Wall, the managing partner of internationally renowned law firm Morgan Lewis, had just returned from an epic bender during a business trip.
He'd tried to quit drinking several times before. But the conversation that Sunday proved to be the major turning point in his life. "Hearing what they had to say was like being hit on the head with two-by-fours," Wall said.
Being told he could lose everything he loved, he agreed to seek treatment.
Wall's drinking problem, while severe, stemmed partly from how he tried to manage the many pressures of his job. In that he is hardly unique.
A landmark study of more than 10,000 attorneys conducted by the American Bar Association and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation
in 2016 showed that
36% of practicing attorneys screened positive for problem drinking, defined as "hazardous, harmful and potentially alcohol-dependent." That's far higher than what highly educated workers overall (12%) and medical doctors (15%) reported.
Wall has decided to come forward with his story as Morgan Lewis and other major law firms, galvanized largely by the study's results, are pledging publicly to help attorneys struggling with drinking, addiction and mental health problems.
A lifetime of drinking
Wall, 61, said his father had been an alcoholic who died of the disease at age 55.
There were signs early on that he, too, could become one.
"I was a budding alcoholic from high school, based on how much I drank and my behavior once I was drinking. I was the first person to make sure there was a reason for a party and the last one to shut it down," Wall said.
Over the years, Wall said there were many times that he blacked out, having no memory of where he was or what he did.
One episode happened when he was 33 and married to his first wife, with whom he had three sons.
After a business lunch, he said, "I blacked out while driving home and it scared me." That evening he was forced to skip one of his boys' school events because he was still in no shape to go.
That led to his decision to largely give up drinking for several years.