Legal Speak


“This Big-Law Veteran Hit Rock Bottom. Here’s How She Got Sober.”
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By Leigh Jones and Vanessa Blum

Lisa Smith, who started her path to recovery 15 years ago, says there’s a “myth” about the so-called high-functioning alcoholic.

This week, Gina Passarella, editor in chief of affiliate The American Lawyer, talks with Lisa Smith, a former associate at Shearman & Sterling who later worked in business development for Pillsbury Winthrop and Patterson Belknap. Smith, now a consultant at Lisa Smith Advisory, hit bottom with drugs and alcohol some 15 years ago, and she shares with Passarella the details about her path to recovery. Their interview is part of our ongoing Minds Over Matters project,’s yearlong examination of mental health in the legal profession.

Smith, a member of our Minds Over Matters advisory board, is also the author of the memoir “Girl Walks Out of a Bar,” which chronicles her journey of substance abuse and mental health challenges. One of the points that Smith emphasizes in her advocacy and writing is what she calls the myth of the high-functioning alcoholic. Smith’s offers some strategies for lawyers to use in setting boundaries and tips to navigate staying mentally healthy in the highly demanding legal industry.

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