Will schizophrenia prevent me from sitting the bar and becoming a lawyer?

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Will schizophrenia prevent me from sitting the bar and becoming a lawyer?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Sep 07, 2019 4:18 pm

I have an "unspecified" diagnosis of schizophrenia. This means I meet most, but not all of the criteria for a full diagnosis. I was diagnosed during my freshmen year of college and haven't actually been taking medication for about a year (currently a sophomore).

I understand that some state bar associations ask if you have a history of mental disorders, like schizophrenia, that can radically impact decision making, but I was wondering if 1) answering yes to these questions would be completely damning and 2) if certain other states that do not mention these disorders are more accommodating of mental health issues. Is it likely that this diagnosis will prevent me from becoming a lawyer? What steps should I take to prevent this kind of a C&F issue from getting me in hot water with bar associations?

I had no idea which board to post this topic on, so a mods, feel free to move it if you wish.

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Re: Will schizophrenia prevent me from sitting the bar and becoming a lawyer?

Postby soft blue » Sun Sep 08, 2019 10:01 am

There are actual C&F attorneys. I'd encourage hiring one to answer this question for you. C&F is state specific, so I'd check around anywhere you could be interested in working. I wouldn't trust a forum with this question. I would imagine it might be very fact specific.

It may also be worth reaching out to legal recruiters about this, just to ask. I don't know what the law is on this (is it illegal to ask, etc) but I'd imagine most firms might not be fond of this--so even if you could get admitted to the bar, you might not be able to snag a job. I would ask anonymously.

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Re: Will schizophrenia prevent me from sitting the bar and becoming a lawyer?

Postby cavalier1138 » Sun Sep 08, 2019 11:04 am

Anonymous User wrote:What steps should I take to prevent this kind of a C&F issue from getting me in hot water with bar associations?


In addition to consulting a C&F lawyer (which should be your first stop), taking your medication would be a good start. Trying to explain that you have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness but have opted to not follow the recommended treatment isn't going to be a great look.

I would also recommend not going straight through. You should find out how you're able to handle your condition outside of the support structure of college before you try and tell the bar that your clients can trust you with their lives and livelihoods.

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Re: Will schizophrenia prevent me from sitting the bar and becoming a lawyer?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Sep 08, 2019 2:46 pm

soft blue wrote:There are actual C&F attorneys. I'd encourage hiring one to answer this question for you. C&F is state specific, so I'd check around anywhere you could be interested in working. I wouldn't trust a forum with this question. I would imagine it might be very fact specific.

It may also be worth reaching out to legal recruiters about this, just to ask. I don't know what the law is on this (is it illegal to ask, etc) but I'd imagine most firms might not be fond of this--so even if you could get admitted to the bar, you might not be able to snag a job. I would ask anonymously.


I don't have the money for a lawyer, unfortunately.

I was under the impression that it was 1000% illegal for employers to ask. I guess I hadn't even thought about the job hunt as I assumed employers would never find out. And for the record, I don't consider not being open about this stuff to employers to be some kind of breach of trust. I'm not a loose cannon- I just get somewhat paranoid/delusional about very specific situations when very specific things trigger me. It's well under control.

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Re: Will schizophrenia prevent me from sitting the bar and becoming a lawyer?

Postby cavalier1138 » Sun Sep 08, 2019 3:10 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I was under the impression that it was 1000% illegal for employers to ask.


It is, however, 1000% legal for the bar to ask, and I can't think of one that won't have a question requiring you to disclose this. Even if they don't ask about specific mental disorders, they ask if you have any conditions that would interfere with your ability to practice law.

Anonymous User wrote:I don't have the money for a lawyer, unfortunately.


This leads me back to a different point from before: stop trying to go straight through. Graduate. Get a job. Get some money. Getting a C&F lawyer is not going to be optional for you.

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Re: Will schizophrenia prevent me from sitting the bar and becoming a lawyer?

Postby LawTweet » Sun Sep 08, 2019 3:22 pm

The way folks in this forum are responding to this post is completely unacceptable. People with schizophrenia are full people with a particular medical condition. There are incredibly successful people with schizophrenia -- see law professor Elyn Saks, for example. Schizophrenia is a disability like any other medical condition and employers must treat them the same. If the condition interferes with one's ability to perform essential duties of the job, then the employer could take adverse action. If not, then the employer can't.

Some state bar associations do ask questions (in varying manners) about the state of your psychiatric health. In most states, the question centers of whether you have a condition that interferes with your ability to practice law. Some states don't ask any questions about this (for example, Massachusetts). This practice of asking about psychiatric diagnoses may not actually be legal. The DOJ entered into a consent decree with Louisiana over this issue.

If you are interested in practicing law, it's probably worthwhile to reach out to a nonprofit organization that specializes in disability law and ask for recommendations (Ex: Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Disability Rights Organization of your state). I would think emailing Elyn Saks might also be a good place to start too. My bet is that she'd be helpful.
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Re: Will schizophrenia prevent me from sitting the bar and becoming a lawyer?

Postby cavalier1138 » Sun Sep 08, 2019 4:06 pm

Anonymous User wrote:The way folks in this forum are responding to this post is completely unacceptable. People with schizophrenia are full people with a particular medical condition. There are incredibly successful people with schizophrenia -- see law professor Elyn Saks, for example. Schizophrenia is a disability like any other medical condition and employers must treat them the same. If the condition interferes with one's ability to perform essential duties of the job, then the employer could take adverse action. If not, then the employer can't.


JFC. No one is treating the OP as anything less than a full person, so get off your high horse.

Employers "must" do a lot of things, but if you've ever been employed (and even if you haven't), you're surely aware of the number of ways that employers can circumvent those rules. And the key issue for the OP isn't any individual employer, it's the bar C&F process. Telling the OP to do anything less than consult with a C&F attorney is absurd, even if you're very, very passionate about the rights of the disabled.

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Re: Will schizophrenia prevent me from sitting the bar and becoming a lawyer?

Postby LawTweet » Sun Sep 08, 2019 4:30 pm

cavalier1138 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:The way folks in this forum are responding to this post is completely unacceptable. People with schizophrenia are full people with a particular medical condition. There are incredibly successful people with schizophrenia -- see law professor Elyn Saks, for example. Schizophrenia is a disability like any other medical condition and employers must treat them the same. If the condition interferes with one's ability to perform essential duties of the job, then the employer could take adverse action. If not, then the employer can't.


JFC. No one is treating the OP as anything less than a full person, so get off your high horse.

Employers "must" do a lot of things, but if you've ever been employed (and even if you haven't), you're surely aware of the number of ways that employers can circumvent those rules. And the key issue for the OP isn't any individual employer, it's the bar C&F process. Telling the OP to do anything less than consult with a C&F attorney is absurd, even if you're very, very passionate about the rights of the disabled.


Did you read what I said? I specifically recommended a bunch of legal organizations to reach out to for counsel.

The comment about medication was what got me upset. You assume that you know OPs medical situation best. Perhaps OP isn't being prescribed medication right now because they've controlled their symptoms with other means? Perhaps OP doesn't like the negative side effects of the medication and decided it wasn't worth it to continue? As far as I know, you are not a medical professional. Even if you are, you shouldn't make such assumptions about people with mental illness.
Last edited by QContinuum on Sun Sep 08, 2019 10:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Will schizophrenia prevent me from sitting the bar and becoming a lawyer?

Postby cavalier1138 » Sun Sep 08, 2019 4:51 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
cavalier1138 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:The way folks in this forum are responding to this post is completely unacceptable. People with schizophrenia are full people with a particular medical condition. There are incredibly successful people with schizophrenia -- see law professor Elyn Saks, for example. Schizophrenia is a disability like any other medical condition and employers must treat them the same. If the condition interferes with one's ability to perform essential duties of the job, then the employer could take adverse action. If not, then the employer can't.


JFC. No one is treating the OP as anything less than a full person, so get off your high horse.

Employers "must" do a lot of things, but if you've ever been employed (and even if you haven't), you're surely aware of the number of ways that employers can circumvent those rules. And the key issue for the OP isn't any individual employer, it's the bar C&F process. Telling the OP to do anything less than consult with a C&F attorney is absurd, even if you're very, very passionate about the rights of the disabled.


Did you read what I said? I specifically recommended a bunch of legal organizations to reach out to for counsel.

The comment about medication was what got me upset. You assume that you know OPs medical situation best. Perhaps OP isn't being prescribed medication right now because they've controlled their symptoms with other means? Perhaps OP doesn't like the negative side effects of the medication and decided it wasn't worth it to continue? As far as I know, you are not a medical professional. Even if you are, you shouldn't make such assumptions about people with mental illness.


The OP said they hadn't been taking medication for about a year, which I read as deciding to cease taking prescribed meds. It's possible that the doctor chose to discontinue meds, in which case I was too quick to respond. But if the OP unilaterally decided they preferred to ignore a doctor's advice, that's a radically different situation.

At any rate, this thread is addressed towards getting through the C&F process. I promise that a random person reading the C&F file and seeing someone with schizophrenia deciding for themselves that they didn't need medication will look bad. Maybe that's not fair, but C&F isn't known for being a particularly fair or forgiving process.

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Re: Will schizophrenia prevent me from sitting the bar and becoming a lawyer?

Postby jarofsoup » Sun Sep 08, 2019 5:09 pm

I don’t think CFs ask this always. I don’t remember being asked.

Wouldn’t you have to sign some sort of Hippa waiver for them to find out?

Employment apps don’t. If you have had a wellness check or something, like an arrest that was some how related, then it could come up in a background check.

Also it seems like 1/3 of the New York bar is in some sort of therapy...

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Re: Will schizophrenia prevent me from sitting the bar and becoming a lawyer?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Sep 08, 2019 5:31 pm

cavalier1138 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
cavalier1138 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:The way folks in this forum are responding to this post is completely unacceptable. People with schizophrenia are full people with a particular medical condition. There are incredibly successful people with schizophrenia -- see law professor Elyn Saks, for example. Schizophrenia is a disability like any other medical condition and employers must treat them the same. If the condition interferes with one's ability to perform essential duties of the job, then the employer could take adverse action. If not, then the employer can't.


JFC. No one is treating the OP as anything less than a full person, so get off your high horse.

Employers "must" do a lot of things, but if you've ever been employed (and even if you haven't), you're surely aware of the number of ways that employers can circumvent those rules. And the key issue for the OP isn't any individual employer, it's the bar C&F process. Telling the OP to do anything less than consult with a C&F attorney is absurd, even if you're very, very passionate about the rights of the disabled.


Did you read what I said? I specifically recommended a bunch of legal organizations to reach out to for counsel.

The comment about medication was what got me upset. You assume that you know OPs medical situation best. Perhaps OP isn't being prescribed medication right now because they've controlled their symptoms with other means? Perhaps OP doesn't like the negative side effects of the medication and decided it wasn't worth it to continue? As far as I know, you are not a medical professional. Even if you are, you shouldn't make such assumptions about people with mental illness.


The OP said they hadn't been taking medication for about a year, which I read as deciding to cease taking prescribed meds. It's possible that the doctor chose to discontinue meds, in which case I was too quick to respond. But if the OP unilaterally decided they preferred to ignore a doctor's advice, that's a radically different situation.

At any rate, this thread is addressed towards getting through the C&F process. I promise that a random person reading the C&F file and seeing someone with schizophrenia deciding for themselves that they didn't need medication will look bad. Maybe that's not fair, but C&F isn't known for being a particularly fair or forgiving process.


Well, when I moved across my home state my psychiatrist told me that I could start back up on medication in my own time. My symptoms had mellowed out and I had been finding more coping strategies that didn't involve radically altering my brain chemistry.

I haven't gotten around to finding a new psychiatrist because it doesn't seem necessary to me. But yes, it was approved. She was much more interested in making sure she made sure I kept taking my GAD medication, since out of the two, this disease is the one that hiders me the most in day to day life. By far. Although I suppose getting back on medication would look better. I was on very low doses to begin with.

I want to stress that I have an "UNSPECIFIED" diagnosis, not a complete diagnosis. I have exhibited very few of the symptoms that would be most likely to affect my work product (deterioration of personal hygiene, insomnia, fragmented thoughts/speech). I suppose I'll just have to pray that the person evaluating my file isn't completely incompetent and actually pays attention to this important detail.

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Re: Will schizophrenia prevent me from sitting the bar and becoming a lawyer?

Postby soft blue » Sun Sep 08, 2019 5:54 pm

Right now this is all speculation. When appropriate, hire a C&F attorney -- at some point before law school, where you will (likely) be taking out substantial debt that is difficult to discharge. None of us can provide a meaningful answer here and, frankly, any speculation about your case from us is baseless. Hire an expert and get a real answer. Maybe those organizations posted above can help.

The cost also may be less than you think. Call for a consultation and ask how much it will cost you. You may be surprised.

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Re: Will schizophrenia prevent me from sitting the bar and becoming a lawyer?

Postby nixy » Sun Sep 08, 2019 5:58 pm

Re C&F - if you google "[state] bar application" for states you're interested in, you should be able to find sample applications that show you exactly what you get asked, or at least instructions that will tell you generally what information you'll need to provide. Where I'm barred, the pertinent questions are probably:

Do you currently have any condition or impairment (including but not limited to...a mental, emotional, or nervous disorder condition) that in any way affects your ability to practice law in a competent, ethical, and professional matter? "Currently" means recently enough so that the condition or impairment could reasonably have an impact on your ability to function as a lawyer.


[if yes to above] are the limitations caused by your condition or impairment reduced or ameliorated because you receive ongoing treatment or because you participate in a monitoring or support program?


Now, I can't saw what *exactly* these questions mean (I feel like you could lawyer the hell out of the first question and argue that a condition that's treated effectively doesn't affect your ability to practice law, although the second question suggests they might still want to know a diagnosis), so I agree that a C&F attorney would be helpful. (For instance, Saks is obviously the posterchild for a lawyer with schizophrenia, but she was admitted to the bar in 1986 and hasn't practiced law since 1987 so I'm not sure she's an example of going through C&F in the 2020s.) In any case, if you answer yes to the above questions you're also required to provide additional information including names of medical providers. You're not asked to sign a release getting your providers to share any info, but it's possible that they might down the road ask for that to get a letter saying that your provider thinks you can handle practice (I've heard of that happening, but I don't know all the circumstances so can't go into more detail).

Anyway, that's just one state. Some might be more inquisitive, some might be less. (It does look like Mass has no questions specifically about mental health.) If a state doesn't ask directly, the only way I can imagine it becoming an issue is if you have some kind of misconduct resulting from your mental health condition that you'd have to explain (it doesn't sound like this will apply to you, but as an example, a past poster on this site had disciplinary issues at their law school deriving from untreated bipolar. If that person applied in Mass they wouldn't have to directly disclose the bipolar diagnosis but they would have to report the disciplinary issues, which would probably lead to disclosing the mental health condition).

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Re: Will schizophrenia prevent me from sitting the bar and becoming a lawyer?

Postby Basile » Tue Dec 17, 2019 1:18 am

No, schizophrenia or any other medical condition does not preclude you from becoming an attorney if you are capable of performing that role. Schools also cannot discriminate against you if you reveal that in an application.

Since we're on the topic of disabilities, I applied for an accommodation for the GRE exam. There's a problem having that granted because they're saying that the documentation isn't sufficient. Meanwhile, it's a signed letter from my psychiatrist stating my medical condition, the medication, side effects, etc. However, since it's not written according to ETS standards, they won't accept it. Just trying to get a simple accommodation (like a little extra time per test section) is like applying for federal disability benefits. It's seriously nuts, downright insane (which doesn't help my condition at all, ironically enough)...

I'm in contact with my doctor's office over this to try to get her to write a more detailed letter. All I know is that if this accommodation isn't granted and I score low on the exam, this is going straight into an addendum on my law school applications. They'll think, "Wow, she has such a high competitive GPA but an abysmal GRE. What happened?" Hopefully, they'll check to see if I added an addendum, which I absolutely will. I'll state that there was a serious disagreement between my physician and ETS Disability Services where I was expressly entitled to receive an accommodation that should have been granted as a medical necessity. Because ETS ruled against my physician for not having the appropriate formatting of the letter, I was not adequately accommodated and the score suffered. Perfectly legitimate answer that's 100% truthful, and I have physical medical evidence of my diagnosis in case law schools want that. It's absolutely disgusting and downright deplorable how you have a medical issue, symptoms and medication are documented, but yet you're denied because of formatting issues or the physician didn't get as detailed as the testing agency wanted. Sickening, SICKENING. You've got a d*mn DOCTOR and a case worker signing off on the letter!!! Friggin' unbelievable.

Anyway, because of this delay, I can't apply for Fall 2020 and need to apply for Fall 2021. So I have some time to get the letter written and up to ETS standards, as long as my doctor adheres to the format. It's just a real hassle when you're dealing with county mental health centers..doctors take off for a couple weeks, ETS takes 4 to 6 weeks to review your accommodation request, then you need to study for the exam, pick a registration date, etc. It's not easy for people with psychiatric issues, I can tell you that much, but at least outright stating that you were supposed to have an accommodation that was refused to be granted is a very valid reason for having a low score (if that happens).

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Re: Will schizophrenia prevent me from sitting the bar and becoming a lawyer?

Postby QContinuum » Tue Dec 17, 2019 12:37 pm

Basile wrote:No, schizophrenia or any other medical condition does not preclude you from becoming an attorney if you are capable of performing that role.

This board is for 0Ls to ask questions of law students and graduates. From your posting history, you're a 0L yourself, with zero experience going through bar C&F in any jurisdiction. So, please don't speak authoritatively about matters you don't have any experience in.

I myself don't have the expertise required to opine on how bar C&F would view schizophrenia. My intuition is that this would likely vary significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The best advice, IMO, is to consult an experienced C&F lawyer (and maybe even two C&F lawyers to be extra sure) in one's jurisdiction(s) of interest. It's best to get an objective sense of this prior to going to law school.

And, while we're at it:
Basile wrote:I'm in contact with my doctor's office over this to try to get her to write a more detailed letter. All I know is that if this accommodation isn't granted and I score low on the exam, this is going straight into an addendum on my law school applications.

Don't overestimate the likely impact of a GRE addendum. In general, addenda only matter around the edges, as a "soft" factor (along with personal statement, diversity statement (if any), Why X, work experience (if any), unique extracurriculars or volunteer experience (if any) and rec letters). Law schools still care, first and foremost, about the "hard" numbers: LSAC GPA and LSAT/GRE score.

(Nor will ETS care or even be aware of your addendum. You seem to have the attitude of, "if they don't budge, they better watch out because I will write an addendum!!!" This isn't like writing a bad Yelp review for a business. ETS will care not a whit about an addendum castigating them (in fact, they won't even know about your addendum, so they couldn't care even if they wanted to), and in fact law schools may penalize you for submitting such an addendum, as it may come across as you having an anger management issue.)

Basile wrote:Anyway, because of this delay, I can't apply for Fall 2020 and need to apply for Fall 2021. So I have some time to get the letter written and up to ETS standards, as long as my doctor adheres to the format.

Speaking of which, why are you bothering with the GRE at all? Law school applicants today are absolutely still best served by taking the LSAT. Many law schools don't accept the GRE at all; others accept the GRE, but only for joint-degree applicants; still others accept the GRE, but only for applicants with unusual backgrounds (i.e., not the "typical" 0L going straight through or with 1-2 years of full-time work experience).

It'd be one thing if you already had a stellar GRE score in hand, and didn't want to study for the LSAT. (Even then, studying for the LSAT would still be the best move in all likelihood.) But you're struggling with a lousy GRE score. Why not put your efforts toward the LSAT instead, which is likely to yield far more bang for your buck?

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Re: Will schizophrenia prevent me from sitting the bar and becoming a lawyer?

Postby LSATWiz.com » Tue Dec 17, 2019 5:38 pm

To OP - I'm not a mental health expert but I don't understand what a non-specific diagnosis is, and you haven't been taking medication for a year with no maladaptive impacts on personality? I'd probably consult with more than one doctor to confirm you actually do have schizophrenia as that's a major diagnosis. You will have to disclose you have schizophrenia to the bar, but if you have no record of disciplinary action and were able to navigate the stresses of college and law school with no record of it adversely impacting your ability to behave ethically and competently, it would be surprising for a state bar to deny you entry into the profession. It is, however, recommended for anyone with a potential C&F issue to consult with a C&F lawyer.

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Re: Will schizophrenia prevent me from sitting the bar and becoming a lawyer?

Postby FND » Mon Jan 13, 2020 9:34 pm

jarofsoup wrote:I don’t think CFs ask this always. I don’t remember being asked.


I've undergone C&F in four states. I definitely recall being asked about mental health, if not on all 4, then at least on 3 of them.

It's a legitimate concern, considering that the #2 reason for attorney suspension and disbarment is because the attorney just didn't do his/her job (not filing document, missing deadlines, missing court appearances, not being prepared, etc.) which can definitely be due to mental illness.

As a quick primer, if you have a mental health issue, but you're getting professional help, taking the appropriate medication, and it's under control, you're probably fine. If you have been diagnosed but refuse treatment and medication, you'll probably get rejected.

jarofsoup wrote:Wouldn’t you have to sign some sort of Hippa waiver for them to find out?


First, it's HIPAA. Second, it doesn't apply. HIPAA relates to the recipient of private medical information (doctors, hospitals, etc.) sharing your health records. It does not relate to voluntary disclosure.

As an aside, there is no law prohibiting potential employers from asking about your medical information, however, they never will, because it potentially opens them up to a discrimination suit under ADA.

jarofsoup wrote:it seems like 1/3 of the New York bar is in some sort of therapy...

Once you've been admitted, it's really hard to get disbarred. Apart from #2 above, the main reason for disbarment is messing with a client's money. Other than those two reasons, it's just about impossible to get disbarred.

On the other hand, it's a lot easier to not get admitted in the first place. State-specific, but as a general rule, if there's a reason to suspect you'll either screw with a client's money or completely fail to do your job, you're gonna have a hard time with C&F.

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Re: Will schizophrenia prevent me from sitting the bar and becoming a lawyer?

Postby LSATWiz.com » Tue Jan 14, 2020 3:32 pm

I'd just add that not everyone in therapy has a mental illness so that is a poor proxy. I do agree it would be discriminatory to hold someone out merely because they have a condition that hasn't manifested itself in any negative way. That doesn't mean its unlawful discrimination, it just seems pretty extreme. I don't know much about schizophrenia and these other conditions, but I'd imagine that the person's personality plays a role in how it manifests just like there are people who can work through depression without their work suffering and people who can't get out of bed despite both technically suffering from the same kind of depression.

In theory, anyone can develop a mental or physical condition that will preclude them from diligently representing their client(s) at a given time. I would imagine part of the reason it is there is to put any other disclosures you may disclose into perspective, but part of the unfortunate reality is it's a concern that can only be mitigated but can't really go away. It's much easier to convince someone that an infraction you committed 10 years ago has 0% bearing on your C&F today than a condition does, particularly one that is stigmatized. It would still seem extreme for someone to deny you a license solely based on stereotypes and things that could potentially happen rather than things that actually have happened.

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Re: Will schizophrenia prevent me from sitting the bar and becoming a lawyer?

Postby En03l » Tue Jan 14, 2020 5:12 pm

Here is an interesting article talking about advocacy and change in relation to this topic.

https://www.americanbar.org/groups/bar_ ... questions/

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