Every Day is a Bar Prep Day, but Have You Thought About Your Ohio Character and Fitness Application?

Summer is here and there are a lot of things to do. As a law student you’re constantly told “volunteer, get a good job, network and remember everyday is a bar prep day,” and while we agree with those expectations, the first step to becoming an attorney, is making sure you get to be an attorney. The Character and Fitness questionnaire alone is over twenty-five pages long and takes months to process by the Ohio Office of Bar Admissions and the NCBE!

Here is what you need to know…

Start now– Most law students start this process in their 2L year, but why not earlier? The Ohio Bar Examination may seem like it is eons away but November 15th each calendar year, your NCBE Authorization and Release form must be properly submitted. Gov. Bar Rule I(2)(A). Additionally, the longer you wait to submit your application, the higher the fees. If your JD or LLB is anticipated to be awarded within one year or less your fee will be an additional $120 dollars than if you submitted earlier. More important, the Ohio Supreme Court advises applicants with possible character and fitness concerns to consider registering in their first year of law school to build extra time for the review process.

What are Common Character and Fitness Issues?

  • Academic Misconduct
  • Addictions
  • Bankruptcies
  • Civil Lawsuits
  • Criminal Offenses
  • Driving History
  • Failure to Disclose
  • Financial Irresponsibility
  • Misrepresentations
  • Numerous Traffic Violations
  • Sexual Misconduct
  • Untreated Conditions or Impairments

A complete list of factors to be considered carefully by the admissions committee are listed under Gov. Bar Rule I(13)(D)(3)

WHAT IS THE STANDARD – Who’s burden of Proof?

Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Bar Rule I entitled “Admission to the Practice of Law” outlines the entire admissions process.

The applicant in the bar admissions process has the burden to prove by clear and convincing evidence (high burden) that the applicant possesses the requisite character, fitness, and moral qualifications for admission. An applicant’s failure to provide necessary and/or requested information, including, but not limited to information regarding expungements and juvenile court proceedings [see In re Application of Watson (1987), 31 Ohio St. 3d 220, at 221], or otherwise to cooperate in the proceedings before an Admissions Committee or the Board may be grounds for a recommendation of disapproval.

Updates and Amendment. As circumstances change, and even if they don’t, updates to information and supplemental questionaries are required throughout your application process. It is the duty of the applicant to update the information in their registration application, including the character questionnaire, and to report all changes or additions to information in the application to the Office of Bar Admissions. Gov. Bar Rule I(2)(F).  

Failure to Disclose is Fatal– Not being completely truthful, including omissions in the application process may be itself the basis to delay or deny your application. The Ohio Supreme Court cites the most common reason the Court disapproved applicants on character and fitness grounds have related to the applicant’s behavior during the character and fitness review process.

Seriously, just be honest– Err on the side of disclosure.

What should I do if I have a concern about my Character and Fitness? If you have any concerns with your Character and Fitness Application, you would be well-advised to seek counsel and advise from a qualified source. Possibly start with your Law School and ask for any recommendations.

Do I need a Lawyer? You have spent three (3) years of tuition to obtain your JD (plus four (4) years of undergraduate school) so invest in this process. If you obtain counsel prior to your application, they can aide and advise you how to mitigate your issues, complete your application, respond to concerns and participate in hearings, if any. They will be your advocate to showcase your “current character and fitness” by exemplifying your rehabilitation and ability to be a lawyer.

For more information see: https://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/boards/characterfit/cfprocess.pdf and https://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/docs/LegalResources/Rules/govbar/govbar.pdf