Virginia Strips Bar Application of Mental Health-Related Questions

As of January 1st, the character and fitness portion of the Virginia bar application no longer requires disclosure of an applicant’s mental health conditions and treatment. The change comes after student organizations of the University of Richmond School of Law requested that the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners make the change, reasoning that such questions stand to discourage law students from seeking help for fear they will be denied admission to the bar. The replacement question instead asks about “…any conduct or behavior that could call into question [the applicant’s] ability to perform any of the obligations and responsibilities of a practicing lawyer in a competent, ethical and professional manner.”

The students’ letter to the Virginia Board references ABA Resolution 105, which urges stakeholders to consider the recommendations in the August 2017 report by the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, including the recommendation to “re-evaluate bar application inquiries about mental health history.” Further back in August 2015, the ABA adopted Resolution 102, calling for the elimination of character and fitness questions that ask about mental health history, diagnoses or treatment, and urging licensing entities to instead focus on conduct or behavior.

Learn more in the Richmond Times-Dispatch article, “Virginia panel scraps mental health question after law school student push.”

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