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When should you begin the Moral Character application process?

On Behalf of | Sep 8, 2021 | Moral Character |

To obtain the right to practice law in the State of California, you must prove that you are of good moral character. “Good moral character,” per state law, includes but is not limited to trustworthiness, honesty, fairness, candor, respect for and subservience to the law, observation of fiduciary duties, and respect for other’s rights and the judicial process.

You, the applicant, have the burden of proving that you are of good moral character. The main way in which you do this, according to The State Bar of California, is via an Application for Determination of Moral Character. You cannot practice law unless and until you receive approval from the State Bar.

When should you start the application process?

The State Bar encourages all aspiring attorneys and legal professionals to start the moral character application process either in their last year of law school or at least eight months before the date they wish for the Bar to admit them to practice law within the state. If you hope to practice is multiple jurisdictions, though, you must complete the application only after you register with the State Bar as a lawyer applicant.

How long does the application process take?

The speed with which the State Bar processes your application depends largely on your ability to procure the information necessary for the Bar to make a determination. At a minimum, though, you can expect the application process to take 180 days from the date you file. How long it takes the Bar to process your application depends on your ability to complete it per the state’s requirements. A “complete” application is one on which you do the following:

        Answer all questions completely and accurately

        Sign it

        Accompany it with the correct filing fee

        Attach a Request for Live Scan Service form that you completed within the last 90 days or with two fingerprint cards you obtained in the past year

You must also submit a hard copy to the appropriate office within 30 days of signing the application. If you fail to meet any one of these requirements, the State bar will deem your application incomplete. It will not file it until you bring it up to complete status.

It is your responsibility to meet every application requirement, to comply with further requests for information in a timely manner and to update the State Bar with relevant changes to your record. Even if you do everything correctly, it takes months to complete the application process from start to finish.


Failure to comply with all application requirements could delay your ability to practice law in California for six months to a year. To make sure everything is correct the first time around — or to ensure you do not make any mistakes that may compromise your status entirely —work with a lawyer from the day you decide to file.


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