As you complete your law school application, you will notice there is a section with questions regarding your character and fitness. Below are some friendly tips to make completing this section a breeze!
Words of Advice
- Big First Step – Answering these questions thoroughly and honestly is a big first step towards becoming a licensed attorney. Pause and take a moment to consider your academic, disciplinary and/or criminal history, I promise this will save you a headache later!
- Board of Law Examiners (BLE) – Your law school application will be submitted to the state bar association to which you apply. The BLE performs background checks to ensure that you properly disclosed any character and fitness incidents on your law school application.
- Disciplinary Hearing – Nobody wants a disciplinary hearing. If you do not disclose during the application process we will find out later from the BLE, and there will be a disciplinary hearing and possible sanctions. Trust me, it is easier to disclose in writing than have to discuss your past transgressions with law schools administrators and faculty face-to-face.
- Don’t Be Intimidated – While all this may sound a bit intimidating, the typical incidents that applicants must disclose do not prevent admission.
- Deferred Adjudication v. Expunctions – Sometimes applicants have agreed to deferred adjudication and think the incident has been expunged and “not on the record.” Deferred adjudication may include probation, community service, or some other diversion program, in exchange for dismissal of the case. However, the incident remains on the record. To have an incident expunged you must go through a separate court process. If you are not going to disclose an incident, ensure that you have completed this expunction process and have written documentation stating the incident was expunged.
- Failure to Appear – Small traffic violations, which normally do not need to be disclosed, can turn into a failure to appear. For instance, you obtain a speeding ticket and fail to pay the fines or forget to attend your court hearing. Now in addition to the traffic violation you also have a failure to appear. You must now disclose both incidents due to the failure to appear.
- Dorm Violations – Any dorm violations you received while in college must be disclosed. The most common violations include noise violations and alcohol or drug possession.
- Kids Count – Things that happened when you were “a kid” do count. Some of the incidents from your past may be very old, but they do need to be disclosed.
The character and fitness questions are very broad and the exceptions are very narrow. These are just a few examples and not intended as an exhaustive list.
If you are in doubt as to whether you should include an incident in your application, please always err on the side of full disclosure. If you have any questions, please contact our office. You may remain anonymous when you call.
For more information and a list of FAQs, please visit: http://www.law.uh.edu/admissions/apply-now-character-and-fitness.asp