The state Supreme Court Committee on Character and Fitness said on June 19 that the questions discouraged law students and others from seeking necessary treatment for mental health and substance abuse problems.
“The bar admission process seeks to ensure that attorneys we admit to the New Hampshire bar are competent, and have the character and fitness to practice law,” said Joseph F. McDowell, III, Esquire, character and fitness committee chair, in a statement. “A diagnosis standing alone does not equate to misconduct that reflects on an applicant’s character or ability to practice law in a professional manner.”
Officials believe removing the questions will help encourage students and attorneys to stay healthy and seek treatment when needed.
“Depression, anxiety, and substance abuse are common in the legal profession, and as a program of legal education we have a special opportunity – and a moral obligation – to help support and facilitate the health and well-being of our future lawyers,” said Megan Carpenter, dean and professor of law at the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law, in an e-mail statement to Fox News.
Carpenter said staff has worked to build mental health into the law school environment over the past three years through programmatic support to lectures and presentations to make it a part of regular conversation and destigmatize mental health issues more broadly throughout the community.
The dean said the school supports mental health and wellness through on-site counseling, and a representative from the Lawyers Assistance Program holds confidential “office hours” on a monthly basis.
Carpenter also said there is a group of select faculty and staff focused on “Students of Concern” that meets regularly. Also, she said the Student Mental Health Alliance is a student group dedicated to these issues, adding that they have been the driving force behind this change on the New Hampshire bar application.
“We are grateful to the New Hampshire Supreme Court and the Board of Bar Examiners for their partnership and commitment to future lawyers in the state,” Carpenter said.
Officials said New Hampshire joined with at least a dozen other jurisdictions in removing related questions.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.