Sunday, February 8, 2009

Florida Bar Applicants: Three Ways To Guarantee Yourself An Investigative Hearing

Getting in to and graduating from law school is hard enough. Studying for and taking the Bar was to me, the most difficult work I ever did as a student.

The Bar Application, easy.

Easy because the first day at law school, I was advised of the importance of my law school application as it pertained to the Bar Application. From that day forward I just knew the importance of any application I was going to fill out.

In my practice now, I refer to the Bar Application as "the charging document."

It contains the basis of the allegations against my clients and the subject of the requisite hearing. A hearing that will determine whether admission to the Florida Bar is granted, deferred, or further examined.

Want to avoid the need for a hearing? Well, sometimes you can't. Cheating, arrests, financial responsibility issues, lawsuits, mental health, and other personal issues at times require a hearing.

But I have seen some things that are just unnecessary and cause hearings to be requested, not because of the conduct, but because of the following:

[1] Failure to disclose on the Bar Application.

If you were arrested, detained without a formal arrest, or had some encounter with someone with a badge and a gun, disclose.

If something asked on the application comes close to asking about something that happened, disclose.

Remember Nixon. It's not the conduct, it's the cover up.

[2] Failure to disclose on the law school application.

This can kill you. I have seen letters from law school deans that are extremely harsh - telling the Florida Bar that you are dishonest and commenting further on your credibility.

Disclose on the law school application, even though you think it will keep you from being accepted.

[3] Adding your opinion of what happened.

Straight forward fact telling, that's all that is needed. No one cares what you think about it.

Doing these three things won't necessarily keep you from having a hearing, but not doing them, pretty much guarantees one.

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



South Florida Lawyers said...

Excellent advice -- I hope law students are listening.

Unknown said...

Brian - Excellent advise. It mirrors the approach I have taken with my own application. And here I am, 8 months after filing, with the board still requesting documents (many of which have already been supplied 2 or 3 times). Eight months and counting!

Anonymous said...

I've heard the Florida Moral Character/Character & Fitness process is the most difficult in the country. Is this true? If so, why do you think this is?

Brett Geer said...

Actually, as with practically every area of law, there is more complexity and nuance to this bar application issue and law school application issue than simple nostrums and aphorisms can cover - although this general advice is pretty correct. The answer to SFLaw's question - why is Florida so tough - is basically grounded in demographics and economics: simply put, there are too many FL lawyers now, and if the State can find a good reason to deny a Bar applicant a license, it very well may.