Character and Fitness - Mental Health Question

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NotMyRealName09
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Joined: Mon Nov 09, 2009 5:50 pm

Re: Character and Fitness - Mental Health Question

Postby NotMyRealName09 » Tue Jun 14, 2011 9:56 pm

Consult an attorney who specializes in bar admissions / bar appeals in your jurisdiction. This is a serious matter with significant consequences, so get it right.

Your professional responsibility professor may be able to advise you.

nini49
Posts: 6
Joined: Wed Jun 15, 2011 2:50 pm

Re: Character and Fitness - Mental Health Question

Postby nini49 » Wed Jun 15, 2011 3:14 pm

Hi,

Maybe I can shed some light on this since I was an investigator with the Florida Board of Bar Examiners for about 5 years. Having a mental illness does not automatically disqualify someone from bar admission. Bipolar Disorder is a serious mental illness and left untreated can have devasting consequences. Information about mental health is collected to determine an applicant's fitness to prractice law. If you have been diagnosed with a mental illness please follow any recommended treatment plans and medications as prescribed. Do not stop taking your medication without the recommenedation of a mental health professional. Ceasing your medication on your own will not look great in the eyes of the Examiners. When I was an investigator we generally only requested the admission and discharge summaries. I never had a case where someone was denied admission simply for having a mental disorder. Some were conditionally admitted...meaning they had to abide by a contract of sorts for a year or two in which the applicant agreed to attend therapy a certain number of times, etc, etc. At the end of the contract period the applicant was reviewed for admission without conditions. The entire character and fitness investigation is invasive, but that's to protect the public (or at least attempt to) because lawyers are in a position of trust with their clients. I hope I've helpt to ease your anxiety over this and good luck!

Nikko Evans
http://www.flbarapp.com

BoriquaEsquire
Posts: 38
Joined: Tue Mar 08, 2011 12:04 pm

Re: Character and Fitness - Mental Health Question

Postby BoriquaEsquire » Tue Jul 05, 2011 4:10 pm

nini49 wrote:Hi,

Maybe I can shed some light on this since I was an investigator with the Florida Board of Bar Examiners for about 5 years. Having a mental illness does not automatically disqualify someone from bar admission. Bipolar Disorder is a serious mental illness and left untreated can have devasting consequences. Information about mental health is collected to determine an applicant's fitness to prractice law. If you have been diagnosed with a mental illness please follow any recommended treatment plans and medications as prescribed. Do not stop taking your medication without the recommenedation of a mental health professional. Ceasing your medication on your own will not look great in the eyes of the Examiners. When I was an investigator we generally only requested the admission and discharge summaries. I never had a case where someone was denied admission simply for having a mental disorder. Some were conditionally admitted...meaning they had to abide by a contract of sorts for a year or two in which the applicant agreed to attend therapy a certain number of times, etc, etc. At the end of the contract period the applicant was reviewed for admission without conditions. The entire character and fitness investigation is invasive, but that's to protect the public (or at least attempt to) because lawyers are in a position of trust with their clients. I hope I've helpt to ease your anxiety over this and good luck!

Nikko Evans
http://www.flbarapp.com


This is essentially what I was told.

I'm disabled and use a service dog for a neuro-psychiatric disability that I've had since birth. I'm currently in ongoing treatment with a psychiatrist, a therapist, and a group therapist. From time to time, I also see a neurologist.

I spoke to some career counselors before going to law school because I didn't want to waste the time and the money on law school if I wouldn't be able to pass the bar. They told me that as long as I was consistently compliant with my doctors' orders and my disability was being successfully handled, I would be fine passing the bar in most states.

Unless you've been a mental health patient, you can't imagine how hard it is to get serious issues under control. It's even difficult at times to continue on medication because the meds often have terrible side affects (the worst for me being cognitive impairment). However, like I was told, I have always been compliant with my doctors' wishes and I rarely miss therapy/treatment. My use of a service dog is just another tool to help me function.

I'm happy to say that I got through 1L alive and I have a pretty good job this summer. I think my schoolwork and recommendations from professors and supervisors will show the bar that I am functional and have it under control. There's no reason why a person with a mental health disability should be denied entrance to the bar if they're able to do the necessary work and they have shown a continuous commitment to treatment (especially in the northeast).

That said, I would NOT go off your medications before being reevaluated by a psychiatrist. The last thing you want on your record is a display of non-compliance. I was told that compulsively going off medications is the worst thing you can do and can get you denied from the bar.

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quixotical
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Joined: Sat Apr 23, 2011 11:44 pm

Re: Character and Fitness - Mental Health Question

Postby quixotical » Thu Jul 07, 2011 12:30 am

Out of curiosity, how does C&F look at depression in terms of severity? I gather from this thread that it's not considered as big as a problem as schizophrenia is, for example, and I'm sure I read somewhere that a high percentage of lawyers are clinically depressed/on meds for depression.

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kalvano
Posts: 11728
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Re: Character and Fitness - Mental Health Question

Postby kalvano » Thu Jul 07, 2011 12:46 am

Once you've been approved, it's apparently ridiculously difficult to unapprove you. So pretend to be happy long enough to get approved.

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MauveDinosaur
Posts: 41
Joined: Tue Jun 08, 2010 8:18 pm

Re: Character and Fitness - Mental Health Question

Postby MauveDinosaur » Tue May 12, 2015 10:26 am

What are my chances of bar admission if I have been disciplined by my school for behaviors that were linked to my bipolar disorder?

nini49
Posts: 6
Joined: Wed Jun 15, 2011 2:50 pm

Re: Character and Fitness - Mental Health Question

Postby nini49 » Sat May 23, 2015 4:32 pm

MauveDinosaur wrote:What are my chances of bar admission if I have been disciplined by my school for behaviors that were linked to my bipolar disorder?


That would depend on a few things: when did these incidents occur, the severity and number of the incidents, rehabilitation from those behaviors (how long have you stayed out of trouble and how have you improved yourself), and your compliance with treatment. I read a couple of articles last week that reported there is a move to remove mental health related questions from bar applications because the federal government stated it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. Were you disciplined in law school or as an undergraduate student? Being a law student during the time of any character and fitness issue is deemed an aggravating factor. Most applicants are admitted to the Bar, even with character and fitness issues. The key is to demonstrate that having a mental disorder will not impair your ability to practice law.




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