TLAP is a confidential, free service. Any law student may seek services or participate in TLAP events and conferences.
TLAP can help law students in a myriad of fashions. Some law students only need information from TLAP, while others may seek short term counseling, crisis stabilization, referrals to outside sources, stress management support, or just a safe place to vent and process issues related to the pressures of law school, including the natural anxiety that arises from filling out the bar application, taking the bar, waiting on results, and anticipating licensure.
TLAP and Law Schools
TLAP representatives speak regularly at all Tennessee law schools, and sometimes exhibit at orientations and mental health awareness events. Law students are strongly encouraged to utilize TLAP services for any issue that may be currently affecting their studies. In addition, it is in the student’s best interest to contact TLAP as soon as possible if anything happens that may affect his or her bar application process.
Occasionally a student is referred to TLAP by a dean or law school professor. Sometimes participation in TLAP is required if the student is to remain in school. Law schools want their graduates to be of the utmost integrity, but also understand that mental health, substance abuse, and stress related issues may sometimes arise.
TLAP and the Board of Law Examiners
Are you fit to be a lawyer?
Law is a challenging discipline that involves the ability to analyze, reason, and communicate. The study and practice of law is rigorous and often stressful; however, a law degree can open many doors to a rewarding career in business, practice, government, teaching, and public service.
The importance of honest disclosure on your law school application
Law schools require applicants to be completely forthcoming about their backgrounds and to disclose behavior that may have a bearing on their qualification to study law and their character and fitness to become a member of the legal profession. Failure to disclose information on a law school application may have serious consequences including discipline, expulsion, and reporting to the BLE. Bar examiners may review an applicant’s law school application when an application is made to the bar.
Full disclosure is also required when applying for admission to the Bar. Failure to candidly disclose information is taken seriously and may result in denial of admission, even if the undisclosed conduct would not necessarily have resulted in denial of admission. According to the BLE, a frequent reason for denying bar admission is a finding of a pattern of dishonesty.
The character and fitness requirement
When you apply for admission to the bar, you must show that you are fit to practice law and have the necessary character to justify the trust and confidence that clients, the public, and the legal system will place in you. Conduct that raises concern about the competence, character or fitness of an applicant may cause the BLE to investigate further. In Tennessee, an applicant's prior conduct is assessed in light of the following factors:
- Applicant’s age at the time of the conduct
- Reliability of the information concerning the conduct
- Seriousness of the conduct
- Cumulative effects of the conduct or information
- Evidence of rehabilitation
- Positive social contributions since the conduct
- Candor in the admissions process
- Materiality of omissions or misrepresentations
Conduct that may be cause for concern
The BLE typically considers the following conduct as cause for further inquiry:
- Unlawful conduct (even conduct you consider minor, such as speeding, underage offenses, alcohol consumption or drug offenses, disorderly conduct, etc)
- Academic or employment related misconduct
- Acts involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation
- Neglect of financial responsibilities or professional obligations
- Violation of a court order (child support, restraining orders or other disobedience of a court directive)
- Conduct evidencing mental or emotional instability
- Conduct evidencing drug or alcohol abuse or addiction (open container, public intoxication, DUI, underage drinking, etc)
These are grounds for further inquiry but do not mean that your application for admission will necessarily be denied. If you have engaged in any conduct of concern, you should seek more information on the character and fitness requirements or contact TLAP.
Alcohol, drug abuse and mental health issues
In Tennessee, the focus of the BLE’s inquiry is on conduct and fitness and whether chemical abuse, addiction or a mental health condition may impair the applicant’s ability to practice law. The BLE looks more favorably on applicants who have sought treatment than those who have not. The BLE encourages law students who have mental health or substance use issues to contact TLAP as soon as possible, regardless of when the student plans to sit for the Bar.
Being dishonest in the bar application process is one of the biggest mistakes an applicant can make. Serious acts of past misconduct can be resolved through full open and honest disclosure and a sincere showing of rehabilitation.
An applicant whose previous conduct or behavior would or might result in a denial of admission may be conditionally admitted to the practice of law upon a showing of sufficient rehabilitation and/or mitigating circumstances. The Board of Law Examiners shall recommend relevant conditions relative to the conduct or the cause of such conduct with which the applicant must comply during the period of conditional admission.
Guidebook: Addiction on College Campuses
ABA Article: "Stress May be Killing Law Students Brains"
Law Life Line: a mental health resource created for law students. Topics range from stress management to suicide prevention and the site includes information on depression, anxiety, substance use and many others. A number of first person stories are provided and a variety of articles provide solid information about conditions and resources.
For Students in Recovery: The Student in Recovery listserv was developed by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs (CoLAP) to provide a confidential email vehicle for law students who want to get, or stay, clean and sober while in law school. This service is confidential. If you wish to be added to the Listserv, interested law students should contact Niki Irish at firstname.lastname@example.org.