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Bar Admissions Blog

Helping Bar Applicants Prove Character and Fitness for Admission to the Bar

The Character Clock

Q. How far back do bar examiners go to investigate an applicant's character and fitness for admission to the practice of law?

A. I'll answer a question with a question: What's your date of birth?

There is no statute of limitations for bad character. People may change over time, but few change with the passage of time alone.

The timeframe for investigating an applicant's character and fitness for bar admissions may vary depending on the specific requirements of the licensing board. But all jurisdictions conduct detailed investigations of an applicant's background, education, employment history, criminal record, financial history, and other relevant information.

With the exception of many juvenile offenses, few bar applications limit the scope of time in which past problems arose. This may even involve the time you were suspended for cheating on your high school chemistry test, other academic discipline, or the time you were fired from a summer job just before starting college.

Naturally, the older the offense, the less harmful it is likely to be. Bar examiners do understand the mistakes of youth and the growth we experience over time. But if the facts fit the scope of the question, you must disclose them with candor and let the board decide on their relevance.

No matter how much time as passed, or how petty the details may seem, you must disclose anything requested in your character questionnaire so that the licensing board may take all information into account. If you are unsure whether certain information should be provided in response to specific questions, how much information to provide or the best way to reveal it, consult with bar admissions counsel.

If the attorney you retain follows my philosophy, you will adhere to the one principle from which I never deviate: When in doubt, disclose.

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