Changes Coming to Mental Health Questions on Bar Exam Application

March 18, 2020

The Michigan Supreme Court has directed the Board of Law Examiners to remove the following questions from the Michigan Bar Examination application, beginning with the February 2021 exam:

  • Have you ever had, been treated or counseled for, or refused treatment or counseling for, a mental, emotional, or nervous condition which permanently, presently or chronically impairs or distorts your judgment, behavior, capacity to recognize reality or ability to cope with ordinary demands of life? If yes, provide the names and addresses of all involved agencies, institutions, physicians or psychologists or other health care providers and describe the underlying circumstances or the diagnosis, treatment or hospitalization.
  • Have you ever had, been treated or counseled for, or refused treatment or counseling for, a mental, emotional, or nervous condition which permanently, presently or chronically impairs your ability to exercise such responsibilities as being candid and truthful, handling funds, meeting deadlines, or otherwise representing the interest of others?

The Court directed that those questions be replaced with the following one from the National Conference of Bar Examiners model questions:

  • Within the past five years, have you exhibited any conduct or behavior that could call into question your ability to practice law in a competent, ethical, and professional manner?

Last year, the State Bar of Michigan Board of Commissioners recommended replacing the questions regarding mental health on the Affidavit of Personal History with these more objective questions that focus on applicants’ conduct, rather than their diagnosis or treatment. The Board had several concerns about the existing questions, including that the focus on counseling deterred law students from seeking mental health treatment.

The Board of Law Examiners oversees the investigation and examination of State Bar of Michigan applicants.