Character & Fitness: Substance Abuse

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Anonymous User
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Character & Fitness: Substance Abuse

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 20, 2013 8:44 pm

I'm a 3L, I received an offer from my summer firm, and I'm starting to apply for the Bar/MPRE. I hesitate to disclose what state I am in. I've done well in law school but I'm worried my past history with drinking is a red flag.

I have had several alcohol citations, all of which I disclosed on my law school application: (1) Deferred judgment due to possession of alcohol in High School (2a) Public Intox as a Freshman in College (2b) Possession of alcohol as a Freshman in College (3) Public Intox as a Senior in College -- this is the most recent and is nearly 5 years old. During my freshman year I was on non-academic probation because the incident occurred on campus. This has been disclosed and will be disclosed on my bar app of course.

Prior to law school I was hospitalized after an extended period of drinking. I did out patient rehab for 6 weeks or so. Let's just say it didn't take right away. I've also had (voluntary) counseling prior to and during law school for both alcoholism and depression/mental health stuff -- I've been on and off a variety of medications. For what it is worth, I've been sober for nearly 1 year but I'm not going to AA or anything. I do have very solid relationships with prior employers that I can use as references. I've never been fired, never been arrested for anything other than the above, never done anything remotely fraudulent, and have always been up front about my citations. With that said I've always downplayed my alcohol issues for obvious reasons.

I hesitate to ask my Dean about this issue because I know he must sign off as part of the application and vouch that I am not a raging alcoholic (although he is obviously aware of my prior citations).

Is this going to disqualify me from practicing law? Do I need to disclose the fact that I have had rehab/counseling for drinking/ mental health?

Thanks.

Void
Posts: 857
Joined: Fri Sep 30, 2011 10:56 am

Re: Character & Fitness: Substance Abuse

Postby Void » Tue Aug 20, 2013 8:54 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm a 3L, I received an offer from my summer firm, and I'm starting to apply for the Bar/MPRE. I hesitate to disclose what state I am in. I've done well in law school but I'm worried my past history with drinking is a red flag.

I have had several alcohol citations, all of which I disclosed on my law school application: (1) Deferred judgment due to possession of alcohol in High School (2a) Public Intox as a Freshman in College (2b) Possession of alcohol as a Freshman in College (3) Public Intox as a Senior in College -- this is the most recent and is nearly 5 years old. During my freshman year I was on non-academic probation because the incident occurred on campus. This has been disclosed and will be disclosed on my bar app of course.

Prior to law school I was hospitalized after an extended period of drinking. I did out patient rehab for 6 weeks or so. Let's just say it didn't take right away. I've also had (voluntary) counseling prior to and during law school for both alcoholism and depression/mental health stuff -- I've been on and off a variety of medications. For what it is worth, I've been sober for nearly 1 year but I'm not going to AA or anything. I do have very solid relationships with prior employers that I can use as references. I've never been fired, never been arrested for anything other than the above, never done anything remotely fraudulent, and have always been up front about my citations. With that said I've always downplayed my alcohol issues for obvious reasons.

I hesitate to ask my Dean about this issue because I know he must sign off as part of the application and vouch that I am not a raging alcoholic (although he is obviously aware of my prior citations).

Is this going to disqualify me from practicing law? Do I need to disclose the fact that I have had rehab/counseling for drinking/ mental health?

Thanks.


Step 1 is to comb through the bar app in your state and find any relevant questions. Every state's mental health/substance abuse questions are different.

Edited to add: there was a particular professor at my school who invited students to privately approach him with these sorts of questions regarding the bar. He was primarily an Ethics/Professional Responsibility professor. You might try to find a similar prof at your school- might be helpful because a professor doesn't have to certify anything like the dean.

Anonymous User
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Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Character & Fitness: Substance Abuse

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 20, 2013 9:09 pm

That's smart about contacting a Professor. I'll definitely do that... I have someone in mind.

Void
Posts: 857
Joined: Fri Sep 30, 2011 10:56 am

Re: Character & Fitness: Substance Abuse

Postby Void » Tue Aug 20, 2013 9:13 pm

Anonymous User wrote:That's smart about contacting a Professor. I'll definitely do that... I have someone in mind.


Good luck. I think you're probably going to be ok. Just (obvi) try to stay on the wagon! (Easier said than done- believe me, I know)

Anonymous User
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Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Character & Fitness: Substance Abuse

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 21, 2013 12:29 am

I did some research on this issue this summer. Generally, (and this varies by state) alcohol isn't a huge issue for C&F boards provided you can show that you recognize your problem and are taking steps to fix it. The fact that you haven't committed any violations in 5 years and have been sober for a year will probably go a long way towards convincing the Board that you're cleaning up your act. It might help to join AA as well for added credibility.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273366
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Character & Fitness: Substance Abuse

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 21, 2013 12:41 am

There are attorneys that specialize in helping with character and fitness issues. Do a Google search for legal ethics and state bar defense attorneys in your area. I've spoken with one and, considering what's on the line, highly recommend that you contact one. This isn't something that you should take any chances with.




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