Unhappy Hour: Law Firms’ Drinking Culture Amplifies Sexual Harassment Problems

From The American Lawyer authored by Patrick R. Krill:

Dear Patrick:

“Considering the increased spotlight on sexual misconduct in the workplace these days, I’m curious what you think about the relationship between lawyers, drinking, and bad behavior? What should an employer be looking out for?

Sue in New Jersey

Dear Sue:

When the Harvey Weinstein story broke a little over a month ago, I don’t think any employer—legal or otherwise—could have known how much broader and deeper the conversation about sexual harassment and misconduct was about to become. Forget the crazy-making velocity of news in general these days. The headlines about sexual harassment and predation alone are enough to make your head spin if you spend more than five minutes online. Newspapers and radio stations are now keeping running tallies of all the accusations against public figures and high-level executives that have been leveled PW (Post-Weinstein), and there doesn’t appear to be any end in sight. We’re in uncharted waters, and you are dead right to think it’s an issue highly germane to a profession known for its heavy and hard drinking.

However, before we get into the nexus between liquor and lewdness, highballs and harassment, let me start by stating the obvious: Some people are just prone to offensive, inappropriate, or troubling behavior regardless of whether they are stone-sober or high as a kite. I’ve heard plenty of stories of egregious lawyer behavior that occurred in the absence of any intoxicants, so I wouldn’t want anyone reading this to think they could eliminate the risk of sexual misconduct by canceling all happy hours until further notice.”

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