Mandatory Disclosure to the State Bar

It is crucial to disclose every middle school detention on the bar exam application.

Well not quite, but full disclosure to the state Bar does consist of answering numerous probing questions about many personal details of a law student’s life. Seemingly minor infractions such as speeding tickets as well as credit problems and criminal history are just some of the facts that need to be disclosed on most bar exam applications. Disclosure mainly consists of the character and fitness application filed either during the registration or application process to the bar exam. These applications can be as long as 30 pages long and are very thorough in their questions.

Full disclosure on these applications is mandatory and is vital to the future career of all law students. Failure to disclose accurately and fully may in many cases become the reason for rejection of admittance to the bar rather than the subject matter of the disclosure itself.

Therefore, it is best to disclose everything on the character and fitness application that is required. Also, pertaining to the specific state application that is filed, students should disclose that same information to their law school as every year the law school discloses all the information they have for each student to the individual state bar examiners which should match up with the student’s submitted character and fitness applications. In order to avoid problems, the best advice during the application process is:

“When in doubt, disclose!”

Disclosure Myth and Reality

Myth: Information for disclosure only needs to span from the time a law student starts law school up to taking the bar exam.

Reality: Most applications require students to disclose back up to ten years and some states require disclosure even further.

Myth: Expunged records do not need to be disclosed.

Reality: Many times, the specific state will require information to be disclosed whether expunged or not, needs to be disclosed. You should check with the specific state Bar.

Myth: Questions from the Board of Bar Examiners after an application is submitted automatically means that law students will not be admitted to the bar.

Reality: Questions may cause delays but it is up to the discretion of the examiners for the specific state as to actual admittance. This is a good reason to submit the character and fitness application early.

Myth: As long as full disclosure is made, this automatically means an applicant will be admitted to the Bar upon successful passage of the Bar Exam.

Reality: While full disclosure is the first step in the process to becoming a licensed, reputable attorney, accounting for prior violations of the law and other issues that affect the character and fitness of a future attorney may be required by the examiners and a discretionary hearing and decision may be required.

Note: States differ in handling applications that disclose felony convictions. You should check with the specific state Bar for more information.

Myth: Certain information that is disclosed such as criminal history, debt, mental disability and substance abuse will automatically bar the applicant from admission.

Reality: Many states have conditional admissions to the bar regarding all of these issues. See the above NCBEX link for specific state information.

Myth: Once law school starts, disclosure on the bar exam application is the only place where disclosure needs to be made.

Reality: All information on the bar exam application needs to be corroborated by information held by the law school in each student’s file. Students should update their file regularly and information held by the law school should match up to the information on the character and fitness application as law schools send this information to the examiners of the specific state where the student filed a bar exam application.

Myth: Once a law student passes the Bar Exam and is given a license, even if mistakes were made in disclosure on the character and fitness application, it is irrelevant.

Reality: If a mistake in disclosure is discovered after passage of the Bar and licensing of a new attorney, the license may be revoked by the State Bar Examiners depending on the mistake.

In essence, reality should always take precedence over myth, especially in law school.

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