NY State Bar Association House of Delegates Adopts Report Recommending Removal of Mental Health Questions from Bar Application

The New York State Bar Association’s House of Delegates has adopted a report from the Association’s Working Group on Attorney Mental Health, recommending that all mental health questions be removed from the bar application.  The Working Group found that questions related to mental disability are “unnecessary,” and should be eliminated.

Earlier this year, the Conference of Chief Justices passed a resolution calling on state bar admission authorities to eliminate questions about mental health history from bar applications. The Administrative Board of the Courts in New York will now review the NY State Bar Association’s recommendations in the coming months. If New York removes these questions, it would join California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Virginia, and Washington in a growing list of jurisdictions that prohibit mental health questions on bar applications.

You can read the full report of the New York State Bar Association’s Working Group on Attorney Mental Health here.

National Survey of Judges released at the 2019 ABA CoLAP National Conference for Lawyer Assistance Programs

Since the release of “The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change,” LAPs, ABA entities and other interested individuals and organizations have worked at warp speed. One recommendation, a national survey of judges, has been in the works for over a year.  While we all know judges experience stress, limited data was available that identified the most significant sources of stress and their impact. “CoLAP’s National Judicial Stress and Resilience Survey: The Results Are In,” a plenary session at the annual ABA CoLAP Conference in Austin, released data for the first time that begins to tell this story.

Judges were introduced to the survey with this purpose: “This survey is designed to describe the experiences of US judges related to judicial stress and resiliency. It will identify general and unique sources of stress by judicial setting and the impact of stress on aspects of well-being. The survey will also identify how coping mechanisms, including resiliency practices, are employed to deal with stress. The results will help clarify areas for support and services, implications for stress management and resiliency skills, and serve as context for considering changes in early professional development and continuing education.”

Among the top sources of stress for judges were the impact of decisions, a heavy docket of cases, unprepared attorneys and self-represented litigants.  Nearly half of the judges identified exposure to trauma and horrific facts as a significant factor.  Effects include fatigue, distraction, negative and intrusive thoughts, anxiety, and health issues.  The good news is that many judges are engaged in efforts that benefit their overall health.  Individual connection and support were also important resilience factors.

Members of the ABA CoLAP Judicial Assistance Committee and others are synthesizing the results and preparing a written report which will provide greater detail and offer recommendations.   Read the preliminary report here.

ABA Law Student Division Launches Mental Health Awareness T-Shirt Design Contest

The ABA observes Mental Health Awareness Month each October, as well as World Mental Health Day and Law School Mental Health Day on October 10. Law students know firsthand the struggles of those affected by mental health issues, and the ABA Law Student Division and the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs are committed to increasing awareness, national participation, and funding for mental health and well-being in all aspects of the profession.

To that end, the ABA Law Student Division has announced its Mental Health Awareness T-Shirt Design contest. Students at ABA-accredited law schools can submit their design for an official ABA mental health t-shirt by November 30, 2019. The winning design will be selected and printed on to t-shirts, and proceeds from the sales of those shirts will benefit the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs (CoLAP)!

You can find more information about the contest, including contest rules, here.

Arkansas Supreme Court Adopts Report on Attorney Well-Being

The Arkansas Supreme Court has adopted a report authored by the Arkansas Task Force on Attorney Well-Being, taking a phenomenal step in improving the well-being of attorneys and judges throughout the state of Arkansas! Congratulations to Arkansas Chief Justice John Dan Kemp, the entire Arkansas Task Force on Attorney Well-Being, and all the attorneys, judges, and law students in the state who stand to benefit from the recommendations in the report.

The report was submitted to the Arkansas Supreme Court and contains pages of recommendations for judges, regulators, legal employers, law schools, bar associations, and Lawyer Assistance Programs (LAPs) on how to promote well-being in all aspects of the profession. You can access the full report here.

Local Bar Associations in Indiana Actively Promote Wellness

A recently published article in The Indiana Lawyer, titled “JLAP: Bar associations tackle lawyer wellness issues,” touches on some of the many ways that Indiana’s local bar associations are addressing wellness and mental health issues within the profession. Some of the exciting initiatives include integrated wellness messaging in all bar association activities in St. Joseph County, the “Practice Health, Not Law” Day offered in Lake County, and the growth of the Helping Enrich Attorneys Lives (HEAL) Committee within IndyBar.

As the article indicates, growing evidence supports the fact that lawyers are susceptible to substance use disorder, anxiety, depression, and grief. These organizations, in conjunction with the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program (JLAP) in Indiana, are working hard to encourage mental health support and promote wellness in all aspects of an attorney’s life.

Read the full article here.

Ways law schools can improve mental health

Many law schools are beginning to offer mental health and wellness initiatives for students. Check out this article to learn about the steps law schools can take to address students’ mental health. Is your school doing something unique to address this problem? Is your school not doing enough? Share your experiences in the comments section and be sure to include what you think law schools can do to improve mental health.

Law Student Well-Being Latest Podcast Episode

Episode 6 features a conversation on how taking practice tests in preparation for the bar exam is an essential tool for bar takers to prepare to take and pass the bar exam. Guests include Sara Berman, Director of Academic & Bar Success Programs for the nonprofit Access Lex Institute’s Center for Legal Education Excellence and Ben Madison, Professor, Director of Bar Pass Initiatives and Co-Director of the Center for Ethical Formation and Legal Education Reform at Regent University Law School. Judith Rush, member of CoLAP’s Law Student Assistance Committee and Director of the Mentor Externship Program at the University of St. Thomas School of Law moderates the discussion.

Both guests bring significant expertise on the topic. Professor Berman is a nationally recognized bar exam expert and author of Pass the Bar Exam: A Practical Guide to Achieving Academic and Professional Goals and Bar Exam MPT Preparation & Experiential Learning for Law Students: Interactive Performance Test Training, both published by the ABA. Professor Madison is a fellow of the Institute for the Advancement of American Legal Education’s Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers and is nationally known for his scholarship on, and efforts in, bringing pedagogical reforms to legal education. Regent has recorded its highest ever bar pass rates since Professor Madison under undertook leadership of its “Bar Initiatives” program. 

Part 1 of Episode 6 focuses on how making practice tests a regular component of bar exam preparation from the beginning can increase confidence of bar takers and reduce the stress and anxiety of preparing for and taking the bar exam.

Part 2 of Episode 6 provides additional anxiety reducing tips for bar takers.