All of the rigors of laws school can seem minor when it comes time to apply to the California Bar for your license to actually practice — especially if there are some mistakes in your past that are weighing heavily on your mind.
It’s not too early to start thinking about the process. It takes about six months to get through the moral character determination — if everything goes smoothly. An approval is far from guaranteed. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
1. Understand what can be a problem
You probably realize that a criminal conviction — for anything — can be an issue. However, you may not realize that just being arrested can also be a problem. The Bar application isn’t the same as a court of law — you aren’t innocent until proven guilty. Be prepared to explain everything about the circumstances of your arrest and the resolution of the case to the full satisfaction of the Bar’s examiners.
You also need to realize that a history of drug or alcohol abuse can be a problem, as can significant problems with unpaid debts. The violation of your school’s honor code — no matter how old you were when it happened — is also a serious issue.
2. Don’t try to hide anything
The reason you need to understand what can be problematic in your application is so that you can prepare to defend yourself during an informal conference with the moral character committee members — not so you know what to try to hide. Examiners don’t just rely on what you put in your application — they dig around and actively hunt for information on their own. If you hide anything, they will find out — and you will have demonstrated a measure of dishonesty that will be unacceptable.
3. Get help for the informal conference
If the examiners have questions, you’ll be asked to submit more information in writing. If that doesn’t satisfy them of your fitness for the Bar, you’ll be “invited” to an informal conference.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can refuse the invitation, and don’t try to handle this alone. If your moral character review is holding up your legal career, let our experienced attorneys take a look at your situation and help you understand what you should do next.