To practice law in the state of California, in addition to graduating from law school and passing the bar examination, you must also prove that you have the moral character required to practice the law.
Apply for a moral character determination as soon as possible because the review process can take up to six months or more to complete. This involves a thorough review of your past to uncover any incidents that could prevent you from legally becoming a licensed attorney.
The purpose of the moral character evaluation is to identify whether you have the character traits a licensed legal practitioner must possess. These include, but are not limited to:
- Honesty and candor
- Adherence to fiduciary responsibility
- Respect for the law, judicial process and the rights of others
The board requires applicants to disclose past misconduct. They will investigate each issue to determine its severity and your efforts toward rehabilitation. The length of time since the incident and how you have managed your life since then can impact the outcome.
Honesty and candor
An applicant’s honesty and candor, or lack thereof, can come to light if you omit potentially difficult incidents from the application. In other words, it is essential that you answer the questions honestly and with full disclosure, according to the application requirements.
The moral character determination process covers everything from your driving record to criminal convictions and the factors relevant to each situation. Since it requires contact with former employers and personal references, their response time could slow the process. Once you receive a positive determination, it is valid for three years.