A frequent question from law students facing a hearing before the Florida Board of Bar Examiners is "does (this) matter?"
It all matters.
The way you look, the way you act, the demeanor you present.
There are things that matter that shouldn't, but I don't get to make those decisions.
I believe anything stupid you did during your first year in college shouldn't matter. but it does.
I believe anyone on the board who did the same stupid thing you did in college, shouldn't be able to ask you about that stupid thing you did in college, but they can.
I think more matters now because 2,000 students a year are graduating from Florida law schools, and the "Bar" is being set higher.
I sit in these hearings month after month and while sometimes I feel the Board "gets" it, more and more I believe the hearings are aimless. Traffic tickets? Really? Underaged drinking where the student got a citation, never went to court, and forget about it? C'mon.
The issue is whether the applicant has the character and fitness to be a Member of the Florida Bar, not whether they are perfect, and not whether they can do well under the gun of a 30 year lawyer who knows how to cross examine a witness.
Things happen in people's lives that they are not proud of. The issue is whether they can own up to it and understand its impact.
Not everything someone did in their life that violates some moral compass or infraction that is almost a rite of passage in college is grounds to call into question their ability to practice law ethically.
Ok, I feel better.
Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.