Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Posted by Alan Childress
Calling Mike Frisch, John Steele, Brad Wendel, and other editors or readers who have experience in bar admission matters. Here is an email I received from someone I will call Rose Marie, just because I like the name and the character on the Dick Van Dyke Show. She wants our thoughts on her C&F prospects.
I stumbled on a couple of stories on your blog about bar applicants with "prior bad acts," and I wonder if you could give me some pointers. I just graduated law school and am writing for the NY bar this month. Three years ago (before law school started), when I was living in [Fredonia], I was stupid enough to shoplift in a department store and got caught with $20 worth of merchandise. I got into a first-time offender diversion program, completed it, and the charges were withdrawn. I got everything expunged from the [Fredonian] system. Other than that, nothing indicates bad moral character on my part. Recently, I've become anxious how this may affect my admission despite several good character references from places I worked and volunteered both before and after the charges.
I do plan on giving a full and complete disclosure on the bar application [which in NY follows the exam (the C&F questionnaire, I mean)--Alan]. I want to know if you would recommend counsel/attorney advice before filling out the documents, and if there are other things I may do to show complete rehabilitation.
I would appreciate it if you could either email me directly or post this (anonymously) on your blog. Thank you greatly,...
One piece of advice I wrote RM back, and am sure of, is that right now she should focus on the bar exam itself. Beyond that, my impression is that this is the kind of history that, with full disclosure and remorse [though not laid on too thick as to sound insincere ... maybe "regret" is better], may well be the subject of some follow-up but is unlikely to prevent or seriously delay bar admission, even in NY. Do the experts agree?
From Mike Frisch -- I think this should not be much of a problem with full candor and expressions of "lessons learned." Helpful that it is pre-law school. Would not see any need to retain counsel and think that Alan's "focus on passing" advice is spot on.
UPDATE (from Alan): I emailed John Steele, and he wrote back his advice. Speaking to it as a hypothetical with only the information above, John writes: "I definitely would go to the APRL site, look for NY lawyers, and get a consult before filling out any forms."