Had a bit of a vacation this month. No, not from the Board of Bar Examiner's Hearings, but from having to travel to them. Every once in a while the Board gets it right and comes to Miami. No packing, getting on a plane, or driving for hours. No crappy hotel food, no overpriced bottled water. Just a quick 15 minute drive.
This time, I saw a crack in the mold. No, the hearing didn't start on time. Not even close (2 hours late), but it was a hearing on the merits. It was a hearing focused on the issues at hand, not on whether my client could play word games with the panelists.
Let me elaborate.
My client not only failed to disclose some things, he was less than completely candid about them on other applications. The panelists knew why, and they focused on why. They focused on why because my client didn't focus on whether he failed to disclose or was less than completely candid. The Board knew he did, and he was, and he admitted as such. The panelists decided not to spend an hour debating this, they wanted to discuss why. "Why" was the important issue, and that was the focus of the hearing.
The panelists could have spent a great deal of time asking about minor things, like the understanding of vague terms on applications, the timing of certain amendments, but they didn't. They focused on the important facts.
This doesn't always happen. Clients love to say no to the question of an arrest when they were merely given a promise to appear (legally an arrest, but no trip to the pokey), and the Board knows why. Sometimes we go round and round on this. It's important if the client was trying to hide it. It's not important if the client just didn't get it.
There was also little interruption at this hearing. Sometimes, I wonder if the panel wants an answer, or just wants to ask questions and look for that one word they don't like. These are applicants to the Bar, they want to be lawyers, they (most of them) are not yet versed in answering questions like a seasoned witness under cross examination. If they come to the hearing and decide this is the time to jerk around the members of the Board, then they deserve to be treated with little respect, but those that are clearly trying to be open and honest about their past transgressions, should be treated as such. I am seeing a more polite and professional hearing setting over the past few months, and I don't think it takes anything away from the process. Nothing wrong with getting in the face of an applicant, as long as it's for the right reasons.
1. Please stay in the hotel where the hearing is taking place. Please. I know it's not cheap, but this "staying at a friend's house" doesn't seem to work. The stress level is much lower when you are a couple floors from the hearing, instead of across town.
2. Stop asking me if you can bring your file. Yes, this is not a memorization test.
3. The Board knows your life story - that's why you are sitting in front of them. Answer the questions. Every answer doesn't begin with what happened that day from the time you woke up.
There are no hearings in August, so congratulations, no one gets denied admission in August.
Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.