In February 2020, Madeline Holcombe of CNN reported that New York state is considering removing mental health questions from the NY bar character and fitness evaluation. As it currently stands in NY, prospective lawyers must discuss their academic history, citations including speeding tickets, as well as their mental health and diagnosed conditions.
Holcombe writes that most states require law students to answer questions about their mental health diagnoses and treatments as part of the requirements before they can practice. However, as many as 45% of law students say they'd be discouraged from seeking mental / emotional health treatment, even if they needed it, for fear it would negatively affect bar admission. But times are changing, and other states have already done away with mental health questions in their bar interviews. Will NY follow suit?
NY May Move Away from Mental Health Questions During Bar Interviews
Louisiana and Washington have already done away with mental health questions during their bar exams. It seems likely that NY will do the same. CNN quoted New York State Bar President Hank Greenberg as saying that law students should absolutely "get the help they need and not worry about being asked [to] reveal their medical history."
- New York state is home to 15 law schools. Fourteen deans have written to the Chief Justice of the NY Supreme Court to support the removal of mental health questioning.
- The 15th recused herself.
The discussion surrounding New York's bar interviews comes to light as the legal profession, nationally and as a whole, is having similar conversations about how it considers mental health. Today, 38 other states ask mental health questions of their future attorneys.
For those interested in hearing more about this and related topics, visit the Mental Health section of our blog.
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