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To Law Students With Gambling Issues: There's Help

Some lawyers gamble in their practice, like those contingency-fee practitioners who bet they'll win their personal injury cases.

Then there are those lawyers who gamble with their paychecks. For them it's not a practice area; it's a compulsion.

The biggest difference between them is the contingency-fee lawyers make money and the gamblers lose it. Unfortunately, the losing often starts in law school.

Law School

Lawyers suffer from addiction problems at a higher rate than most professionals. But according to the American Bar Association, law students are four times more likely to develop depression and other mental health issues by the time they graduate.

That's partly because students get stressed in law school, and some try to escape with a card game or a trip to the casino. But compulsive gambling is an addiction, like drug or alcohol abuse.

And when law students have federal loans or savings in the bank, the temptation can be too much. Wyatt, who told his story to Above the Law, said he blew $5,000 of his tuition money at the casino.

"The anxiety that I was gambling away came back ten times over once I was out of money," he said. "I was absolutely sick to my stomach."

Resources

The ABA Student Division helps law students with addictions and other mental health issues, and the lawyer assistance programs provide resources for lawyers, judges and other legal professionals.

Marty, a recovering gambler/lawyer, almost didn't make it out of his addiction. He lost his house, his cars, his money, and nearly his family.

"I moved into a hotel so my wife wouldn't be bothered and planned on taking my life that night by way of an overdose of sleeping pills," he said.

Then a member of Gamblers Anonymous called and talked with him for 12 hours the next day. That was 37 years ago.

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