The story behind Solcare

Solcare came about largely through the efforts of former Law Society president Charles Elly. It was Elly, president in 1994, who pushed the issue to the forefront of the legal profession.

The arrival of Barry Pritchard as Solcare co-ordinator gave the organisation the credibility it needed. This is in part because Pritchard, a former Bournemouth solicitor, knows what he is talking about – he is a recovering alcoholic.

He stopped drinking in 1984 and retired from the profession in 1995 but has shown plenty of enthusiasm for his new role.

Solcare's launch last May was helped by the arrival of TV legal drama This Life. Suddenly the national press had characters and situations which suggested that, if lawyers were not drinking, they were at least sleeping with the senior partner.

But the publicity that helped kick-start Solcare eventually became something of a curse.

When the Lawyer revealed last summer that SolCare was helping two lawyers with heroin addictions, the story was blown up into a nationwide epidemic in one national newspaper.

But Pritchard himself has been cautious about overemphasising the problem and has occasionally refused opportunities to talk about his work on national radio or in the press for fear of sensationalism.

This caution makes his revelation that up to 3,000 solicitors could be suffering serious alcohol problems even more startling.

But then Pritchard knows that the key to Solcare's success is a mixture of letting people know it exists and ensuring it has the confidence of the profession.

“The whole basis of Solcare is confidentiality,” he says “What is said to me stays between me and that individual.”

Given a budget in its first year of £70,000, Solcare has now secured its funding for the future from the Law Society and the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors. Clearly Solcare is set to become a permanent and, sadly, essential part of the legal landscape.