019, we recorded podcasts on challenging approaches to alcohol in the workplace:
- Calling time on booze culture – with Laura Willoughby MBE (Club Soda) and Kieran Pender (IBA) (19 minutes)
- Modern approaches to alcohol at work – with Zoe Swan (Brighton University) and Rui Liu (Grass People Tree) (26 minutes)
In May 2019, Laura Uberoi wrote an article on why we need to move away from booze culture.
What you can do
- more details about why a healthy drinking culture is important
- advice on launching an alcohol policy
Share the guide with your peers, manager or senior colleagues.
No one should feel they have to explain why they are not drinking at an event.
If you hear someone being asked “why aren’t you drinking?”, moving the conversation on to a different topic can be a good way to support peers so they do not feel pressured to justify their choice.
Hosting an event
If you’re hosting an event, consider the following:
- an event name that does not focus on alcohol
- alternative activities or venues
- working with your caterers to provide interesting non-alcoholic options
- timing (could your event take place over breakfast or lunch, rather than in the evening?)
- dietary requirements
- non-alcoholic options for prizes and rewards
Club Soda (a movement for mindful drinking) has produced a guide to no- and low-alcohol venues.
Below are some alternative activities recommended by our members:
- arts and crafts – including hat making, drawing, sculpting and painting classes
- escape rooms
- food tasting and/or making – including chocolate, cheese, pizza or cake decorating
- guided tours – including museums and galleries
- magic trick masterclass
- speed networking
- sports – mini golf, boules, bowling, go-karting, darts, ping pong, (or requiring more exertion) rounders, football, touch rugby, netball
- tea ceremonies
- treasure hunt
- volunteering – such as helping out at your local homeless shelter or foodbank
If you have other suggestions, let us know and we’ll add them to our list.
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