Character and Fitness FAQs
Why should my character and fitness be investigated?
While testing and education may indicate competence to engage in the practice of law, the public interest also requires review of an applicant's character and fitness to engage in the practice of law.
What should I know about filling out the character and fitness application?
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.
What if I’m not sure where I intend to practice?
It is usually best to determine the requirements of the jurisdiction in which your law school is located, and also the two or three jurisdictions in which you are most likely to seek employment.
What is law student registration and does it apply to me?
Bar examiners in a number of jurisdictions require law students to register with their licensing agencies while the students are enrolled in law school. Several other jurisdictions offer a form of law student registration on a voluntary basis. A prospective applicant files an application early in his or her law school career for the purpose of identifying issues that may present a problem at the time of licensing, or in order to speed the licensing process at the time of the bar examination. A law student should contact the jurisdiction in which he or she wishes to practice for instructions on obtaining and completing an application. After the application is submitted, investigations are conducted by the staff of the bar admission agency in some jurisdictions, or by the National Conference of Bar Examiners on behalf of some other jurisdictions. It is common for jurisdictions to require the applicant to update the application at the time that the applicant applies to take the bar examination. Consult the Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements and/or speak with a representative at your law school career services office to determine if registration is required, optional, or not applicable in your jurisdiction.
What does the National Conference of Bar Examiners have to do with law student registration?
At the request of some jurisdictions, the National Conference of Bar Examiners processes the application and prepares a confidential report for the jurisdiction regarding the applicant. This confidential report does not evaluate the character and fitness of the applicant to practice law; that determination is made by the jurisdiction. The student should contact the jurisdiction in which he or she wishes to practice for instructions on obtaining and completing an application.
When must I complete law student registration?
Registration timelines, which vary by jurisdiction, can be found by consulting the Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements, your law school career services office, and/or the jurisdiction in which you intend to register. Financial advantages may result from earlier filing, thereby creating an incentive for law students to file early in law school. Financial penalties usually exist for late filing.
What are the benefits of early investigation via law student registration?
Early investigation may expedite the processing of bar exam applications by completing preliminary work sooner and identifying problems which might otherwise delay or adversely affect licensing after law school graduation. It may eliminate a matter of concern to an applicant who incorrectly presumes that a specific matter presents an obstacle to bar admission. If issues of concern are identified, the applicant is better able to make an informed decision about whether to proceed with law school, potentially saving time and money. In this case the applicant may also determine how to demonstrate that he or she has learned from past mistakes. Bar admission agencies are able to more thoroughly investigate and thoughtfully evaluate candidates.
What if a problem in my background leads to a negative determination?
There are, in fact, some matters that may adversely affect licensing of some applicants. There are far more situations, however, that cause law students unnecessary concern. Allaying these concerns is a strong reason for enrolling in law student registration, as it often permits the applicant to settle a question and attain peace of mind without having the prospect of disclosure loom until the end of law school.