A smiling, diverse, group of law students sitting on a bench under a tree, some holding laptops and tablets.

 

 

Helping Law Students Live Well Every Day

NJLAP has a solid and growing commitment to NJ law schools.

 

 

A consistent presence at law school orientation, NJLAP is regularly invited to present additional educational sessions in each of the schools. We work with counseling and administrative staff who refer law students for services not available on campus. 

 

We recently established a Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers meeting on campus and are actively involved with similar efforts nationwide through the ABA.

 

We are here for law students.

We Can:

  1. Connect you with one of our skilled staff to talk about your unique concerns.
  2. Provide guidance about the Character & Fitness portion of your Bar Application.
  3. Support and encourage your healthy coping skills and problem solving techniques.
  4. Offer information on community resources and local support groups.
  5. Listen.

Call us at 800-246-5527

It is important to know the Rules on Character and Fitness for each state, as they will differ. Some states will require additional work on your part to show how incidents like this will not interfere with your ability to practice law. You can check out our Bar Candidates page for information about what happens when the NJ Character and Fitness Committee requires a fitness evaluation based on substance use or mental health. At the end our our FAQs is a link to the NJ Board of Bar Examiners website, where you can download the Rules on the Committee on Character to familiarize yourself with this tribunal.
Will past alcoholism and DUIs prevent you from being admitted to the Bar?

Laurie Besden is an attorney and the Executive Director of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers of Pennsylvania. Laurie had a privileged upbringing. She graduated college with a 3.97 GPA, and was in the top 15% of her law school class. On paper, Laurie is the definition of success. Laurie is also a drug addict and her addiction started in law school.

 

In "The Besden Redemption," Laurie candidly shares her story. It is a remarkable story of crippling addiction, and ultimately, redemption. She reminds us, that it can happen to anyone.

 

The Besden Redemption - 3 minute video

Spotting Attorneys in Distress: Before It's Too Late - features Laurie, requires Acrobat Reader

The bar exam—the final hurdle on the way to practice. Or maybe not. Each year more than a few law grads are devastated to learn that for reasons having nothing to do with the bar exam they will not be permitted to practice law. Character, not competence, is the issue.

Read the article
For would-be lawyers, the two- or even three-day, nerve-wracking bar exam is just one hurdle. The other step is often underappreciated but can make all the difference in a graduate's ability to practice.
 

To become a fully licensed, card-carrying member of the bar, graduates must clear a character-and-fitness inquiry. And that’s no easy task. Bar applicants must show by clear and convincing evidence that they possess the requisite degree of good character to sit for the exam and be admitted.

During the intensive process, applicants must fill out a lengthy questionnaire and reveal a dizzying array of personal information from their past. They’re asked to disclose any arrests, academic misconduct charges, job losses, traffic tickets, bankruptcies and in some cases mental health histories.

 

Even seemingly minor prior conduct can come back to haunt a candidate for admission.

 

Read the rest of the article

NJLAP is  significantly involved with the ABA’s Commission on Lawyers Assistance Program’s (CoLAP) Committee on Law School Outreach. Among other initiatives with this committee, we have recently helped develop the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Toolkit.
Download the toolkit - Requires Adobe Acrobat
NJLAP utilizes the most recent research in our outreach to law schools.  Two prominent studies done in conjunction with the ABA CoLAP:
  • The first study looks at Law Student substance abuse/mental health prevalence, and the unsettling evidence that students are not reaching out for help out of fear.  

Law Students: We Know Your Little Secret

Law Students Suffer from High Rates of Depression and Binge Drinking

Suffering in Silence: The Survey of Law Student Well-Being and the Reluctance of Law Students to Seek Help for Substance Use and Mental Health Concerns

 

  • The second study looks at the prevalence of substance abuse and mental health issues with lawyers, after they graduate. And the statistics are troubling.  Many students think “things will improve once I am out of school, once I am licensed, etc." However, the issues faced in law school are not going away. “... 21 percent of licensed, employed attorneys qualify as problem drinkers, 28 percent struggle with some level of depression and 19 percent demonstrate symptoms of anxiety. The study found that younger attorneys in the first 10 years of practice exhibit the highest incidence of these problems”

 

The Prevalence of Substance Use and Other Mental Health Concerns Among US Attorneys

ABA Press Release and Other Articles About the Study - Requires Adobe Acrobat

Originally published in Student Lawyer magazine, December 2003 (Vol. 32, No. 4). All rights reserved.

 

Drug and alcohol dependence affects law student's health and their prospects for bar admission. Law schools and legal groups are working to raise awareness of the problem and develop solutions, but the task isn't easy.

 

by Cynthia L. Cooper
(Cynthia L. Cooper is a lawyer and writer in New York City.)

 

Law school without liquor poses a serious problem for Jana Pritchard. The 29-year-old law student in Chicago, who's halfway through her J.D. program, is a self-confessed binge drinker-"wine, beer, mixed drinks, shots on occasion, pretty much anything," she says. She tried giving up alcohol for a while in law school, but, within months, she started again.

 

"The thought of making it through law school without drinking is stultifying," says Pritchard (who, like some other students interviewed for this article, chose a pseudonym for herself). "'Celebrate your victories and drown your defeats.' The law school culture supports that." She notes an irony of law school orientation: A talk on substance abuse is followed by an event at which everyone goes out and gets drunk.

 

Read the Rest of the Article

If there is a topic or issue you would like more information about, please email us at info@njlap.org.

If there is a topic or issue you would like more information about, please email us at info@njlap.org.