Sunday, May 16, 2010

Blogging The Board Of Bar Examiners Hearings: Define Character

Whomever coined the phrase "now I've seen everything," never applied to the Florida Bar.

This past weekend I watched my clients attempt to convince the Florida Board of Bar Examiners that despite speeding tickets, a few brushes with the law at 18 and 19, and some other issues that may or may not have anything to do with the ability to practice law ethically, they have the character and fitness to be lawyers.

A word about character. If you think you know what it is, you do not. Character is apparently comprised of the total sum of all things that have happened in your life.

I know, you think lying, cheating, and stealing are things that can affect someone's character.

How about being fired from a job for being late? How about being fired from another job for not meeting sales expectations?


All of you Florida law students that fill out those applications to be Certified Legal Interns? The question: "Is there anything in your background that reflects poorly on your character?"

I want you all to think back to anything that you did wrong. Anything.

Did you ever use profanity in front of a child? Ladies - Did you ever borrow a friend's dress without telling them? Did you find a $5 bill on the street and stuff it in your pocket? Did you tell your girlfriend you loved her just to sleep with her?

You're scared about Facebook (which I still haven't seen come up at a hearing)? Forget about that - it's time to realize that your character is defined by any missteps. Who wants someone to be a member of the Bar who once sat in a different seat at a football game than the one on their ticket?

I am dead serious that when you see that question, you need to consider putting every single "bad" thing you've ever done. That is, until the Board defines character.

Some other tidbits:

[1] Hearings seem to be running on better time. I chalk that up to more pointed questions asked for the purpose of actually obtaining information, rather than (further) scaring the crap out of the applicant.

[2] I am still batting 1000 on predicting the question to out-of-state applicants - "Why Florida?" I'm waiting for one applicant to say "because I've heard if I can get through the Florida Bar Examiners hearing I will be a better lawyer than my friends from New York."

[3] No one cares about your life story. You are there, because of your life story. Answer the questions. This is not an appointment with a psychologist, it's a hearing.

[4] I know you hate the Board of Bar Examiners. They know you hate them. They don't care. Let's move on.

[5] If you hire a lawyer to help you prepare for your hearing, remember something, any lawyer who routinely does this work (and not your "buddy" who will "go to the hearing with you"), has been in that room before. When your lawyer tells you what matters and what doesn't, listen.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.Share/Save/Bookmark

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