Bloomberg Law
March 23, 2023, 9:00 AM

ANALYSIS: Sobering Data? Survey Finds Less Law School Drinking

Jessica R. Blaemire
Jessica R. Blaemire
Senior Legal Analyst

Law students today are drinking less alcohol than law students in the past—at least at those events hosted by law schools, according to Bloomberg Law’s second Law School Preparedness survey. The data suggest that there are two factors driving this trend: Fewer law school events offer alcohol and current law students may be choosing to drink less when they do attend an event serving alcohol than practicing attorneys did as students.

The survey asked 994 law students and 896 practicing attorneys how often their law schools served alcohol at law school sponsored social or networking events. The responses from these survey participants indicate that while law schools continue to pour booze during at least a few functions, it’s now less common to find all events serving alcohol than when the practicing attorney survey respondents attended law school.

Reflecting on their past law school experiences, over half (53%) of practicing attorney respondents reported that “most” or “all” law school sponsored events served alcohol. In contrast, 32% of current law students reported the same. The inverse is also true— more than half (53%) of law student respondents reported that “only a few” or “none” of their law school sponsored activities featured alcohol while one-third of practicing attorneys selected these options.

Even more sobering, when asked how many drinks they consumed at law school sponsored activities that served alcohol, 32% of law students respondents abstained completely at these events. This is twice the percentage of practicing attorneys (16%) who reported refraining from drinking during law school functions.

But when abstainers from both groups are removed from the totals, the breakdown in the number of drinks consumed was the same for law students as for lawyers: 80% reported consuming one to two drinks, 17% reported consuming three to four drinks, and approximately 3% reported consuming more than five drinks.

Are Law Schools Drying Out?

Reducing the availability of liquor at school functions makes good mental-health sense for not only law students but also the legal industry at large. It’s no secret that lawyers often experience increased burnout and decreased well-being, which can often lead to unhealthy alcohol use for the profession. Removing alcohol from law school events can promote alternative coping mechanisms for law students, who already are struggling with a troubling amount of anxiety and depression.

Serving less alcohol at law school events is also smart for inclusivity purposes. There are plenty of reasons people don’t drink—they’re in recovery, they abstain for religious reasons, they have health conditions for which drinking is inadvisable such as pregnancy, or they don’t like the taste. Nonalcoholic events may help such individuals feel more at ease because they can expect to avoid social pressure to drink or respond to potentially invasive questions.

Sobriety is also gaining in popularity. Americans are still drinking plenty, but challenges such as “Dry January” and “Sober October,” and an increased focus on wellness are driving nonalcoholic adult beverages sales. As more people across the globe identify as “sober” or “sober curious,” the demand for more events that serve up mocktails instead of martinis may be on the rise generally.

Moving the Party Off-Campus?

It’s very possible, of course, that law students are drinking less at law school events but aren’t drinking less overall. Almost a quarter (23%) of the law students responding to the Law School Preparedness Survey acknowledged increased alcohol usage because of law school related issues.

Not only may law students be taking their drinking off-campus, but they may also be using different substances instead. The recreational use of marijuana has climbed in the US as more states have legalized its use (although it remains outlawed at the federal level). It’s possible that this growth in legalization is one reason that 12% of current law student respondents reported increased drug usage during law school.

But even if law students are using substances elsewhere, separating alcohol from law school is a wise move. While I was in school over 15 years ago, most or all events at my school (and every school I visited) served booze. There were Thursday courtyard “keggers,” school-wide parades with themed drinks, public interest auctions, student galas, and social hours all with open bars. For me, it set an expectation that drinking was not only common among lawyers but also that it was almost a necessity for the profession. Any move taken by law schools away from perpetuating this perception will benefit law student and lawyer well-being.

Related content is available for free on our In Focus: Lawyer Well-Being page. Bloomberg Law subscribers can find related content on our Surveys, Reports & Data Analysis, Legal Operations, and In Focus: Lawyer Development pages.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Jessica R. Blaemire in Washington at

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