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#1
Old 03-04-2003, 07:30 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Winchester, VA
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Law school/career and criminal record

Can one become a lawyer if one has a criminal conviction (only one, misdemeanor, for DUI, 4 years ago)?

Would such affect one's chances of being accepted into a law school? Or do they even look at that?

I've checked the ABA website, and it wasn't at all helpful. I trust someone here might offer some info...

Thanks in advance,
Gypsy
#2
Old 03-04-2003, 07:36 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Chicago, IL USA
Posts: 18,889
I do not think law schools care at all. They're more than happy to take your money an teach you.

Most friends I have talked to though who have sat for the Bar Exam said applying to take the exam was worse than the exam itself. They had to come up with all sorts of details from their past including each and every run-in with the law they've had (including tickets and such). I have no idea at what level of previous crime, if any, a person may be restricted from taking the Bar Exam. However, I would be very surprised if a misdemeanor was sufficient.

Plenty of lawyers around though who will almost certainly be by with the whole story.
#3
Old 03-04-2003, 07:39 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Chicago, IL USA
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As a slight hijack...

What if you were under 18 and prosecuted as a juvenile for some crime...even a felony. Doesn't that record get expunged once you're past 18? If so would you have to disclose it to take the Bar Exam (or rather if you didn't would they be likely to catch you)?
#4
Old 03-04-2003, 09:12 PM
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Location: Chicago, Illinois
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Here's what the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission has to say:

http://ibaby.org/character_fitness.html


Bottom line is that you'd almost certainly get admitted if your record was otherwise good, but you might have to appear for a personal interview.
#5
Old 03-04-2003, 09:55 PM
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Even if it was expunged, you still have to tell the bar.
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#6
Old 03-04-2003, 11:46 PM
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Location: Raiderville, TX
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Depends on the state. In Texas, for example, folks who sit for the bar have to be deemed "of good moral character and fitness". According to the Texas rule, a person convicted of a felony can't file a declaration of intent to study law or an application to take the bar exam until five years after the conclusion of the sentence for the felony. Other states impose similar restrictions for misdemeanors involving dishonesty, such as fraud or forgery, or a host of other reasons. Just check with the Board of Law Examiners for the state in which you plan to study and become licensed.

One thing: always be completely honest in your applications. Really, they don't care as much about a DUI conviction as they will if you try to lie about it. If you lie about your criminal history, when you're caught, the door will slam shut on you very very quickly.
#7
Old 03-05-2003, 07:58 AM
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Location: Chicago, IL USA
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Do you have to report being accused of a crime or only if you've been convicted?
#8
Old 03-05-2003, 08:49 AM
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Location: Delectable City of Gotham
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A guy I know from law school was a convicted felon who is now practicing law in New York and advocating for the rights of ex-offenders. After law school he clerked for a federal judge. I understand that it was a challenge for him to pass the character and fitness committee, but he got through.

A short bio is here:

Quote:
Roland Acevedo was the first to tell his story, which was nothing short of remarkable. Acevedo grew up in a poor family in a rough area in New York City. Crime and drugs were rampant, and there were, as he put it, "no alternatives but survival." When he has 28, Acevedo was involved in a robbery and shoot-out; he was arrested and later sentenced to 8 years in prison. Acevedo was released after serving half his term but returned to prison for another robbery incident less than two months later. Acevedo served another 5-6 years before he was finally released.

In prison, Acevedo learned a number of things, the most important of which was the necessity and value of education. He found out that most of the prisoners were functionally illiterate. After serving his time in Sing-Sing, Acevedo went on to receive his BA as well as his JD from Fordham Law School. Acevedo described the discrimination he faced while applying to law schools, noting the "invisible stripes" which followed him after he got out of prison. He now works as an attorney at a small Madison Avenue law firm.
On the other end of the scale, another guy I know was admitted to the bar with a DUI from college on his record with relatively little problem, other than the administrative hassle of getting an out-of-state court to provide the records of an old proceeding.

One thing that I've always heard is that you should list everything (including arrests w/o convictions, juveniles, etc.) on your bar application. The admission committee can be quite forgiving about prior indiscretions, but they're brutal if you try to hide something. Concealing something bad is something that think can reflect poorly on your character and fitness to practice law, and may be the basis for denial of bar admission.
#9
Old 03-05-2003, 04:05 PM
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Location: Reno, NV
Posts: 677
Quote:
Originally posted by Whack-a-Mole
Do you have to report being accused of a crime or only if you've been convicted?
From a law school websaite here in NYC:

Quote:
Applicants who have been convicted of any criminal offense, or who have charges pending against them, should consult the state board of law examiners in the state(s) in which they expect to practice law. Some states have restrictions that prohibit the practice of law by persons who have been convicted of certain criminal offenses, and in some states even patterns of arrest without conviction may have an impact on an individual’s eligibility to practice law. In New York City, there are different rules in each Judicial Department. You will need to determine the appropriate Judicial Department and contact it directly prior to or immediately after applying to the School of Law.
Merely being accused of a crime does not count.

In agreement with the other posters, I have been told by attorneys here in NYC is that what the board is looking out for are felonies and non-disclosure of anything they ask for. As stated above, you will be asked to disclose matters that have been sealed or expunged. A single DUI or shoplifting rap is not going to force you to give up an ambition of being a lawyer.
#10
Old 03-05-2003, 04:10 PM
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Join Date: Sep 1999
Location: Chicago, Illinois
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Quote:
Originally posted by Whack-a-Mole
Do you have to report being accused of a crime or only if you've been convicted?

My (Illinois) application required disclosure of all arrests. I even had to list traffic offenses. IIRC, the question even got down to parking tickets, although it may have been limited to outstanding tickets. I know more than one classmate who had to write a large check to his undergraduate alma mater for old tickets.

The application was a royal pain in the ass to complete. I had to list every job and every supervisor. Sure, that may be easy for real jobs, but trying to remember the full name of the 20-year old who supervised me at various high school summer jobs was tough, even at age 24. I have no idea what older law graduates do.


And I emphatically agree with Billdo. Disclose everything.
#11
Old 03-05-2003, 05:49 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: Reno, NV
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Quote:
Originally posted by me
Merely being accused of a crime does not count.
This could be misconstrued. My bad. Being arrested or pending charges could be construed as an "accusation." What I had in mind was: if you are accused of a crime by an individual and the police do not arrest you. I don't think something like that counts. Different states have different rules. I don't believe that NY has you list every McDonalds job you ever had when you were a kid. You might find a character & fitness questionaire by doing a google search.
#12
Old 03-05-2003, 06:23 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2001
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My guess is that you don't need to worry.

Mind you: that is a guess. As a practical, matter, you might want to talk to a placement counselor at a school where you wish to attend.

An important issue to consider is that the fact that you have graduated law school may not, in itself, qualify you for the bar exam. You will still need permission from the regulatory authority in the state where you wish to sit for the bar.

Different states have different kinds of regulatory authorities. In Missouri the bar is pretty much self-regulating. In Illinois, if IIRC, one deals with the office of the Supreme Court in order to sit for the exam. I am a licensed attorney in both states.

In 1991 I was friends with a very nice woman who had a very troubled past. Just before she was due to sit for the exam, she received a letter from the Missouri Bar. She was to appear for an interview on the day before the exam began. After this hearing it was to be decided if she could sit for the exam or not. This news came to her just a few weeks in advance, and after she had gone through three years of very strenuous, very challenging, and very expensive education at a university listed in America's Best Law Schools. Needless to say, she found this kind of disstressing.

She finally found out that she had permission to take the exam (which she passed at her first sitting, and without having taken a review course) on the night before the first day of the exam.

As I recall, there were four reasons given to her for why an interview and a determination were necessary. She had a history of alcohol and illegal drug problems. In addition, about ten years earlier, while she was in high school, she had been charged with assault after attempting to stab a former boyfriend with a knife.

Using that as a standard, I'd say one DUI should not be a bar. It really would be a hell of a world if you could be elected President, but not be allowed into law school.
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