Saturday, August 09, 2014

Crazy people cannot be lawyers

A couple of female law professors complain:

Last week, all across the country, tens of thousands of law school graduates endured an agonizing rite of passage: the bar examination.

As if sitting for two or three full days in a large room full of stressing, sweating, swearing candidates weren’t bad enough, at least 40 percent of these candidates were also struggling with another challenge: gaining admission to the profession despite having a psychiatric disability. ...

(Lying is not an option because law students learn from their very first day of legal studies that the profession holds them to a duty of candor. If they ever lie about anything, they're told, the bar will find out, and they might lose their license to practice.) ...

There is good news. The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division recently stated formally that the mental health questions on bar fitness applications violate the Americans With Disabilities Act. The DOJ declared that these mental fitness questions use “stereotypes and assumptions about the disabilities and are not necessary to assess applicants’ fitness to practice,” encouraging states to focus on conduct rather than mental health status. The DOJ’s declaration is not enforceable on the states, but it is a clarion call. ...

It is time for the legal profession to stop stigmatizing bar applicants for their disabilities and for exercising good self-care.
Really? 40% of lawyer candidates have mental illnesses?

Another alternative would be to require full disclosure to the public. That is, let the mentally ill become lawyers, but stamp the info on the law license and on the Bar Assn web page.

The "lying is not an option" is amusing. My guess is that half the crazy applicants lie on the forms and conceal the mental illness. The Bar Assn has no good way of checking.


Anonymous said...

One commentator on the original Slate article posted:
"I suspect that most of these kinds of questions are part of the "screening theater" that a self-regulating profession must engage in to maintain its independence. "Look how hard we try to make sure unfit applicants can't practice law! (You've paid your bar dues? Then welcome to practice.)"
Anyway, there's decent odds that practicing law will create mental health issues for some who didn't already have them."

Another posted:
"I'm a lawyer: I have been treated for depression, admittedly after I'd been admitted. -- It's practically a cliche among lawyers ;)
The authors are completely and totally wrongheaded on this. It's a totally reasonable area of inquiry. It's clearly also not disqualifying to the practice. But it's a legitimate question for the regulators to see if the applicant can acknowledge and face their issues.
What needs to change is the stigma that people feel internally when addressing these issues. I went through a divorce, was depressed, and got treatment. If I had to reapply for the Bar, I should be able to say that sentence without wincing."

I think what all this sums up to is -
If an applicant wants to lie, they'll lie and the test is undermined since you can't investigate all applicants; even HIPAA laws prevent unwarranted violations of privacy.

And as we got from many lawyers responding to the Slate article, the applicants who do disclose honestly were admitted to practice law.

Therefore, it would explain why our legal system is so honked up - e.g. it's self-regulating, and a good 40% plus of those in it either lack ethics or have personality disorders. Explains more than you can imagine when it comes to the Family Law system!

Justin said...

this would probably have disparate impact on female applicants.

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