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Study: Law Students Are Hiding Their Mental Problems

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on January 14, 2016 5:59 AM

According to a report that appeared in The Bar Examiner, law students are hiding their crippling depression and binge drinking because they think it will hurt their chances at becoming a lawyer.

Unfortunately, it's perhaps indicative of our profession when we say that we're not at all surprised by this.

Your Future Lawyer: Binge Drinker

According to Jerome Organ, one of the report's co-authors, law students are reluctant to seek help because "they don't perceive seeking help as being beneficial to their bar admission process." Guess what? He also suggested that a lawyer's unwillingness to seek help could affect his or her ability to represent clients.

Well, who would want to fess up to some of the things they might have done? Let's take a look at some of the results that Organ found with his fellow authors. After surveying more than 3,000 students from February to May in 2014 (just one year!) a little more than 20 percent of students admitted to binge drinking two or more times in the previous two weeks; and almost a quarter of the total tested as if they should undergo more alcohol testing.

Even more encouraging (sarcasm) was approximately a quarter of those surveyed had received at least one diagnosis in the past for depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, etc. This may have something to do with lawyer suicide issues.

Or Pot or Cocaine User

Pot is becoming more acceptable these days. But what about cocaine? Fourteen percent of those surveyed admitted to using pot in the last 30 days, and two-and-a-half admitted to cocaine use in the same time. That's not a huge number, but that's still a lot of future attorneys potentially setting themselves up for serious career problems.

Cover It up: My Law Future Is at Stake

The surveys indicate that a grand majority of students avoided getting further help for their problems because they feared that it would negatively affect their chances of getting their license. Why? Because before becoming a lawyer, every law student must undergo the "moral character and fitness" process by which the jurisdiction will pick, prod, and probe into every aspect of the applicant's life including criminal background and mental health issues. If one scintilla does not square exactly with what you disclosed in your original file -- you're in trouble.

Wanting to become a lawyer is noble and laudable. But it appears that attempts to encourage law students to seek a resolution to their depression and drinking issues have fallen on deaf ears. What does this portend for our noble profession?

One optimistic guess: really laid-back lawyers. Hey, at least we might be getting the green-light for weed.

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