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Academic Support and Bar Preparation: Disclosure

It May Be Daunting

This may be the most detailed form you've ever filled out. Virginia's fitness questionnaire is 28 pages; Michigan's is 30 pages.  The instructions for California cover 21 topics, and Ohio's are 6 pages.

Traffic or Parking Tickets?

NCBE Character and Fitness Investigations

Cick here for a Sample Request for Preparation of a Character Report

The National Conference of Bar Examiners conducts character and fitness investigations on applicants seeking bar admission.  Not all jurisdictions participate in NCBE's Character and Fitness Investigations service.  

Even after you have completed and submitted your character and fitness application, you are required to keep it current by filing amended forms.  The NCBE Character & Fitness amendment forms can be found on their web page.  The application is 32 pages, and includes:   Authorization & Release Form,   Employment,  Traffic Violation Form 5T, and  Name Change.

Determination of Moral Character

You may be shocked to learn what you must disclose about yourself in the character portion of your bar application.  Practicing law necessitates a public trust, and all who apply for admission to a bar must first be approved as to character, fitness and moral qualifications.

You'll be required to provide information about your education, work experience, military service, citizenship, traffic record, criminal record, credit experience, and litigation to which you have been a party, plus prior addresses and a handwriting sample.

Character and Fitness Committees may consider any of the following conduct as cause for further inquiry:

a)  Unlawful conduct or disorderly conduct (even conduct that you may consider minor - including speeding or other traffic infractions or citations, underage offenses, and offenses which have been expunged)

b)  Academic or employment-related misconduct, including probation

c)  Acts involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation

d)  Neglect of financial responsibilities-including credit cards and student loans

e)  Violation of a court order (child custody or support, restraining orders)

f)  Indication of regular treatment of mental or emotional problems

g)  Conduct evidencing drug or alcohol abuse or misuse of controlled substances (open bottle, DWI, or underage drinking).

This may seem daunting, especially if you know that you may have a problem with any of the questions.  But if you take control of the process and start your character application now, you will be in a good position to make sure your fitness investigation goes as smoothly as possible.  The first step is to find out exactly what is required.  You may learn that, in your state, some past conduct may result in the need for a discretionary hearing and decision by the bar examiners.

The important points to remember are to be candid and disclose everything.  Be prepared – start pulling together the information you need.  Be proactive – avoid fiscal delinquency by making arrangements for repayment of loans and credit cards now.  Sort out any child support issues, and find out the appropriate way to provide mental health information in your state.

Disclose everything.  Review of your application will focus on your current character.  Your prior conduct will be considered in light of your age at the time, the seriousness, the underlying factors and the cumulative effect.  Also, the committee will look at your rehabilitation and social contributions since then, and how candidly you disclosed the information on your application.  Character committees are likely to disapprove applicants due to failure to disclose relevant information or misrepresenting the facts.

When in Doubt, Disclose

Be ready to disclose everything. 

Are you fit to be a lawyer?


Essential Qualities of the Professional Lawyer
Paul A. Haskins, editor.
Call Number: BAR EXAM COLLECTION KF297 .E87 2013
Publication Date: 2013

Legal Ethics in a Nutshell
Ronald D. Rotunda
Call Number: STUDY AIDS KF306 .R68 2018
Publication Date: 2018

Lawyers in Practice
Leslie C. Levin (Editor); Lynn Mather (Editor)
Call Number: K123 .L395 2012
Publication Date: 2012




© Howard University School of Law Library. Requests to republish or adapt this guide should be directed to Carmel Henry-Smith.

Updated: January 2023.