Florida Investigative Hearings Attorney
Past mistakes could prompt follow up questions that require careful preparation with an experienced Bar admissions attorney.
Investigatory hearing panels question a Bar candidate’s history to determine whether the applicant is currently fit to practice law. Honesty is paramount in these hearings. No matter how embarrassing or troubling, any failure to disclose material facts will significantly jeopardize an applicant’s chance of practicing law in Florida.
Failure to disclose isn’t always fatal. Applicants can still be admitted to the Florida Bar if they can show proof of clear and convincing evidence of rehabilitation.
The Florida Board of Bar Examiners is more likely to excuse past indiscretions if they truly are in the past, but serious problems can arise when an applicant shows a pattern of continuing misconduct, especially where the pattern continues after admission into law school.
None of the following situations from which most issues arise are incurable, but where one or more are in your past, and when you think about what’s at risk, you’d be prudent to seek an attorney with Florida Bar admissions experience before answering the Bar application questions, responding to the Board’s requests for additional information, or attending investigative hearings before the Florida Board of Bar Examiners:
Criminal Offenses – an underage possession in undergrad won’t preclude admission, but multiple/repeated charges, or serious offenses involving violence and/or dishonesty, could raise concerns about respect for the law itself, especially where the behavior continues into or after law school attendance.
Academic Misconduct– honor code violations reflect on candor and are certain to raise questions about fitness to practice law. Plagiarism is an especially serious offense, as it denigrates the positive attribute of candor.
Financial Irresponsibility – as with criminal offenses, a history of dodging or failing to timely pay debts and/or taxes shows a disregard for legal obligations. Since respect for the law is essential in practicing law, it’s an important factor to establish. Financial instability, credit problems and bankruptcies also raise concerns that, if admitted, the applicant may be a risk when handling a client’s money.
Driving History – an occasional speeding ticket will not likely jeopardize admission, but a long history of offenses tends to show a disregard for the laws. Multiple drunk or reckless driving convictions raises even greater concerns.
Civil Lawsuits – applicants need to candidly disclose the nature of the lawsuit filed against them on their bar applications, and the descriptions may raise concerns when there are allegations of fraud or dishonesty, excessive debt, and/or respect for the laws, among other misconduct.
Addictions – where an addiction has adversely impacted behavior in the past, the Florida Board of Bar Examiners will probe into recovery, to determine whether an addiction still poses a risk to an applicant practicing law safely.
Failure to Disclose – omitting facts that are material to character and fitness, or submitting an application that contains misleading information, seriously risks the denial of Bar admission. Omission weakens the essential attribute of candor.
Misrepresentations – in addition to the Bar application, the Board looks at law school applications, applications for admission to other jurisdictions, employment/internship applications, and other documents. Out-of-state lawyers seeking admission to the Florida Bar are closely scrutinized for professional discipline imposed in other jurisdictions.