Law Students and Lawyers with Mental Health and Substance Abuse Problems: Protecting the Public and the Individual
37 Pages Posted: 4 Nov 2008 Last revised: 3 Feb 2009
Date Written: October 31, 2008
Data on the incidence of mental impairment or substance abuse and addiction is difficult to obtain, but there is evidence that lawyers and law students have a high rate of depression and substance abuse. Because of the high stakes involved in the legal profession and the stigma attached to mental health and substance abuse problems, individuals with these problems are often reluctant to seek help. Even if the prevalence of mental health or substance abuse problems were no higher for lawyers compared with the general population, the consequences of such impairment are significant for the individuals, the public, law schools, legal employers, and bar admission authorities. The article provides an overview of the policies, practices, and procedures affecting individuals with mental and substance abuse impairments at various stages of entering and continuing in the legal profession and reviews how these policies are applied in the admission to and enrollment in law school, professional licensing, and employment. The article evaluates whether these policies, practices, and procedures appropriately address and balance the concerns of the individual with the interests of others. Comparisons to the medical profession are discussed. The article concludes by offering recommendations to improve the handling of these issues.
Keywords: mental health, substance abuse, disabilities, licensing, law students, lawyers, mental illness, bar admissions,
JEL Classification: K23, K31, K32, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation