A Felon Taking the Bar Exam

Written by James Hirby | Fact checked by The Law Dictionary staff |  

-- Going to Law School

-- Taking the Bar Exam

-- Becoming a Licensed Lawyer

-- Allowed to Practice Law

Each of the above bulleted points is a step a person needs to take to become an experienced practicing attorney in that person’s resident state.  Each state’s rules for becoming a practicing lawyer in that state differ somewhat from each other state but each of the states have essentially the same types of rules.  Also, there are differences in each state for the licensing of lawyers and restrictions for becoming a lawyer in a particular discipline or business.  What becomes a little odd, what seems to be odd, is that some states have rules that make it very difficult to attend law school in that state if the person has a prior felony.  A felony is not an automatic bar, but ….  It is a question on most law school applications in almost every state.  It is something that the school apparently can take into account when reviewing the application for acceptance or rejection.  The same goes for taking the bar exam.  Each state handles it the way it wants and some states, such as Florida, will not allow a felon to take the bar exam.  Nearly every state has a rule about getting the license to practice.  The person to be licensed must have objective evidence that he or she is a person of good moral character, complete rehabilitation, and a member of the community.  Each state seems to express it in some different way, however.   According to many experts several states will not license a lawyer who is a felon.  Some states require at least five years having past following completion of sentence before considering an attorney license to a former felon.  Some states just have the morals and character and fitness criteria.  In most states the state supreme court and the state bar association are the ones that set the rules and conduct review for licensing approval or rejection.  Rejection can be due to having poor financial capability – it makes a lawyer potentially subject to temptations of money or favors.  States do not want to have these types of people as lawyers.  One of the criteria is moral turpitude.  Lying, cheating, and stealing are all crimes of moral turpitude.  This is another type of person that states do not want becoming lawyers.  A state review board called the “Character and Fitness” review board has the accountability to investigate these exact attributes in each and every attorney candidate seeking a license.  They go very deep into each candidate’s background to make a learned decision based on this due diligence.  State review boards are one’s that get hammered by the press and community when a bad apple turns up in the barrel of lawyers.  Everyone expects perfection from this discipline and its licensing boards.  It becomes the candidate’s challenge, especially with a felony in the candidate’s past, to convince the Character and Fitness board of one’s character and fitness to practice law in that state.  Experienced people state that the board show very, very little leniency in these areas.  Not impossible, it is a tough hill to climb.

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