New Hampshire Removes Questions on Mental Health Conditions from Bar Admissions Applications
CONCORD, NH – New Hampshire has joined with at least a dozen other jurisdictions in removing questions from its bar application about mental health history, diagnosis, or treatment when determining character and fitness for bar admissions. The New Hampshire Supreme Court Committee on Character and Fitness was persuaded that the questions discouraged law students and others from seeking necessary treatment for mental health and substance abuse problems when such services are critical to student well-being. A 2014 Survey of Law Student Well-Being sponsored by the American Bar Association reported that applicants’ perception that mental health and substance abuse treatment would have a negative impact on admission was a primary factor in the students not seeking help.
“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 character and fitness committee chair Joseph F. McDowell, III, Esquire. “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. We believe removing these questions will encourage law students and attorneys to stay healthy and seek treatment when needed.”
McDowell noted that the committee will continue to inquire about applicant conduct. “Applicant conduct has always been the primary focus of the court and committee’s inquiries into character and fitness and, even with these changes, will remain so.”
The committee received input from numerous constituencies, including the Mental Health Alliance at UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law, former Chief Justice John Broderick, and U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan in making this decision.
For more information on the New Hampshire Bar admission process, see the NH Judicial Branch website.