In addition to a bar examination, there are character, fitness, and other qualifications for admission to the bar in every U.S. jurisdiction. Applicants are encouraged to determine the requirements for any jurisdiction in which they intend to seek admission by contacting the jurisdiction. Addresses for all relevant agencies are available through the National Conference of Bar Examiners.
Special requirements for the New York Bar
Students planning to seek admission to the New York bar must establish that they have acquired skills and professional values necessary to competently practice law. Read more about these requirements, which apply to both JD and LLM students.
Character and fitness
The character and fitness evaluation process is a crucial part of bar admission in most states. Please familiarize yourself with your chosen state’s character and fitness questions and requirements. Consult the applicable state bar admissions website. The National Conference of Bar Examiners also has information on character and fitness at ncbex.org. The character and fitness standards for admission to the Indiana Bar are provided here.
Student records, including your original application to law school, may be reviewed by the Board of Law Examiners as part of the character and fitness evaluation process. Inconsistencies between the information disclosed on a student’s law school application and their bar application may subject the applicant to further scrutiny and require an amendment to the original Law School application. Students seeking to amend or supplement their Law School application should consult the Dean for Students and then send a formal email that details the disclosure; explains why the disclosure was not originally made; and, where appropriate, expresses contrition about and/or learning from the experience.
Seek help from the Office of Student Affairs
A big part of the Dean of Students’ job is to assist with bar admission questions, which are sometimes confidential. Students are especially encouraged to meet with the Dean of Students early in their law school career if they have in their history:
- Alcohol or chemical dependency
- A criminal matter
- Academic misconduct
- Significant mental health history or concerns that might affect the ability to practice law
- Financial improprieties
- Significant unpaid debt
Dismissal from work for cause
- Other issues that may relate to the ability to meet requirements of practice
No single condition or incident will automatically prevent admission to the bar; rather, bar examiners encourage students to address directly and treat any condition that may lead to a conduct concern or impair an individual’s ability to comply with practice standards. Evidence of current fitness and rehabilitation from past impairments are often important considerations in the character and fitness evaluation process.
Students sometimes believe that seeking help for a problem will negatively affect bar admission. The opposite is true. Seeking appropriate support or treatment will be considered favorably by bar examiners and is strongly encouraged for your own benefit.