Lawyers and healthcare professionals are some of the most highly regulated professionals in Florida.
Law students and health profession students (ranging from physicians to physical therapists to nurses and others) must, after a grueling academic journey, then clear a number of hurdles to become licensed in their chosen field. In addition to passing comprehensive exams, they must undergo detailed background checks and pass what are commonly known as “character and fitness” tests. A misstep at any stage has the potential to delay or derail the applicant’s career plans.
A walkthrough of the Bar application process is below. Even if you’re a health professions student, this article will give you a general overview of what your process will involve, as they share quite a few similarities.
Although the Bar is technically self-regulated, instead of overseen by a State agency, consequences for rule violations are severe. The Florida Supreme Court has the final say, and the Court has been draconian in recent years.
That severity trickles down to law students. Applicants to the Florida Bar undergo a thorough and sometimes daunting “character and fitness” review by the Board of Bar Examiners, the organization that oversees the Bar exam and admissions.
Most applicants, both students and practicing lawyers moving from another state, pass the review with a carefully vetted application. But even the smallest mistake or omission can cause problems. Criminal charges or convictions cause the greatest concern and must be handled carefully.
And if you are a law student facing a criminal charge or investigation, how that issue resolves might determine your fate with the Florida Bar.
Any lawyer representing a law student or Bar applicant must know how to best handle the charges with an eye toward character and fitness.
The first critical step for a successful Bar application is an accurate and complete law school application. Unfortunately, most students are not thinking about that when they apply to law school.
One of the first things the Board reviews is the student’s law school application in conjunction with the Bar application. Even the slightest discrepancy raises red flags.
Undergrads often are casual when applying to graduate school, and aspiring lawyers are no different. But if the student tries to minimize a criminal matter to bolster his admission chances with a school, that will haunt him with the Board. Bar applicants typically have learned to be thorough and accurate, which sometimes creates those discrepancies.
The Board of Bar Examiners, and the Florida Bar, put the highest value on honesty. So any hint of dishonesty is a problem.
If an applicant receives a letter from the Board asking for more information or clarification, the terrain can be rocky. Be careful, and be honest. Compounding one lie or admission with another will lead to certain rejection. But even with honesty, the applicant often will end up in a hearing before a panel of the Board, called to account for the discrepancies and prove either fitness or rehabilitation befitting a lawyer.
The lawyers at Turner O’Connor Kozlowski are experienced in representing law students and other applicants before the Board of Bar Examiners.
We can help you finalize your application, respond to the Board’s questions, and prepare for and attend a hearing if necessary. Board hearings can be nerve-wracking experiences. Like any legal or pseudo-legal proceeding, preparation is the key. But knowledge and experience are necessary to prepare properly. The future might depend on that preparation.