Character and Fitness

Bar Admission Hearings for Bar Applicants in Pennsylvania

Prior to applying to the Pennsylvania Bar, you may be aware that you are required to disclose a past issue in response to one of the questions set forth by the Board of Law Examiners. At first, you may feel uncomfortable about such a disclosure or wonder what disclosures are necessary. This is your first opportunity to present yourself honestly as a candidate to the Board of Law Examiners.

Here are some frequently asked questions by candidates that are looking to apply to the Pennsylvania Bar.

How Important Is My Law School Application to Being Admitted to the Bar?

It is important that you provide honest answers to all questions on your law school applications. If you are required to admit an issue on the application to the Pennsylvania Bar, it is likely that the Board of Law Examiners will examine your law school application as well to see if you were forthcoming on this issue. The Board of Law Examiners demands honest and forthright candidates. While being honest and forthright is not a guarantee of admission, it is an important hallmark for any future attorney.

If you discover or realize that your responses to your law school application were not accurate, then you must amend this application in accordance with your law school’s rules and procedures. Failure to amend your law school application could be detrimental to your application to the Pennsylvania Bar.

Do I Need to Worry About My Responses If I’m Applying to the Pennsylvania Bar as a Non-Bar Exam Applicant?

Yes, any application to be admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar must be taken seriously. If you are required to disclose background information, then it is just as important to be honest and forthright in your statements.

What is the Best Way to Answer Questions on a Bar Application?

The best way to approach your Bar Application is to be honest and forthright in your responses that require admission. It may be personally difficult to provide this information but honesty is necessary. Further, it is important that your responses provide background information but not excuses that deflect from your responsibility.

Should I Have an Attorney Review My Bar Application?

If you have concerns about the bar admission process or a necessary disclosure, it is recommended that you consult with an attorney that is familiar with the process.

As you might need assistance with editing an important document, an attorney could assist you in making sure your application to the Board of Law Examiners is complete, forthcoming and provides good background information. An attorney will also review your law school applications to ensure that you have made all necessary disclosures and corrections. While a review of your application materials does not mean that you will be admitted outright, it is a good way to put your best foot forward with the Board of Law Examiners.

If I Make a Disclosure, Does This Mean That I Will Not Get My License?

It can be frightening to make a disclosure about your past. Making a disclosure is not fatal to your goal of being admitted to the Bar. Everyone has done something in the past that embarrasses them. If you are required to make a disclosure, it is important that you make it. It may require that you go through a Character and Fitness Hearing or you may be admitted based on your disclosure alone. A disclosure does not guarantee admission to the Pennsylvania Bar. Failure to make the disclosure may be fatal to admission.

However, if you are concerned about what your disclosure will mean to your future, it may be in your best interest to consult with an attorney that is familiar with this process. Importantly, an attorney can advise you on the effect that your disclosure may or may not have on your future bar admission.

I Received a Letter from the Board of Law Examiners Denying My Admission to the Pennsylvania Bar due to Character and Fitness. What is My Next Step?

You have received a letter denying your admission to the Pennsylvania Bar based on an issue of Character and Fitness. This is not fatal to your admission to the Pennsylvania Bar. The letter will set forth what you, as the applicant, must do within 30 days to submit an appeal. This is the procedure to request a Character and Fitness Hearing.

If you don’t request a hearing within 30 days, your application will be deemed denied. Bar Exam results are valid for a set amount of time. During this time that the results are still valid, an applicant can submit a Supplemental Application to request consideration by the Board. All Supplemental Applications should be submitted at least six months prior to your bar results expiration date.

Should I Hire an Attorney for My Character and Fitness Hearing?

If you have been denied admission and you are planning on filing an appeal, you are not required to have an attorney. However, an attorney can guide you through the proceeding and ensure that you do not present yourself in a negative fashion. It would be detrimental to not consult with an attorney that is familiar with these issues to better advise you on your next steps.

Prior to your hearing, an attorney can submit a supplemental response to your application to advocate for your admission. Further, an attorney can attend the hearing on your behalf to present testimony and evidence to support your admission to the Pennsylvania Bar Exam.

With this in mind, there are several things that you should NOT do:

  • Panic and try to talk your way out of the situation.
  • Volunteer information to the Board without thinking it through.  This may result in the applicant making the situation worse, i.e., blaming someone else for their transgression, providing the Board with inaccurate information or providing a flimsy excuse.
  • Ignoring the denial of admission.  Ignoring the letter from the Board of Bar Examiners will not gain you admission. A denial is not necessarily fatal to your admission to the Pennsylvania Bar.
  • Before providing the Board with any information, it is in your best interest to seek the advice of an attorney who specializes in Character and Fitness matters.

Contact Our Office

Hornstine Law, LLC offers every client a free consultation.  In order to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced licensing attorneys, please contact our office at 215-568-4968.  We are available for consultations before and after business hours and on the weekend upon request.