The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law has released a 50-State Survey of Bar Exam Character and Fitness Questions, compiling the primary character and fitness questions in bar applications across the country that request information about an applicant’s current or past record of mental illness and/or substance use, involvement with the criminal justice system, school discipline (e.g., suspensions or expulsion), and financial problems (e.g., bankruptcy). The resource was developed in an effort to better prepare law school graduates to complete these applications.
In related news, in February 2019 the Conference of Chief Justices adopted Resolution 5, In Regard to the Determination of Fitness to Practice Law, which urges state bar admissions authorities to eliminate character and fitness questions that ask about mental health history, diagnoses, or treatment, and instead focus on any conduct or behavior that impairs an applicant’s current ability to practice law in a competent, ethical, and professional manner.
Online registration is now open for the ABA 2019 National Conference for Lawyer Assistance Programs taking place September 24-26, 2019 in Austin, Texas. This year’s conference theme is “From Surviving to Thriving: LAPs Lead the Way,” Lawyers Helping Lawyer in Austin.
The conference offers a unique opportunity to learn about issues that directly impact the legal community’s well-being, and the services and resources offered by lawyer assistance programs. There will be sessions of interest for judges, disciplinary staff, bar leaders, lawyer assistance program directors and staff, law school administrators and law firm managers, and abundant opportunities to network with LAP personnel and volunteers from across the United States and Canada.
Register by August 3, 2019 to receive discounted registration rates.
A recent episode of the ABA Law Student Podcast, presented by the American Bar Association’s Law Student Division, features a discussion on mental health and well-being in law schools. The program description is as follows:
Raising awareness is helping to remove the stigma surrounding lawyer well-being. In this episode of the ABA Law Student Podcast, host Kris Butler talks to Terry Harrell and John Berry about mental health and well-being in the legal profession and law schools. Terry and John talk about how they became involved with mental health awareness in the legal community and explain the types of support available through lawyer assistance programs. They also give their insight on why substance abuse and mental health issues have historically been more prevalent in the legal community, how the ABA Working Group to Advance Well-Being is addressing this crisis, and how law students can get involved.
Terry Harrell is the Executive Director of the Indiana Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program (JLAP) and Chair of the ABA Working Group to Advance Well-Being in the Legal Profession (Working Group). John Berry is the Florida Bar’s Legal Division Director, and a member of the Working Group. Kristoffer Butler is the SBA Executive President at University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.
Listen to the episode, “Mental Health and Well-Being: How Law Students Can Get Help and Help Others,” here.
The Policy Committee of the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs (CoLAP) and the ABA Working Group to Advance Well-Being in the Legal Profession developed a Well-Being Template for Legal Employers to provide suggested guidelines to legal employers for responding to an employee who is experiencing impairment due to a substance use disorder, mental health disorder or cognitive impairment. The template is intended to serve as a tool that can be modified as needed to suit the individual employer. Each employer should tailor this document to meet the specific needs of its workplace, taking into consideration size, resources and practice setting, as well as consult with labor and employment counsel.
Access the template here.
March 27, 2019 at 1pm EDT
Program Description: Join Bree Buchanan (Chair, ABA Commission on Lawyers Assistance Programs and former Director of the Texas Lawyers Assistance Program) and Lindsey Draper (former chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Public Protection in the Provision of Legal Services) as they survey the information on alcoholism, substance use disorders, and mental health issues that many in the legal profession face.
The issues of alcoholism, substance use disorders, and mental health issues are ones which affect all lawyers who care about client protection. Indeed, lawyers struggling to keep themselves well may not be physically, emotionally, or mentally capable of serving their clients ethically. Listen as Lindsey and Bree explain why this is such a big issue for the legal profession and learn how some systems and people are changing the way they have always done business to better serve clients and lawyers.
Our expert panel will help you:
- Develop background knowledge on lawyer wellness
- Link lawyer wellness to client protection, prevention of discipline, and avoiding legal malpractice
- Provide examples of changes made to systems, practices, and personal behaviors that help protect lawyer well-being and better serve clients.
Further complimentary resources are available from the website for the ABA Working Group to Advance Well-Being in the Legal Profession, including a newly published Well-Being Toolkit for Lawyers and Legal Employers.
Episode 4 features a conversation on how adopting a growth mindset can help law students thrive both emotionally and intellectually. Guests include Dr. Katherine Bender Ph.D, former programming director for the Dave Nee Foundation, co-author of the ground breaking Law Student Well-Being Study and Assistant Professor in the Department of Counselor Education at Bridgewater State University, and Professor Dan Bowling III, Senior Fellow at Duke Law and lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania. Mitchell Barthelemy, a 1L at the University of St. Thomas School of Law and co-host of the law student podcast Cold Call Lawcast, moderates the discussion.
For more on growth mindsets and law student performance, see this webinar and article on the ABA Law Student Division’s Before the Bar blog.
Access the complete Path to Law Student Well-Being podcast series here, sponsored by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar and Law Student Division.