Why Should Depression Disqualify You From Practicing Law?

by Dish Staff

Lisa T. McElroy and Katie Rose Guest Pryal argue that the mental-health questions on state bar exams are unfair to law students:

The questions aren’t just about conduct that might impair a person’s ability to practice law, such as refusing to seek treatment for psychotic episodes. Instead, the agencies ask about a wide range of medical history. They ask (we offer just a few examples) whether you have ever “had out-patient treatment, for … major depressive disorder” (Wyoming) or “Within the past five (5) years, have you been diagnosed with or have you been treated for any of the following: … bipolar disorder or manic depressive mood disorder, major depression … or any other condition which significantly impaired your behavior, judgment, understanding … or ability to function in school, work, or other important life activities?” (Colorado). Most states have similar inquiries on their questionnaires for bar applicants; the standard form provided by the National Conference of Bar Examiners includes them, too.

Remember that these soon-to-be-lawyers have already proved themselves more than capable of enduring the intellectual and occupational rigor of law school – and succeeding. But despite your success, if you are a law student and you answer in the affirmative to having been treated for depression, for example, in many (if not most) states, you must provide the state access to your medical records and the names of all of your doctors. As you might imagine, this is a very invasive and alienating process for students with disabilities.