Please note that this is not legal advice. See our disclaimer.
There are several ways to be admitted to the Pennsylvania bar. The most common method is by taking the bar exam. Outside of the bar exam, attorneys can be admitted to practice in Pennsylvania upon motion if Pennsylvania has reciprocity with another state to which the attorney is already admitted and if the attorney has worked “for a period of five years of the last seven years immediately preceding the date of filing of the application … devoted a major portion of time and energy to the practice of law in one or more states.” Rule 204. Further, admission can be granted to attorneys for limited in-house counsel purposes, as a foreign legal consultant, as military attorneys or military spouses, or as attorneys that participate in legal service programs.
These applications will ask about your past academic history as well as your personal history. If you are already admitted to another jurisdiction, there will be questions to determine if you are currently in good standing.
Your application to the Pennsylvania bar is the first opportunity to present yourself as an ethical person who deserves the opportunity to be admitted. Pennsylvania takes this review of your character and fitness to practice law seriously. Attorneys are in an important position of public trust. If you have a criminal record, it is important to show that you atoned for your past transgressions. If you had an issue with alcohol or drugs, it is important to show your sobriety and your plans to maintain your sobriety. If you have had financial issues, you need to show that you are now financially responsible. All of these things are personal and potentially embarrassing but past transgressions are not fatal to your dream of being admitted to the bar. However, a lack of honesty could cause more harm than any admission you would be required to make.
The most important aspect of completing a bar admission application is honesty. We are all human and we have all made mistakes. However, being forthright about your mistakes is critical to the integrity of the legal profession.
The first step in ethically completely your bar admission application is to carefully review your law school applications. If you have transferred schools during law school, you will need to review these applications as well. You need to ensure that you have not intentionally or inadvertently answered any questions incorrectly. Any inaccuracies must be corrected sooner rather than later. Once you have amended your application, you will be better prepared to answer the questions on the bar admission application.
When it comes to disclosures, it is important to be straightforward and honest. There is a thin line between providing necessary background and providing excuses. Excuses will not help you and will likely hinder you. The bar wants to see that you are making your best effort to be forthcoming about any past issue and that you have learned from your past to become a better person. Making excuses for your past issues will make it seem that you are not ready to take on the role as a licensed attorney.
If you require guidance or further information about your application, then please contact Hornstine Law, LLC at 215-568-4968.