Monday, October 27, 2008

Inside Florida Board Of Bar Examiners Investigative Hearings

Over the weekend I had the honor to represent two applicants to The Florida Bar at their Investigative Hearing before the Florida Board of Bar Examiners.

These hearings are held throughout the year on Fridays and Saturdays and can last 10 minutes, or over a hour.

The reasons for the Board requesting an Investigative hearing vary, but range from prior criminal arrests, non-disclosure issues on both the Bar application and law school application, financial responsibility issues including taxes, child support and judgments, litigation issues, and any other "blip" on your application or as a result of your investigation that causes the Board to want to talk to you.

After handling enough of these hearings, in my opinion, there are 5 things to take into consideration when preparing:

[1] Don't be so quick to request the first hearing date available

You will have a choice of 3 hearing dates. Although your goal is to "get it over with," you need to make sure you are ready for the hearing. The goal is to have one hearing, and do it right. Any issues left unresolved at the Investigative Hearing, may result in "specifications" being filed, and a future Formal Hearing. You don't want a Formal Hearing.

Make sure you are prepared with the facts of your issue or issues, and have gone through a dry run or "mock" hearing to prepare for the tough questions, prepare your attitude and your presence.

[2] Read your Bar Application

Here's a bad part of your upcoming hearing: "That's not what you said in your Bar Application."

Enough said.

[3] You are asking to be admitted to the Bar, pretend like you're asking to be admitted by God to heaven

This hearing is not the time to re-litigate your past, blame others for your failings, or act like the questions you are being asked are not serious. You have no right to be a member of any Bar. Act like you're asking for something, not expecting it.

[4] If you are a lawyer in another state and have prior discipline, let the committee know you know the rules, and prepare for another important question

"Why do you want to be a lawyer in Florida?" We have no problem letting you practice here, just want to know your intentions. Hopefully they are not "I don't know, I like the weather."

On the prior discipline issue, know what you did, and how it violates Florida's rules. Bar rules come from the ABA Model Code, so your rule 2-7.2 is probably Florida's 3-7.2 or something like that. Let the committee know you have read and understand the rules, and what you did as a result of your prior discipline.

[5] Never, ever lie

The number one factor in determining your character and fitness to practice, is your candor. If the committee thinks you're not being truthful, you're done. Remember, many times they know the answer to the question, they just want to see if you'll be honest with them. In sum, if that marijuana arrest 3 years ago was not the last time you smoked pot, tell them.

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


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