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Exclusive Legal Cheek survey: 27% of lawyers take recreational drugs

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And it’s not just a spliff round the barbecue — nearly 80% of users are keen on class-A gear

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More than a quarter of practising lawyers are taking recreational drugs, an exclusive Legal Cheek survey of the legal profession and law students has revealed.

And a startling 22% of barristers that take drugs have indulged while at their chambers’ desk or in the sets’ lavatories.

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The exclusive survey also highlighted strong support for the complete decriminalisation of all drugs, as legal profession opinion flies in the face of recent government moves to ban a range of so-called legal highs.

Some 54% of lawyers said drugs should be made legal, indicating that many of those in the front line of the “war on drugs” — either prosecuting or defending dealers and users — reckon the battle is lost.

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Not only are 27% of lawyers currently using drugs, the survey shows they have a taste for the hard stuff.

Of those currently taking drugs, almost all at least occasionally indulge in class-A. Indeed, 89% said they take cocaine or crack, albeit with only 9% doing the latter.

Another 77% of lawyers currently taking drugs said they were keen on Ecstasy/MDMA, while 30% exhibit a retro fondness for the psychedelics of LSD.

But marijuana is the most popular drug for lawyers. Of those currently taking drugs, 93% said they enjoyed a spliff.

Slightly more than 40% go for ketamine, while nearly the same percentage opts for magic mushrooms.

Strikingly, four lawyers said they were currently at least occasionally enjoying the Train Spotting delights of heroin.

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And while more than one lawyer in four is currently taking drugs, overall use is much higher. Nearly 60% of lawyers said they had at some stage in the lives taken illegal drugs.

Perhaps because their remuneration packages are far weightier, those solicitors practising corporate-commercial law are more likely to take drugs than their counterparts slaving away at general practices in the nation’s high streets.

The survey showed that 56% of those solicitors currently taking drugs practise at commercial law firms, while only 36% were at general practices.

Meanwhile at the bar, it was the criminal practitioners leading the way. More than 60% of barristers currently taking drugs practised in that field, while 22% were at common law sets and 17% were at commercial chambers.

Solicitors were not as keen as barristers on the partaking of illegal substances at work. Only 17% said they had indulged in their law firm offices.

Legal Cheek’s overall survey also included law student feedback, of which there will be more details this week. However, surprisingly, while law students are predictably keener on gear than practising lawyers, they aren’t that much more stoned.

In any event, the overall figures will trigger some dismay in Whitehall, coming on the heels of the government’s recently announced intention to put before parliament the Psychoactive Substances Bill.

According to the Home Office, that proposed legislation would “prohibit and disrupt the production, distribution, sale and supply of new psychoactive substances in the UK”. In other words, it is designed to crack down on what ministers see as an increasing rage for “legal highs”.

If enacted, the law would ban the sale of nitrous oxide — more commonly known as “hippy crack” or “laughing gas” — for human use, and a range of other substances.

Announcing the proposed crack down, the minister of state for policing, crime, criminal justice and victims (try saying that when you’re stoned), Mike Penning, said:

The landmark bill will fundamentally change the way we tackle new psychoactive substances — and put an end to the game of cat and mouse in which new drugs appear on the market more quickly than government can identify and ban them.

The current professional implications for lawyers caught with a line of Uncle Charles up their noses or with a few spliffs in their desk drawers remain vague. According to LawCare — a charity devoted to dealing with mental health issues and addictions in the legal profession — the regulators take a case-by-case approach.

For example, LawCare says that the Solicitors Regulation Authority maintains that “even a minor drugs conviction is likely to be considered a breach of rule 1.06 which states ‘you must not behave in a way that is likely to diminish the trust the public places in you or the profession’”.

But that is not necessarily game-over on the career front.

“You may appear before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal,” explains LawCare, before continuing “that a striking off would not be automatic, and the penalty would largely depend on the circumstances.”

Likewise, barristers convicted of a drugs offence, or those reported to the professional regulator for abusing drugs, could get a tap on the shoulder. But as LawCare points out, “the Bar Standards Board would consider the circumstances and disciplinary action might follow”.

More than 800 responses were submitted to the Legal Cheek survey last week.