Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Mental Health and Bar Admissions

Many lawyers and recent law school graduates believe they would benefit from mental health or substance abuse treatment but do not seek help because they fear that doing so will affect their ability to practice law.

Some jurisdictions have stopped asking questions about mental health in their character and fitness applications to the bar, but others have not.

As explained in a recent article in Bloomberg Law, “[w]hile states like Vermont have taken steps to assure students that receiving treatment will not affect bar admission, . . . students planning to seek admission in other states are not guaranteed the same reception, an issue that weighs heavily on students’ minds.”  In Florida, for example, the Bar Examiners encourages treatment, but applicants with certain types of disabilities are required to submit treatment records even if they have no current issues which means that applicants may later be asked invasive questions by lawyers with no experience in mental health or substance abuse.

Other states have adopted a system of conditional admission. Once the conditions are met, the lawyer is fully admitted, but not everyone agrees this is a good alternative.  Some states do not offer conditional admission, in part because of a lack of resources to monitor those subject to conditions and because of concerns about the imposition of conditions not based on individualized assessments. 

For a good discussion of the issue you can read the full article at Bloomberg law, here.*

*I am not sure if you need a subscription to be able to read the full article.  I can get access to it using one browser, but not Chrome for some reason.

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