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Competence and character: Are you fit to practice law?

On Behalf of | Jun 5, 2017 | Blog |

When you think about the sacrifices you’ve made over that past few years, it may frustrate you that it all comes down to this final test. Passing the bar is more than just taking an exam; it is also proving you have the moral character to be a lawyer. Practicing the law is a high honor, and those requesting admittance face a rigorous selection process.

Do you have concerns about your fitness to practice law? It may help you to know some of the basic factors the committee will consider when it questions your moral character.

Four factors of fitness

Ideally, you began to rehabilitate any questionable marks on your character as soon as you considered becoming a lawyer. In some cases, these matters take time to resolve, and waiting until the end of your final year may not be sufficient time to overcome any defects. However, you may still be able to amend your past mistakes if you have impeccable advice.

The four areas the moral character committee will examine include:

  • Your mental health: The State Bar of California will likely want to hear that you are consistently receiving treatment for any mental illness or addiction you may suffer. Taking care of your mental health is as important as tending to your physical health, and the board will consider it a positive trait if you are being proactive about your illness.
  • Your financial situation: Being in debt will not necessarily count against you, but the committee will examine the kind of debt you have and the steps you are taking to resolve it. A lawyer who struggles financially may be tempted to exploit clients.
  • Your integrity: Any discrepancies on your applications to law school or the bar will raise suspicion with the committee. Additionally, if you have failed to report any recent infractions, such as a DUI conviction, the committee may see this as dishonesty.
  • Your record: It is not impossible to pass the scrutiny of the bar with a criminal conviction. Your examiners will want to see what you have done since then to rehabilitate yourself and give back to the community.

Repairing your reputation before the bar is not an easy task. You may have many questions about where and how to begin.

An advocate with experience

You have come this far, but this last hurdle may be the greatest to overcome. Being proactive about any potential negative marks on your record in the face of your moral character examination may improve your circumstances. However, you certainly don’t want to make a mistake when disclosing those indiscretions.

Seeking the advice of an attorney is a wise step. An attorney with experience serving on the Committee of Bar Examiners will prove a decided advantage to your situation. You will obtain solid advice about what details to reveal and the appropriate way to approach your examination.


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