Adam Tabor, a member of Orrick’s Public Policy team in Seattle, recently spoke with Law360 regarding the stigma associated with mental health diagnoses in the legal profession.
Adam speaks from personal experience – he was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder during law school. As Adam tells Law360, prior to taking the North Carolina bar exam, he received a notice informing him, “You, the applicant, have the burden of satisfying the Panel that you possess the qualifications of character and general fitness requisite for an attorney.”
The hearing notice arrived as a result of Adam’s response to a question on the bar exam application form asking whether he had any condition that “currently affects, or has affected, or if untreated could affect your ability to practice law in a competent and professional manner.”
According to Adam, “I thought the worst that would come of that would be I would have to turn over some medical records … [so the application analyst] would see that I have been seeing medical providers and that things were pretty stable since I was diagnosed.” However, during the hearing, Adam had to field difficult questions about his diagnosis from three panel members, including, “If something goes wrong [with your illness], do you know what to do?”
After several weeks of waiting, Adam learned that despite the toughness of the hearing, he had passed the bar exam. Now, Adam advocates to get such character and fitness questions removed from bar exams, as he believes that they incorrectly equate a mental health diagnosis with an incompetency to practice law. In addition, he is a member of the Advisory Board for the Dave Nee Foundation, which formulates strategies to eliminate stigma, within and without the legal academy and profession, associated with depression and other mental health diagnoses.