Saturday, July 18, 2009
Just got back from a weekend of hearings and as usual, learned that there is never an end to what there is for applicants to know about the Florida Bar admission process.
THE BAR APPLICATION
What is the matter with you people? I've said this before, consider it "the charging document." Consider it the charging document the minute you start filling it out.
Let me shock you. The person reading your Bar Application, has read one or two or 300 before. What's the point? You're not that smart. To me, it's a simple rule: If you consider for 3 seconds whether to disclose something on the application, disclose. Yes, they will find out. Yes, even if....... and yes, even if.........
If you want to guarantee a hearing, be coy, less than complete, or write something that will be contradicted by the person writing a letter to the Bar to say they dispute your memory of whatever it is you are disclosing.
If you have something to explain to the Board, explain it in full on the application. This is unless of course, again, you would like to go to a hearing and be cross examined by three people for an hour.
Listen, if there's an arrest, educational discipline, mental, drug or alcohol or financial issue, you are more likely to have a hearing. This is not a certainty. It is a certainty if your answers are bullshit. By "bullshit," well, you know what I mean.
If you were arrested for DUI (which happens to an occasional college or law student), here's two different responses on the Bar Application:
"I was arrested for DUI. I was not convicted because the State Attorney announced in court that they were dismissing the case. My license was not suspended. I attended an alcohol class and disclosed this to my law school."
After leaving a bar where I had 3 beers in a period of an hour, I was arrested for DUI. I was stopped for speeding and weaving. I took the breath test, which was .081. When I went to court, the prosecutor said if I agreed to attend an alcohol class he would drop the case. I attended the class, which was a 3 week class, 2 nights a week for 2 hours at a time. My license was not suspended, and 2 days after my arrest I disclosed this in writing to my law school. All paperwork related to this response is attached. I realize I should not have been drinking and driving, and have had no incidents prior to or after this related to alcohol.
Which one do you like better? Wait, don't answer that.
ACCURATE? OR CANDID?
This is not a pretty debate. It goes back to the answer above. Both are accurate. Answer 2 is candid.
Bar hearings are not a time for accuracy, they are a time for candid answers. Full, disclosure. If you are being accurate, consider yourself to be lying. That's as simple as I can make it for you. The Board is attempting to get a picture of who you really are, not how good you are at answering questions.
YOUR BAR LAWYER
My opinion on this issue is consistent with how I feel about all legal process: I don't engage in any without a lawyer. I'm not that smart to represent myself on matters I know nothing about, and realized six months out of law school that even though my family and friends thought because I was a lawyer I knew everything, I didn't, and don't.
So do me a favor, hire a Bar lawyer, or don't. Bringing your "friend" who's a lawyer is silly. The Board could care less if a lawyer is there at the hearing. A Bar lawyer helps you prepare and makes sure that all evidence important to your hearing is provided and presented properly. Occasionally, there is some confusion in the hearing or other legal issue that needs to be addressed, but for the most part, your Bar lawyer helps you get your application in order and prepares you to walk in that room and answer questions.
Why some of you think that just having someone there with a Bar card is somehow making you look better is beyond me. Once that hearing starts, the applicant is the show. You are entitled to have a person there besides yourself and a lawyer. If you're not going to hire a lawyer, bring your mom, your dad, a grandparent, but leave the civil litigator or divorce lawyer at home.
Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com
Posted by Brian Tannebaum at 3:02 PM