Admission to Practice in a State

 

 The goal of most law students is to be admitted to practice law and obtain a law license in one or more states after graduation.  It is important to consider the issue of bar admission even before one applies for admission to law school.  The requirements of each state differ.  There may be matters in the background of a law school applicant that make it difficult or even impossible to be admitted to practice in a particular state.  It is imperative that law school applicants review the admission requirements of a state in which they are interested in being admitted to ensure that they are capable of being admitted and to understand the process and procedure by which to apply for admission.

 

The American Bar Association Standard in this area focuses on character and fitness and is stated in this fashion:

 

Standard 504. CHARACTER AND FITNESS

(a) A law school shall advise each applicant that there are character, fitness and other qualifications for admission to the bar and encourage the applicant, prior to matriculation, to determine what those requirements are in the state(s) in which the applicant intends to practice. The law school should, as soon after matriculation as is practicable, take additional steps to apprise entering students of the importance of determining the applicable character, fitness and other qualifications.

 

Notification

This notification is available to all applicants by a posting on the MC Law web page under the “Prospective Student” listing.

 

Timing

MC Law encourages every applicant, prior to matriculation, to determine the fitness requirements in the jurisdiction(s) in which the applicant intends to practice

 

Nature and Content of the Notice

The notice by its nature must give applicants a clear understanding that character and fitness reporting requires truthful, accurate, and complete disclosure of all requested information related to past conduct that may be relevant to one’s fitness to practice law. It should be noted, however, that while bar admission boards require a complete disclosure of requested information, in many instances relevant conduct, particularly if isolated and/or not recent, has not resulted in denial or delay of admission to the bar in a particular jurisdiction of interest. A failure to truthfully, accurately and completely respond to a character and fitness inquiry, however, is commonly deemed a character and fitness violation in and of itself, and may be more detrimental to bar admission prospects than the undisclosed or incorrectly disclosed underlying conduct. As the National Conference of Bar Examiners has cautioned:

 

Application forms can be lengthy. Be sure to allow sufficient time well in advance of filing deadlines to complete the application and gather accompanying materials. The application must be filled out completely, as failure to provide information may delay the process and require more time and effort at an inopportune time. Answer all questions honestly, as failure to do so may result in sanctions. Failure to disclose information often yields a more serious outcome than the matter itself would have produced had it been revealed by the applicant. (Emphasis added.)

 

National Conference of Bar Examiners, website, Nov 8, 2012, Character and Fitness Services, FAQ page.  See http://www.ncbex.org/character-and-fitness/character-and-fitness-faqs/

 

The following are categories of information that jurisdictions commonly consider when reviewing a character and fitness application: criminal and litigation histories, educational discipline, substance abuse, debt management, and any acts of fraud, dishonesty or lack of candor. This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but does reflect many of the general areas of interest to bar examiners when a law student or graduate submits to a character and fitness review.

 

Method of Posting

 This required notice is posted on the MC Law website and will be communicated with an appropriate webpage link and by communications ordinarily used by the school for important and essential communications to applicants.

 

Applicants’ Duty to Inquire

It is the applicant’s obligation to determine applicable character and fitness requirements in that jurisdiction or jurisdictions in which they may seek a law license. Notably, every American jurisdiction has specific character and fitness requirements. While some apply across the board, each jurisdiction is somewhat different, and it would be an unreasonable burden for MC Law to research, interpret and then explain the distinctions to applicants. Therefore, while a primary purpose of Standard 504 is to protect the applicant’s interest in bar admission process information, it also serves the important purpose of clarifying that it is the applicant’s responsibility to determine the unique character and fitness requirements of the jurisdictions in which they may seek a law license.

 

Method of Inquiry 

Every American jurisdiction in which a law student  may practice law after graduation from law school requires each applicant for admission to the bar to meet character and fitness requirements as a condition of eligibility for admission. A character and fitness review will require truthful, accurate and complete reporting of all requested information related to past conduct that bar examiners may deem relevant to one’s fitness to practice law, in most jurisdictions including (but not limited to) all criminal arrests, charges, plea agreements, convictions, or instances of being taken into custody, as a juvenile or adult; all traffic violations except minor parking citations; involvement as a party to civil litigation; acts of fraud, dishonesty or lack of candor; educational discipline or misconduct; failure to pay financial obligations; and substance abuse. Many jurisdictions require disclosure of all criminal arrests, charges, plea agreements or convictions, as a juvenile or adult, even where the record has been expunged.

 

It should be noted, however, that while bar admission boards require a complete disclosure of requested information, in many instances past relevant conduct, particularly if isolated and/or not recent, has not resulted in denial or delay of admission to the bar in a particular jurisdiction of interest. (This is not to suggest or predict how any jurisdiction’s bar admissions board would respond to any applicant’s particular conduct disclosures going forward.)

 

A failure to truthfully, accurately and completely respond to a character and fitness inquiry, however, is commonly deemed a character and fitness violation in and of itself, and may be more detrimental to bar admission prospects than the undisclosed or incorrectly disclosed underlying conduct.

 

You are encouraged, as you go through the law school application process and before you enter law school, to determine the character and fitness requirements of the jurisdiction(s) where you intend to practice law. If you are uncertain where you will practice law, you may wish to review the Standard NCBE Character and Fitness Application, titled Request for Preparation of a Character Report, of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, which is used by a number of jurisdictions’ bar admission authorities. Addresses for all relevant agencies are available at www.ncbex.org.  

 

Every American jurisdiction in which you may practice law after graduation from law school requires each applicant for admission to the bar to meet character and fitness requirements as a condition of eligibility for admission. A character and fitness review will require truthful, accurate and complete reporting of all requested information related to past conduct that bar examiners may deem relevant to one’s fitness to practice law, in most jurisdictions including (but not limited to) all criminal arrests, charges, plea agreements, convictions, or instances of being taken into custody, as a juvenile or adult; all traffic violations except minor parking citations; involvement as a party to civil litigation; acts of fraud, dishonesty or lack of candor; educational discipline or misconduct; failure to pay financial obligations; and substance abuse. Many jurisdictions require disclosure of all criminal arrests, charges, plea agreements or convictions, as a juvenile or adult, even where the record has been expunged. It should be noted, however, that while bar admission boards require a complete disclosure of requested information, in many instances past relevant conduct, particularly if isolated and/or not recent, has not resulted in denial or delay of admission to the bar in a particular jurisdiction of interest. (This is not to suggest or predict how any jurisdiction’s bar admissions board would respond to any applicant’s particular conduct disclosures going forward.)

 

A failure to truthfully, accurately and completely respond to a character and fitness inquiry, however, is commonly deemed a character and fitness violation in and of itself, and may be more detrimental to bar admission prospects than the undisclosed or incorrectly disclosed underlying conduct.

 

You are encouraged to determine the character and fitness requirements of the jurisdiction(s) where you intend to practice law. If you are uncertain where you will practice law, you may wish to review the Standard NCBE Character and Fitness Application, titled Request for Preparation of a Character Report, of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, which is used by a number of jurisdictions’ bar admission authorities. Addresses for all relevant state bar admission offices are available at:

 

www.ncbex.org