Friday, April 28, 2017
Law student mental health has been a frequent topic of discussion over the last few years. Larry Kramer and the AALS Section on Balance in Legal Education have done much to raise awareness of law student mental health issues. A new article on Above the Law discusses an important topic in this area--how students are reacting to failing the bar.
Law School Graduates Would Rather Die Than Fail The Bar Exam by Staci Zaretsky.
"Results from the February 2017 bar exam are out in several states, and we’ve received a deluge of emails concerning law school graduates’ bar-exam-related despair."
"I wanted to add some more color to the issue of people fearing their bar exam results and contemplating the worst in the event of failure. It so happened that the day I was set to receive my bar exam results (NY), I was also waiting to hear from my doctor about whether or not a surgical biopsy of lymph nodes would come back benign or malignant. The pressures of law school are so great, and the thoughts of failing the bar so daunting, that I seriously hoped that if I had to fail one, it would be the biopsy. I thought that my chances of surviving cancer were greater than my chances of surviving failing the bar. Happily, I received good news on both fronts that day. But it strikes me that something is seriously wrong with our profession if this is how we approach these results."
Since bar exam failure is such a traumatic event, which can cause great mental suffering and lead to suicide, don't law schools have a duty to do the best they can to make sure their students can pass the bar? Should law schools admit students who are unlikely to pass the bar? (I vaguely remember an ABA standard on this one). And, shouldn't law schools be using the best approaches to educating students, rather than clinging to the failed methods of the past. (I vaguely remember reading a couple of reports on this about ten years ago.)
Law schools can't guarantee the well-being of their students. But, they shouldn't do anything that can make it worse, like admitting students who are unlikely to ever pass the bar.