Lawyer drug testing soars as firms panic

by Samantha Woodhill04 Sep 2015
An increasing number of law firms are drug testing job hopefuls amidst the rising number of highly publicised incidents involving lawyers using or selling drugs.

Law firm partners are increasingly concerned with potential reputational damage that might stem from a lawyer getting caught up in a drug-related scandal.  

The Drug Detection Agency (TDDA), which operates in Australasia, is conducting nearly four times the number of hair drug tests it performed last year, in both Australia and New Zealand.

“Eighteen months ago a pre-employment hair test in this sector was a rarity,” said TDDA chief executive Kirk Hardy.

“There is a real concern out there amongst the professional sectors that employees engaging in drug use are exposing these firms to some very big risks, this is potentially increased when you have employees that are dealing with money and looking after their clients personal affairs.”

The hair test, detecting a more frequent and prolonged history than urinalysis or oral fluid, is what testers are calling a ‘lifestyle test’, rather than determining one off usage.  

Of the 32.6 per cent of tests returning a positive result to drug usage, many are court-ordered. However, Hardy said the organisation has seen a significant rise in the number of positive results in executive and professional sector pre-employment testing, particularly over the last 12 months.

“Hair testing is fast becoming one of those checks employers are now conducting prior to employing someone, similar to the criminal background, credit checks and referee checking.

“I think with the increase we are seeing it will become part of the normal hiring process for a majority of the professional service type organisations, the companies that do not drug test will soon attract a different calibre of employee and it’s not the type you would want working in your environment,” Hardy predicted.

Figures from the NZ government say that drug and alcoholism costing New Zealand companies an estimated $6.5bn in lost productivity.

“If you involve substance abuse, then you are talking about clouded judgements, it affects the ability to make sound decisions,” Hardy said.

“Will someone showing methamphetamine use be more prone to possibly committing fraud or some form of possible criminal activity within a company?  I would argue yes.”