Michigan to drop mental health questions for new lawyers

Calif. considers banning sex between lawyers, clients
Posted at 4:47 AM, Mar 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-20 10:24:51-04

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Questions about mental health treatment will be dropped from the application to become a lawyer in Michigan.

Instead, applicants to the Michigan State Bar will be asked if they’ve had any “conduct or behavior” in the previous five years that might affect their ability to practice law in a professional manner.

The Michigan Supreme Court announced the change Wednesday, although it wasn’t unanimous.

“Rather than using an applicant’s status or diagnosis as a proxy for behavior, we hope aspiring attorneys will recognize that mental health issues are not professional disqualifications,” said Chief Justice Bridget McCormack, who favored the shift.

She said the change, which will start in 2021, should “destigmatize and encourage mental health treatment in the legal profession.”

When it invited public comment last year, the court said at least nine states had dropped questions about mental health.

Justices Brian Zahra and Stephen Markman disagreed with the change. They noted that questions about mental health are common in other professions and to become a foster parent.

The Michigan Board of Law Examiners now has been “instructed by this court to prioritize the needs of the applicant over the need to protect the public,” Zahra and Markman said.