Utilizing Wellness Resources

The National Conference of Bar Examiners (‘NCBE’) published the Winter 2022-23 edition of The Bar Examiner, and within that publication, there was an article entitled “Twelve Things I Wish Applicants Knew About the Bar Admissions Process.

You can read the online version here, and the information provided is generally applicable regardless of your intended practice jurisdiction, but there was one particular part of the article that I wanted to draw your attention to and it reads as follows:

“12. Do not let the fact that you are applying to the bar stop you from seeking counseling or treatment.

Bar admission authorities are acutely aware of the stress and pressure you face as a law student. Some law students experience significant life events during their studies that impact their physical or mental health and wellness. We want you to seek treatment or counseling to assist you in managing these issues, and be assured that doing so will not negatively impact your ability to become a member of the bar.”

Questions about engaging with counseling and pursuing treatment always arise during the Character & Fitness (‘C&F’) component of the bar exam application process. The Office of Academic Achievement and Bar Success (‘AABS’) hosts the Georgia Office of Bar Admissions each fall to discuss the Board’s view regarding such with soon-to-be-graduates. Specifically, their stance is that the Board does not deny certification to applicants based on their decision to seek treatment or support for a mental health condition. In fact, the Board encourages applicants to seek treatment if needed and believes that an applicant’s decision to obtain necessary treatment is indicative of a person who possesses the character and fitness requisite to be a member of the Bar of Georgia.AABS, Dean Gatewood, and parties from other law schools have worked closely with the Board to provide input around changes to C&F questions, and we are very pleased with the direction the Board has moved.

However, one gap that I have identified in our AABS programming is that this messaging around seeking assistance as it pertains to the bar application process may not be arriving from AABS early enough. AABS addresses this with soon-to-be graduates, but I feel that within our office we need to do a better job of letting you know that it is okay to seek assistance earlier in your educational journey. Although the Office of Student Affairs does an excellent job of promoting wellness resources and provides an easy-to-access resource page, I wanted to ensure that you are receiving similar encouragement from AABS regarding utilizing these resources in terms of the bar application process. Specifically, I wanted to share the Board’s view that seeking assistance will not be a detriment to you in the bar application process. If you need assistance, you should confidently seek it out.

Your mental health and overall wellness are important, not just for your success in law school and as an attorney, but generally in life. Everything starts with you, and taking care of yourself is incredibly important, so please do not hesitate to utilize the resources that are available to ensure that you are the best version of yourself.

Remember, utilizing these resources and seeking the assistance, counseling, and treatment that you need is actually seen as a positive indicator, and being proactive in approaching problems and issues is demonstrative of the type of self-aware professional that this career path embraces. Do not let self-stigma or fear of bar application outcomes prevent you from seeking out and utilizing the resources that you need to be the best version of yourself.

Please take care of yourself and your community. Remember, “Our students come for law school but find a community,” and part of finding that community means actively engaging in activities that promote the health and well-being of that community, including utilizing wellness resources and supporting others in doing so as well.

Scot GoinsAssistant Dean of Academic Achievement
and Bar Studies and Associate Professor of Legal Practice
sgoins@johnmarshall.edu(678) 916-2652
Sharon Phillips-BiondiniAssistant Professor of Legal Practicesphillips@johnmarshall.edu(678) 916-2648
Nicholas SmithAssistant Professor of Legal Practice and Assistant Director of Academic Achievement and Bar Studies nsmith@johnmarshall.edu(678) 916-2635