I have represented many law students during the Moral Character Application process and have many current client's going through this process as well.
Some call me early on and ask what to do to prepare for the application they will be filling out in a few years, while others want me to sit down with them in person and go over the application question/answers word for word to turn in the following week.
Still, there are some that have tried their hand at handling the application on their own and have now either received a follow up letter from the State Bar inquiring on further information or have been asked to attend an informal hearing.
No matter what step you are at, there is a need to have a caring and experienced State Bar defense counsel on your side.
I tell every law student client the same thing. That is, that there is no real magic to the application process, so at first blush it would seem as if you can handle the application process on your own.
However, if you have anything at all in your background, for example; criminal convictions, debt, civil lawsuits, past scholastic discipline etc., then not only will you likely have to tell the Committee about it in your application, but you will be expected to draft an addendum describing the event in question.
The addendum can be very difficult for someone to write. Some think a quick description of the incident will suffice. I am here to tell you that it won't.
There is an art in being able to write a perfect addendum, that not only gives the reader the facts of the incident, but also just as important, addresses the other related factors that the Committee wants to see.
You need to express remorse for your actions, but most importantly an acceptance of the thing you did wrong, while showing the committee what you have done/accomplished since the incident that shows true rehabilitation.
As I stated earlier, there is an art to putting this on paper and the risk for you is not only possibly saying too much that you may have to walk back later on in the informal hearing, but also you will inevitably be trying to provide context to the situation; and at the same time show the committee that you are not making excuses.
This is a very difficult dance to master.
This is why I dedicate so much time learning about you and not just learning about the incident(s) in question. This is why we write the addendum together and work as a team every step of the way. No one knows your story better than you, but you need counsel to help you learn the dance.
Me and you will of course go over the incident in detail, then we will go back in time- as far back as needed to provide me with the context of what brought you to that point in your life. We are never ever using your past to make excuses for what you did (i.e. shoplifting, cheating in college, etc.), but how you lived and what you experienced in life provides context to the overall story.
Besides the addendum(s), I will likely counsel you on getting the appropriate number of character reference letters. These letters must be written in a very certain way in order to be credible and noteworthy.
I help law students with the full application process, but I break up my representation into two distinct stages.
The first stage being all parts of the application process until we get a final product, including answering following up questions by the committee if need be.
The second stage, if necessary, being the informal hearing. This stage of course includes preparing you for the hearing through role-play questions and over all preparedness for that moment you are face to face with committee members.
My job is ultimately to prove to the committee what you are already aware of: that you possess good moral character and that you deserve to be a California licensed attorney.
Your candor, honesty, and respect for the law are all part of this good moral character qualification that you must possess. How fiscally responsible you are, including how you have acted in other professions if you hold other licenses, are also importance evidence of your good or bad moral character.
I leave you again with something I said earlier: that is that there is no magic in what I do. I have just had the privilege in helping countless other people in your position, so I am intimately aware of what is needed in order for you to prove to the committee that you posses good moral character.
References and quotes:
- “To obtain a license to practice law, an applicant must meet the pre-legal and legal education requirements, pass the specified examinations and must possess good moral character mandated by the Business and Professions Code and outlined in the Rules of The State Bar of California”. These standards are outlined in Title 4, Admissions and Educational Standards.
- “In making its determination whether an applicant presently possesses the good moral character necessary for admission to practice law in California, the Committee considers evidence of candor and honesty, respect for the law and the rights of others, fiscal responsibility, and records of fidelity and trustworthiness in other professions for which he or she is licensed.” (see previous Title 4 standards)
For further information please call me at 949-852-7312 or visit my moral character/admissions page for my information.