The OAAP helps a lot of law students who then go on to apply for Oregon State Bar admission. Some of them have had difficult times earlier in their lives, have made poor choices, or have substance use or mental health challenges. OAAP Attorney Counselor Douglas S. Querin, JD, LPC, CADC I, interviewed Troy Wood, OSB Admissions Manager, about the Character and Fitness interviews and the conditional admissions process.
DSQ: Will an Oregon State Bar (OSB) exam applicant with a problematic alcohol/drug use history automatically be denied Bar admission or have to be “conditionally admitted”?
TW: Absolutely not. Generally, applicants with a history of problematic substance use who do not have a corresponding criminal or negative employment history and who candidly disclose their use and
appropriate efforts they have taken to address it, are granted full Bar admission. If the applicant’s recovery efforts are consistent with recognized recovery practices and the applicant has credible recovery time, then the admission process should be uncomplicated.
DSQ: About what percentage of law student OSB exam applicants are interviewed as part of their admission process? What percentage of these interviews are because of the applicant’s drug/alcohol use history?
TW: Looking at our averages since 2014:
- Character and Fitness (C&F) interviews are required for about 2.2% of all exam applicants.
- Approximately 25% of this 2.2% group were interviewed primarily for reasons related to alcohol/drug use issues.
- Approximately 80% of this interviewed group were unconditionally admitted to practice in Oregon; about 20% were “conditionally admitted.”
- Thus, of the entire Bar exam applicant population during the last four years, only about 0.1% were conditionally admitted because of problematic substance use issues.
DSQ: What are some of the primary factors considered when making admission decisions about a Bar applicant’s alcohol/drug use history?
TW: Some of the main questions are:
- Is the applicant in denial about his/her substance use challenges, or does the applicant acknowledge having, or having had, problems with alcohol and/or drugs?
- Does the applicant take responsibility for past alcohol/drug-related actions or conduct and acknowledge the relationship between the problematic substance use and those behaviors?
- What recovery-related actions has the applicant taken to address the problematic substance use? For example, does the applicant consistently engage in recognized recovery practices?
- Does the applicant practice healthy self-care? Does the applicant participate in recovery support groups? Does the applicant have a demonstrated record of recovery? Does the applicant utilize health and/or recovery professionals when necessary?
DSQ: What advice would you give to law students struggling with alcohol/drug use challenges who are applying to the OSB?
TW: My best advice to the law student would be:
- Take an honest look at your condition and take responsibility for your actions. Do not fool yourself into denial, hide your condition, assume it will automatically get better after the stress of law school, or delay addressing it until some more convenient time in the future.
- Knowledgeable medical and recovery professionals are very clear that serious and addictive alcohol and drug use are progressive diseases; they are conditions that typically do not get better, only worse. The good news, however, is that they are conditions that, when properly addressed, can be successfully dealt with and treated so they do not lead to severe personal and professional consequences.
- Applicants with significant substance use problems who have taken the necessary actions to address them are generally admitted without condition upon successfully passing the Bar examination. Those who are in need of ongoing support for serious substance use are regularly offered “conditional admission,” which permits the active practice of law with ongoing monitoring of their recovery eff orts for a designated period of time. Those successfully completing their conditional admission requirements receive full admission status. The OSB’s conditional admission program has proven to be very successful in both protecting the public and getting quality lawyers off to a good start in their careers.
- Once the Supreme Court approves a conditional admission, the OSB does not publish or disclose a lawyer’s conditional admission status to anyone. Of equal importance to the program, conditionally
admitted lawyers are not required to disclose their conditional status to others.
What resources are available to law students to get additional information about the OSB’s Character & Fitness (C&F) process?
Applicants are welcome to contact Bar Admissions with procedural C&F questions, but recognize that they cannot give advice or counseling. You can contact Troy Wood, Admissions Manager, at 503-620-0222, ext. 310, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is best for an applicant to call the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program (OAAP) and discuss their issues. It might also be helpful to consult with legal counsel.
What role, if any, can the OAAP play in the Bar admission process for a student with alcohol/drug use issues?
The OAAP is a confidential, voluntary, and free service whose resources are available to all OSB applicants. We strongly recommend that any law student with drug and alcohol issues or similar concerns contact the OAAP. The communication is confidential and will not be reported to the OSB, PLF, or others without the consent of the applicant. The OAAP Attorney Counselors are knowledgeable and experienced, with over 35 years of experience of helping Oregon Bar applicants get their lives in order so that they can be admitted to the practice of law. You can contact the OAAP Attorney Counselors at 503-226-1057 or at 800-321-6227.