GENEVIEVE M. MARTIN, ESQ. ATTORNEY AT LAW PROVIDENCE & JOHNSTON LAWYERS HELPING LAWYERS COMMITTEE MEMBER
There are many faces of addiction. Do you think you would know an addict by sight? Most of us think we would because we think of addicts as the people we see on the streets with dirty hair and clothes, begging for money, or the people who are found in alleys and abandoned buildings dead from overdoses. Perhaps they are the faces of the people we see in the obituary columns that have died at home in their teens or twenties, with a reference to a sudden death or with no explanation. But would you recognize one of our colleagues suffering from an addiction to drugs, alcohol, or perhaps gambling? Would you recognize it in yourself before it was too late?
This book review discusses two books, both of which discuss addicted attorneys, as well as law students. The first of these two books is Never Enough, by Michael J. Burke. Michael begins his book at the point in his life where he finally had to acknowledge he couldn't continue the way he had been living any longer, which started with a lifestyle of drinking as he grew up, but eventually resulted in extremely serious consequences for him as well as his family.
Unlike some people, Michael discovered that he "had been born with an exceptionally high tolerance, which meant [he] could drink large quantities of alcohol and not appear intoxicated."1 This particular talent became an invaluable one to a young man who came from a family of distinguished attorneys and, after spending most of his time in college drinking his way through, he married his college sweetheart, whose father also happened to be an attorney. Michael soon found himself taking the LSAT examinations and thereafter in law school.2
Like most of us, Michael discovered that law school is no easy ride and, because he needed to focus, he stopped drinking the first year of law school. Unfortunately, he resumed the following year. Despite the drinking, Michael managed to graduate and started his own general practice. Michael faced the same stresses all of us face as practitioners, which no doubt, contributed to his problem. He realized he had a problem and, to help himself stop, he told his family and promised he would stop.3 Unfortunately, like many who are addicted, all this did was turn him into a "closet drinker." He then tells the reader about what happened when he realized that he couldn't practice without a drink, ending up in Las Vegas, not knowing how he got there with no money, and no way back home. Fortunately, his wife took him back with a condition he obtain rehabilitative help. At the end of his rehabilitation, his counselor warned him: "[i]f you can smoke it, inject it, snort it, swallow it, or roll it [dice in gambling], you are the people who can become addicted to it."4 For Michael, truer words were never spoken.
He quickly turned from drinking to gambling. It took only one trip to a casino for him to become enraptured by the glitter, ringing bells of the slot machines signaling winners and the bright lights. He purchased books on how to play blackjack and soon began to win. He felt that he had been "touched by the hand of God."5 Michael continued to play whenever he had a chance, even taking extra money with him so that, in case he lost he could tell his wife he had won. He soon had a reputation with the casinos as a "high roller," which came with free rooms at the casinos for him and his wife and made it even easier for him to gamble.
Michael's life follows the path of all who are addicted gamblers: they are never satisfied, and they usually tell their families and friends that they have been winners when, in fact, they are losing money.6 His casino trips continued to result in the need for even greater amounts of money, eventually drawing him into further ethical downward spirals. Michael found himself in so deep that he needed to borrow money from a client.7 Interestingly enough, this first loan came with a promissory note to pay the money back. Then the chase began to pay back this loan and all the others that followed. Eventually, Michael found himself in the place every attorney knows is the darkest pit where no one ever goes...the client's trust fund account. Yes, that's the next place where he went to find needed money to pay back the first loan or be turned in to disciplinary counsel.8 Like other gamblers, Michael's...