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(Slate)   Slate gets outraged that anyone wanting to become a lawyer and pass the bar exam have to disclose if they have ever had a mental illness, failing to realize anyone who wants to become a lawyer already has a mental illness   (slate.com) divider line 111
    More: Fail, mental healths, Bureau of Justice Statistics, bar exams, major depression, psychotic episodes, Americans with Disabilities Act, law schools, Civil Rights Division  
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1683 clicks; posted to Main » on 08 Aug 2014 at 11:17 AM (20 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-08-08 09:53:47 AM  
I'm a lawyer so I'm getting a kick....

...but seriously, mental illness or not, whenever I meet a young person who is contemplating law school, I always ask if there is a chance I can talk them out of it. And I'm semi-serious.

This profession is a total beatdown most of the time. Maybe not to the point of mental illness, but there is a reason why lawyers tend to have a higher rate (versus the entire population) of alcoholism and substance abuse.
 
2014-08-08 10:08:19 AM  
I'm okay with mental health questions. The article mentions that the state bar can step if a lawyer has a full psychotic break, but what about a partial one? What about the lawyer going through a depressive episode who manages to drag him or herself to trial, but doesn't do any of the prep work? Ineffective assistance of counsel in criminal cases is very hard to prove, and usually requires some significant legal failure - if it's just that the lawyer didn't prepare a good cross, or didn't bother to investigate the facts, then that probably is not enough for a reversal.

The bigger issue is not "zomg, they want to know about people's mental health!" but "zomg, why are we still stigmatizing mental illness" such that people feel that they have to keep any interaction with a shrink secret?
 
2014-08-08 10:55:51 AM  

tnpir: ...but seriously, mental illness or not, whenever I meet a young person who is contemplating law school, I always ask if there is a chance I can talk them out of it. And I'm semi-serious.


I was married to a lawyer who said the same thing to me, that while I say I wish I went to law school, that I'd not like being a lawyer. Though I think I would. Not a criminal trial lawyer, but I genuinely enjoyed working on contracts and labor law when that was my job. I'm still trying to weasel my way into a legal assistant type position working on contracts, hr/labor law, or even wills and trusts or divorce.  (I am an expert on specifically, child labor law in the entertainment industry, though I have also done my own divorce (the lawyer was too lazy to handle it), one half of a CT divorce and advised as best I could on a TX divorce.) I love the paperwork and keeping up with the laws.  Which, in fairness, at my old job had the rest of them saying the two of us who did it were crazy.

I do recall my ex saying the bar exam wasn't so much a test of legal knowledge, so much as proving you weren't literally unhinged insane. That was his take on it, anyway.  The LSAT, however... I don't even understand why there is so much math on it, but... definitely not for me. (Not that I am about to even consider taking the LSAT at 39.)

Beyond that, mental illness of all stripes still has a stigma because:
(a) most of us don't understand it;
(b) even the shrinks, when pushed, will admit they don't fully understand it;
(c) there's no definitive way to say what it is or that it's fixed, such as a broken bone and the xrays that show the break and the healed break;
(d) a lot of people who do well on medication go off medication as soon as they feel better and the cycle repeats.

It doesn't make it right, especially when you look at (b) and (c) where people get diagnosed with one thing by someone, and something else by someone else.  I had a lady who was determined to slap me with a diagnosis of bipolar (which I in no way display any of the criteria for, and have been told multiple times by multiple people that was the case, as I used to worry about it without understanding what it really is.) She just seemed to pull that out of thin air after talking to me twice, when I was going through some really, really horrible by anyone's standards, times.  I went to my GP who said he wouldn't even want me on antidepressants since I was naturally, normally, and appropriately reacting to the absolute garbage situations in my life at the time. (I love that man with all my heart. He's a genuinely great doctor and has studied psychiatry beyond "give patients drugs the reps tell him to." But not a lot of people have that good fortune.)  But that's my take on it. The lack of understanding scares people. And a lot of people get labels because there are no specific tests or images that show mental illness, nothing to really say for certain if medicine is effective... particularly when it comes to people who have some symptoms but aren't full-blown schizophrenic or actually having major bipolar episodes.
 
2014-08-08 11:19:10 AM  
Well there was that public defender in Florida that thought aliens were bugging her brain or whatever and was still representing clients.
 
2014-08-08 11:21:18 AM  
img3.wikia.nocookie.net
 
2014-08-08 11:22:24 AM  
Subby is confusing mental illness with "pact with the Devil."
 
2014-08-08 11:25:26 AM  

tnpir: This profession is a total beatdown most of the time. Maybe not to the point of mental illness, but there is a reason why lawyers tend to have a higher rate (versus the entire population) of alcoholism and substance abuse.


Which is why my wife stopped being a practicing lawyer after 25+ years, and has moved on to academia.  Fortunately, she avoided the substance abuse.
 
2014-08-08 11:25:36 AM  
Slate is also about on par with Huffington Post with meaningful content. Which is, to say, as meaningful as Fox News and CNN
 
2014-08-08 11:26:37 AM  

HotWingConspiracy: Well there was that public defender in Florida that thought aliens were bugging her brain or whatever and was still representing clients.


c4.nrostatic.com

?
 
2014-08-08 11:26:40 AM  
i'm judgmentally ill

which is also the title of my gritty kitty legally blonde reboot
 
2014-08-08 11:27:28 AM  

tnpir: whenever I meet a young person who is contemplating law school, I always ask if there is a chance I can talk them out of it.


ditto

and it never works
 
2014-08-08 11:28:22 AM  
I never wanted to be a lawyer until I saw Breaking Bad.  It looks pretty fun.
 
2014-08-08 11:33:09 AM  

tnpir: I'm a lawyer so I'm getting a kick....

...but seriously, mental illness or not, whenever I meet a young person who is contemplating law school, I always ask if there is a chance I can talk them out of it. And I'm semi-serious.

This profession is a total beatdown most of the time. Maybe not to the point of mental illness, but there is a reason why lawyers tend to have a higher rate (versus the entire population) of alcoholism and substance abuse.


This is unfortunately true. Our profession is designed to be self destructive and lawyers are the best at tearing down other lawyers. I think I've met maybe one or two lawyers who are honestly happy at what they do. Most everyone else just suffers through it wondering what the fark just happened.
 
2014-08-08 11:33:55 AM  
I'm okay with this. I don't want someone who wears pants on their head being my lawyer.
 
2014-08-08 11:35:07 AM  

serpent_sky: (Not that I am about to even consider taking the LSAT at 39.)


Why don't you? Is it because you're not Clueless?

tnpir: there is a reason why lawyers tend to have a higher rate (versus the entire population) of alcoholism and substance abuse.


Yeah, and the reason is because THEY can afford it, whereas the rest of us cannot.
 
2014-08-08 11:35:18 AM  
I feel like "Slate gets outraged" is a pretty adequate headline, generally speaking.
 
2014-08-08 11:36:11 AM  

Theaetetus: I'm okay with mental health questions. The article mentions that the state bar can step if a lawyer has a full psychotic break, but what about a partial one? What about the lawyer going through a depressive episode who manages to drag him or herself to trial, but doesn't do any of the prep work? Ineffective assistance of counsel in criminal cases is very hard to prove, and usually requires some significant legal failure - if it's just that the lawyer didn't prepare a good cross, or didn't bother to investigate the facts, then that probably is not enough for a reversal.

The bigger issue is not "zomg, they want to know about people's mental health!" but "zomg, why are we still stigmatizing mental illness" such that people feel that they have to keep any interaction with a shrink secret?


No, but as you said, a history of mental illness might be enough to raise questions of ineffective counsel. I'm also okay with people who are in primary care positions (child care, elder care, etc), having a mental health screening.

My sister-in-law's workplace (which does childcare) is getting sued under the ADA because they have a woman with cerebral palsy who can't be counted toward "ratio" - the number of adults versus the number of children. She can't be counted because she can't do CPR. Mental illness might not be as obvious has CP, but it can have the same end results - if someone has a history of harming others or becoming unreliable in emergency situations, I think that's a reasonable concern.
 
2014-08-08 11:36:16 AM  

abhorrent1: I'm okay with this. I don't want someone who wears pants on their head being my lawyer.


Might be the most effective way to represent a client.

I want a lawyer who IS dedicated enough to try anything and everything, pants be damned.

/"Pants Be Damned" is the name of my new band.
 
2014-08-08 11:37:50 AM  
Huh? That article makes a number of perfectly sensible points about why it's an unreasonable and even potentially harmful thing to ask (not the least of which is that in doing so ignores a law that all other employers must comply with.)

This is not: "Are you insane?" It's, "Have you ever in the past been treated for any psychiatric problems?" The reason why it's illegal to ask is that if such questions were allowed, people would avoid treatment for the sake of not damaging their future employability.
 
2014-08-08 11:39:50 AM  
And we can't apply this standard to politicians because....?
 
2014-08-08 11:39:50 AM  
/Lawyer
//Posting on FARK while at work
///Living the dream
 
2014-08-08 11:41:12 AM  

serpent_sky: tnpir: ...but seriously, mental illness or not, whenever I meet a young person who is contemplating law school, I always ask if there is a chance I can talk them out of it. And I'm semi-serious.

I was married to a lawyer who said the same thing to me, that while I say I wish I went to law school, that I'd not like being a lawyer. Though I think I would. Not a criminal trial lawyer, but I genuinely enjoyed working on contracts and labor law when that was my job. I'm still trying to weasel my way into a legal assistant type position working on contracts, hr/labor law, or even wills and trusts or divorce.  (I am an expert on specifically, child labor law in the entertainment industry, though I have also done my own divorce (the lawyer was too lazy to handle it), one half of a CT divorce and advised as best I could on a TX divorce.) I love the paperwork and keeping up with the laws.  Which, in fairness, at my old job had the rest of them saying the two of us who did it were crazy.

I do recall my ex saying the bar exam wasn't so much a test of legal knowledge, so much as proving you weren't literally unhinged insane. That was his take on it, anyway.  The LSAT, however... I don't even understand why there is so much math on it, but... definitely not for me. (Not that I am about to even consider taking the LSAT at 39.)

Beyond that, mental illness of all stripes still has a stigma because:
(a) most of us don't understand it;
(b) even the shrinks, when pushed, will admit they don't fully understand it;
(c) there's no definitive way to say what it is or that it's fixed, such as a broken bone and the xrays that show the break and the healed break;
(d) a lot of people who do well on medication go off medication as soon as they feel better and the cycle repeats.

It doesn't make it right, especially when you look at (b) and (c) where people get diagnosed with one thing by someone, and something else by someone else.  I had a lady who was determined to slap me with a diagnosis ...


Perfect
 
2014-08-08 11:41:19 AM  
How long before we start comparing this to mental screenings before firearm purchases?

/Whoops
 
2014-08-08 11:42:54 AM  
There are a number of risks inherent in requiring law students to disclose their medical histories to the faceless boards of law examiners. There is the risk that exposing themselves to strangers will heighten their mental health symptoms, making those with anxiety disorders more anxious ("I might not be admitted to the bar!")

Yeah, I don't want a lawyer with anxiety disorder who might crash because of such a trivial question. Who knows when (s)he will crash during the trial because things get tough.
 
2014-08-08 11:43:54 AM  

Theaetetus: I'm okay with mental health questions. The article mentions that the state bar can step if a lawyer has a full psychotic break, but what about a partial one? What about the lawyer going through a depressive episode who manages to drag him or herself to trial, but doesn't do any of the prep work? Ineffective assistance of counsel in criminal cases is very hard to prove, and usually requires some significant legal failure - if it's just that the lawyer didn't prepare a good cross, or didn't bother to investigate the facts, then that probably is not enough for a reversal.

The bigger issue is not "zomg, they want to know about people's mental health!" but "zomg, why are we still stigmatizing mental illness" such that people feel that they have to keep any interaction with a shrink secret?


Seriously curious --

How would it play out, someone getting a reversal based on something their lawyer disclosed on a state bar application?

Would it only be relevant if the client knew to ask about such things? And wouldn't there still be a confidentiality issue?
 
2014-08-08 11:43:55 AM  
steynian.files.wordpress.com
 
2014-08-08 11:45:35 AM  

lamecomedian: How long before we start comparing this to mental screenings before firearm purchases?

/Whoops


Well, sane lawyers probably ruin more lives than lunatics with guns.
 
2014-08-08 11:46:36 AM  
mama2tnt:

Yeah, and the reason is because THEY can afford it, whereas the rest of us cannot.

Actually median and mean wages for attorneys isn't anything to write home about. Yes, you have your Hollywood and New York White Shoe attorneys charging thousands of dollars per hour which skew figures upwards, but the vast majority of attorneys make far far less, especially if you work in legal aid clinics or government positions.

Your average state public defender can barely pay his bills each month. For instance here in Illinois, the starting pay for a public defender is a little over 40k a year. When you factor in student loans, there isn't enough left over to do anything. Sure if you stick it out you may rise to 60 or 70k a year, but meanwhile, someone who hasn't gone to law school, but gotten a comparable salary is way ahead of you financially and you'll probably never catch up unless you win the lottery.
 
2014-08-08 11:49:34 AM  
Lawyers, at least criminal ones, are just paid liars.
 
2014-08-08 11:50:06 AM  

tnpir: This profession is a total beatdown most of the time. Maybe not to the point of mental illness, but there is a reason why lawyers tend to have a higher rate (versus the entire population) of alcoholism and substance abuse.

How about nyphomania? But only among the women?
 
2014-08-08 11:50:27 AM  
I don't I think I mentioned anything about mental illness on my bar application and I have a diagnosis from the VA of PTSD. I don't think applicants should be required to disclose, either.

Chalji: tnpir: I'm a lawyer so I'm getting a kick....

...but seriously, mental illness or not, whenever I meet a young person who is contemplating law school, I always ask if there is a chance I can talk them out of it. And I'm semi-serious.

This profession is a total beatdown most of the time. Maybe not to the point of mental illness, but there is a reason why lawyers tend to have a higher rate (versus the entire population) of alcoholism and substance abuse.

This is unfortunately true. Our profession is designed to be self destructive and lawyers are the best at tearing down other lawyers. I think I've met maybe one or two lawyers who are honestly happy at what they do. Most everyone else just suffers through it wondering what the fark just happened.


On these points, I'm still a new, bright eyed attorney, so I haven't been beaten down yet. I'm sure it's coming. The happy lawyers I know are the ones who have achieved a proper work/life balance (shocking!). The unhappy ones are the ones who work all the time and let the law destroy their life. Not having debt and working for the government mean I leave work at 4 every day. I leave the horrible things I see at work, too. Some people just can't do that, or have such crippling debt that they have to take a job billing 2000+ hours a year.

/GI Bill FTW!
 
2014-08-08 11:53:46 AM  
What a mentally ill lawyer may look like:


i.dailymail.co.uk
 
2014-08-08 11:54:05 AM  
Slight related. Why do people with mental illnesses always want to get into the mental illness field? I met two crazy chicks that were doing just that.
 
2014-08-08 11:55:19 AM  

van1ty: /Lawyer
//Posting on FARK while at work
///Living the dream


/married to a lawyer
//posting at home with no pants
///truly, living the dream
 
2014-08-08 11:58:20 AM  

van1ty: /Lawyer
//Posting on FARK while at work
///Living the dream


You and me both.
 
2014-08-08 11:59:00 AM  

serpent_sky: It doesn't make it right, especially when you look at (b) and (c) where people get diagnosed with one thing by someone, and something else by someone else. I had a lady who was determined to slap me with a diagnosis of bipolar (which I in no way display any of the criteria for, and have been told multiple times by multiple people that was the case, as I used to worry about it without understanding what it really is.) She just seemed to pull that out of thin air after talking to me twice, when I was going through some really, really horrible by anyone's standards, times.


A lot of therapists are crappy. I say that as someone who works in the field and has a real love for the subject. (I just got this job--my other love wasn't paying the bills either.) I read all the diagnoses on our clients, see the meds they're taking, deal with these people every day, and I think a lot of it is bullshiat. I've also talked to many, many people who've dealt with therapists, and some of them come up with some absolutely bizarre ideas about what is wrong with a person. It's not hard science--and the people with the mental disorders can change, too. I call it "bad wiring." If you have bad wiring in your house, it can show up anywhere in your house, and do all kinds of different things. You have bad wiring in your brain, anything can happen, and it might manifest itself differently one day than it did the day before.

They have to label them with something or they can't get the help, so let's see, what is the trendy disorder right now, or the therapist's personal favorite........? I wouldn't trust anyone without a PhD to make an accurate diagnosis of a serious disorder, and even then....Not that some lower level people aren't great, but if I had to trust someone who was going to give me a label that would stick with me for the rest of my life, and be responsible for my taking some pretty heavy drugs, I'd go with a PhD. But most people in that kind of distress don't have the money or the knowledge to know how to find a really good therapist. And even then, you can't be sure, because, you know, you're having some mental problems.

My ex always found the lawyers with the personality disorders who would buy his bullshiat stories. It was weird how he could do that. One of his lawyers hated my guts. It was personal with him, and he did his best to destroy me. My lawyer told me about how he would stroke out every time she called him about my case. My lawyers, on the other hand, were pretty nice, normal people. Overworked and stressed out, but decent. I guess that explains how I usually lost everything, and the scumbags on the other side won.
 
2014-08-08 11:59:13 AM  

DerAppie: There are a number of risks inherent in requiring law students to disclose their medical histories to the faceless boards of law examiners. There is the risk that exposing themselves to strangers will heighten their mental health symptoms, making those with anxiety disorders more anxious ("I might not be admitted to the bar!")

Yeah, I don't want a lawyer with anxiety disorder who might crash because of such a trivial question. Who knows when (s)he will crash during the trial because things get tough.


Yeah, I don't want a lawyer with diabetes who might crash because of forgetting to take their medicine.  Who knows when (s)he will crash during the trial because things get tough.
 
2014-08-08 11:59:56 AM  

biscuitsngravy: /married to a lawyer
//posting at home with no pants


your spouse can't afford to get you pants?
 
2014-08-08 12:00:37 PM  
My old boss had a theory that attempting to pass the bar exam is what made them crazy...

Worked in a courthouse. Some lawyers are complete shiatheadassholes.
 
2014-08-08 12:02:02 PM  
Ivandrago:
On these points, I'm still a new, bright eyed attorney, so I haven't been beaten down yet. I'm sure it's coming. The happy lawyers I know are the ones who have achieved a proper work/life balance (shocking!). The unhappy ones are the ones who work all the time and let the law destroy their life. Not having debt and working for the government mean I leave work at 4 every day. I leave the horrible things I see at work, too. Some people just can't do that, or have such crippling debt that they have to take a job billing 2000+ hours a year.

/GI Bill FTW!


I'm genuinely happy for you. Way to make your life work. Rock on, brotha'.
 
2014-08-08 12:03:29 PM  
objects
mehtakyakehta.files.wordpress.com
objects strongly
cdn3.whatculture.com
 
2014-08-08 12:03:31 PM  
After seeing the movie "Catch Me if You Can", which features a section on how Frank Abagnale passed the bar exam and started practicing law, it got me thinking.

Considering that was a true story, how possible is that.  I remember once asking a lawyer, "is it necessary to have a college degree" "YES!!!  YOU HAVE TO HAVE A DEGREE TO TAKE THE BAR!"

Evidently I struck a chord.  So I dropped the subject.  But I still wonder.  Do you have to have a degree to pass the bar, and start practicing law?
 
2014-08-08 12:05:47 PM  
Many states have a Lawyer Assistance Program, which must serve the needy members of the bench, too. These are more likely to protect confidence.

On the other hand, no telling how many big national firms like B&B and F&J and boutiques like Westboro Baptist, have ears in the boardroom and fingers in the confidential files of the agencies and bar associations. And if its these agencies that are mucking around in the gray area that the DOJ declares is against the ADA and probably illegal, you can be damn sure they'll protect records with their life.

Of course, in my state, people still remember that if you're a teen and you famously bring a rifle to class and kill your teacher, you could end up in law school, and who knows, admitted to the bar and practicing for these many decades. So there's that.
 
2014-08-08 12:07:15 PM  
I didn't have a problem with the NC Bar Examiners asking about mental health history. I did have a problem with them asking for every single address where I've lived since I was born and every single job I've ever held. I heard not even the federal background checks are that scrutinizing.

But I guess it's a good way to weed out the fark-ups and those too lazy to recount every address they've ever had. I
 
2014-08-08 12:08:27 PM  
My grandmother was a judge, my father became a lawyer later in life, at 50, graduate at at the top of his class, and had a pretty successful practice.

When I decided I was going to follow in the tradition my grandmother sat me down and said.

"I think you would sail through law school with flying colors as I and your father have.  But you are a happy go luck guy who while a cynical bastard, you tend to love people and the world around you.  I hate people, because for 50 years I have had to see the worst in humanity, and it really can take a toll on you no matter how you balance it.  As your grandmother who loves you, do not do it."
 
2014-08-08 12:10:39 PM  

durbnpoisn: After seeing the movie "Catch Me if You Can", which features a section on how Frank Abagnale passed the bar exam and started practicing law, it got me thinking.

Considering that was a true story, how possible is that.  I remember once asking a lawyer, "is it necessary to have a college degree" "YES!!!  YOU HAVE TO HAVE A DEGREE TO TAKE THE BAR!"

Evidently I struck a chord.  So I dropped the subject.  But I still wonder.  Do you have to have a degree to pass the bar, and start practicing law?


I don't think you have to have a JD to sit for the bar and practice in California. I'm not 100% certain, though.
In Wisconsin you don't have to take a bar. If you graduate from a Wisconsin law school, you're entitled to practice. When I was looking a JAG, one of the requirements was to have passed a bar in any state. Unless you went to a Wisconsin law school.
 
2014-08-08 12:10:45 PM  
People are thinking too hard about this issue.  You have to give permission for access to any of your medical records, and that only comes along if you check YES on any of the boxes.

Just mark all of them NO and no one will know otherwise because they won't have access to your medical records.
 
2014-08-08 12:11:28 PM  

durbnpoisn: After seeing the movie "Catch Me if You Can", which features a section on how Frank Abagnale passed the bar exam and started practicing law, it got me thinking.

Considering that was a true story, how possible is that.  I remember once asking a lawyer, "is it necessary to have a college degree" "YES!!!  YOU HAVE TO HAVE A DEGREE TO TAKE THE BAR!"

Evidently I struck a chord.  So I dropped the subject.  But I still wonder.  Do you have to have a degree to pass the bar, and start practicing law?


In most states you need a law degree to sit for the Bar, not because the bar exam itself is impossible without one, but mainly because the State Bars only want people who have gone through an accredited program to possibly join the Bar itself.

Law school is partly a giant test to determine whether or not you will be an ethical attorney. The State Bars don't want someone skipping that. It's why California has, as far as I know, no reciprocity agreements with other states because they allow anyone to take the bar there.
 
2014-08-08 12:11:56 PM  

durbnpoisn: Do you have to have a degree to pass the bar, and start practicing law?


not in all states:

In California, Vermont, Virginia, Washington State, and Wyoming[12] an applicant who has not attended law school may take the bar exam after study under a judge or practicing attorney for an extended period of time.[13][14] This method is known as "reading law" or "reading the law".

New York requires that applicants who are reading the law have at least one year of law school study (Rule 520.4 for the Admission of Attorneys).[15]

Maine allows students with two years of law school to serve an apprenticeship in lieu of completing their third year.


/wish I had checked wikipedia before going to law school
 
2014-08-08 12:13:41 PM  
Good for them.  An unstable lawyer could truly fark up their clients' lives if they lose their shiat in a courtroom.  Could you sue a lawyer who went cray-cray in front of a judge and lost your case?  Sue the bar association who certified that lawyer was fit to represent you?  I could see it as a potential liability for them.
 
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