Kaplan Bar Review Survey: Only 29 Percent of Law School Graduates Think Their Alma Mater Does Enough to Help their Students in the Area of Mental Health

New York, NY (May 1, 2019) — With mental health diagnoses on the rise among U.S. college students, a new Kaplan Bar Review survey of more than 300 recent law school graduates finds that just 29 percent think their law school does enough in the area of mental health to help its students who may experience elevated levels of academic stress*. Forty percent say their law school does not do enough, while 31 percent don’t know.

This survey illustrating a lack of confidence, coupled with a lack of awareness of how their law school may help students take better care of themselves comes as America observes Mental Health Awareness Month. This also comes at a time when more law students are demanding school administrators be more transparent about student data they collect about mental health.

“What students are telling us is that law schools need to do a better job of providing the kinds of services that they need for self-care, and also communicating how those services can help them. This is an important conversation to have. We have to conquer the stigma traditionally associated with mental health, particularly in the legal community,” said Tammi Rice, vice president, Kaplan Bar Review. “May in particular can be an emotionally taxing month in the life of law school graduates, as it is when they begin preparing to take the July bar exam. We strongly encourage law students who need help during this time to reach out to their law school. Law schools want to make sure that as many of their students as possible pass the bar, so they have a vested interest in ensuring their students are ready in every way for Test Day.”

The Kaplan survey also finds that law school graduates largely disagree with two policies most state bar examiners currently practice: asking aspiring practicing attorneys about mental health and substance abuse issues.

Nearly three quarters (74 percent) of law school graduates say state bar examiners should not be able to ask students on their bar exam application if they’ve ever been treated for a mental health issue. Many students opposed to this practice express strong opinions:

  • “I believe large law firms and corporations would prefer new hires that do not suffer from these issues. This would exacerbate the existing stigma against mental health problems within the profession…We do need to discuss mental health within the profession, however I do not believe that the place for discussions of mental health should be in the certification process.”
  • “It is of no consequence what a person’s mental health state is, especially if they are seeking treatment and are functional. It is a personal matter and if it does actually impede the attorney’s ability to practice, it will show in the work.”
  • Unless there is an incentive to disclose mental health, such as a time accommodation, then no, not anyone’s business. Sad to see so many students and practicing attorneys suffering with addiction and mental illness; something needs to change.”

Earlier this year, the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners decided to no longer ask aspiring practicing lawyers to disclose mental health treatment on their application.

Sixty-one percent of law school said that state bar examiners should not be able to ask students on their bar exam application if they’ve ever been treated for an addiction issue. Those in opposition cited both practical and privacy issues:

  • “The profession absolutely needs to address the problem. However, screening people with issues from entering the profession is not the way to combat these problems.”
  • “While I do not condone the use of drugs, the state should mind its own business until the drug addiction becomes an actual problem in the legal profession.”
  • “How on earth could you prove it either way? Someone lies, and they show signs of addiction later, how can you prove they didn’t disclose? What good would it do, except for catching a few people with addiction issues who are honest.”

“Law school graduates overwhelmingly believe that asking applicants about their mental health or past substance abuse challenges is irrelevant to the job of being a lawyer. Attitudes toward these issues are evolving and we think it’s largely generational. A decade ago, these percentages in opposition might have been much lower,” added Rice.

For more information about Kaplan’s survey or to schedule an interview, please contact Russell Schaffer at 212.453.7538 or russell.schaffer@kaplan.com.

*Based on the results of Kaplan Bar Review e-survey conducted between February and March 2019 of 303 law school graduates who took a Kaplan bar preparation course.

About Kaplan Bar Review

Kaplan Bar Review (www.kaplanbarreview.com) offers a robust suite of personalized onsite, live online and on-demand offerings, as well as a complete array of print books and digital products, for the bar exam in 51 jurisdictions (all 50 states and Washington, DC), including state-specific bar exams and the Uniform Bar Examination. Kaplan Bar Review also offers supplemental preparation for the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE). Additionally, Kaplan’s Excellence Program provides law schools with learning tools, skill support, and assessments to help their students succeed at every stage of their legal education, from admissions to through licensing. Established in 1938, Kaplan is the world leader in the test prep industry.

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