Attorneys leave law school with limited knowledge and skills
concerning the issues that arise in mental disability law. Yet
psychiatrists and psychologists are appearing with increasing
frequency as witnesses in the nation's courts, and more attorneys
and judges can therefore expect to have to deal with testimony from
mental health professionals. To our knowledge, this article is the
first published assessment of practicing attorneys' and judges'
needs for continuing legal education (CLE) on mental disability
The 267 Dayton-area attorneys and 41 southwestern Ohio judges
who responded to our mailed survey said that one-seventh of their
cases raise issues related to mental health or mental disability.
Most responders had not taken any law school courses that dealt
with mental disability issues; those who had said their courses were
only modestly helpful. CLE was the attorneys' and judges'
principal source of information about mental disability law. For
practicing attorneys, perceived need for CLE was related to the
rate at which psychological issues arose in their practices;
practicing lawyers and judges were interested primarily in CLE
topics that related to the types of cases they handled or heard.
Three-fourths of the attorneys and 95% of the judges said they
would probably or definitely attend locally offered CLE on at least
Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that traditional
law school course work relating to mental disability does not give
future attorneys and judges the skills and knowledge necessary to
their practices (e.g., the ability to challenge expert witnesses);
CLE might help remedy this deficiency. Legal educators should use
our findings when thinking about law school course content and
postgraduate legal education.
Mossman, Douglas MD and Kapp, Marshall B. JD, MPH, "Attorneys' and Judges' Needs for Continuing Legal Education on Mental Disability Law: Findings from a Survey" (1997). Faculty Articles and Other Publications. 19.