Mental health questions to be removed from state bar exam application

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The Michigan Bar examination application will no longer ask applicants about their mental health history.

The Michigan Supreme Court ordered the Board of Law Examiners to remove questions from the exam that ask for the disclosure of any treatment, counseling, treatment refusal, counseling refusal, mental condition, emotional condition and nervous condition that impairs or distorts daily life. The exam also will no longer ask applicants to disclose the details and provide names and addresses of all personal and medical parties involved.

Instead, applicants will be asked, “if any conduct or behavior in the past five years could call into question their ability to practice law properly.” The change will be effective for the February 2021 exam.

“We should not be asking applicants to our bar unfocused questions based on generalizations and misconceptions about mental health,” Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget McCormack said. “Questions about past diagnoses have the unintentional effect of deterring aspiring attorneys from seeking assistance.

“Law school is grueling. There is nothing wrong with getting help, and we want to make sure that there are no barriers for our up-and-coming attorneys. This reform helps to stop the stigma.”

The American Bar Association surveyed 3,300 students across 15 law schools, and they found that 42% of students said they needed professional help with their mental health. While 45% of students said they would be discouraged from seeking mental health treatment for fear it would negatively affect bar admission.

The decision was made in consultation with two law schools, the State Bar of Michigan Board of Commissioners and the Attorney Grievance Commission, the body charged with investigating and prosecuting attorney misconduct.

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