New York state’s application to the bar will no longer include questions about the mental health of hopeful lawyers, the New York State Unified Court System announced Wednesday.
“Today marks a historic step forward in addressing the ongoing mental health crisis in the legal profession,” said New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) President Henry M. Greenberg. “Future generations of New York lawyers no longer need to live in fear that bravely and smartly seeking treatment for mental health issues could one day derail their careers.”
The decision follows a CNN report on Sunday that law students said they didn’t get mental health treatment for fear it would keep them from becoming lawyers. According to one study, 45% of law students said they would be discouraged from seeking mental health treatment out of concern it would negatively affect bar admission.
Chief Judge Janet DiFiore announced the decision — supported by educators and mental health organizations– in her State of the Judiciary address and credited the NYSBA for raising the issue, the NYSBA said in a release Wednesday.
A report from the NYSBA Working Group on Attorney Mental Health’s report in November found that law students are experiencing more stress than ever, but that mental health inquiries on the application lead many students not to seek help, the NYSBA said. It also concluded that such questions were in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Two days later, State Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brad Hoylman introduced legislation prohibiting the application from asking about mental health, the NYSBA said.
New York is the 11th state to remove questions around mental health, the NYSBA said.
The questions have been removed voluntarily in some cases, but by the Department of Justice in the case of Louisiana.
The DOJ launched an investigation and concluded in 2014 that the Louisiana bar violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) through practices including making “discriminatory inquiries” about mental health, subjecting applicants to additional investigations because of their mental health conditions and making discriminatory admissions recommendations.
A settlement between the department and the state mandated changes including removing “intrusive” questions about mental health. The ADA has not yet been applied to any other state’s bar.