Character & Fitness Disclosure Instructions
To practice law in the United States, you must be admitted to a given state’s bar (often referred to as “bar admission”). Gaining admission requires passing a written test (the bar exam) as well as a determination by the state that you have the appropriate moral character to practice law. This latter requirement is commonly referred to as the “character and fitness” requirement. The primary purpose of the character and fitness requirement is to protect the public (clients, adversaries) and the members of that state’s judicial system.
Law students typically apply for bar application during the third year of law school. As part of the application process, students are required to answer questions and produce documentation bearing upon their moral character and fitness to practice law. Those with a record showing a deficiency in honesty, trustworthiness, diligence, or reliability may be denied admission to practice.
Typical Character & Fitness Questions
Bar exam applications differ from state to state, but all applications include questions relating to character and fitness in one form or another. Typical character and fitness questions ask about:
- Educational discipline (both academic and behavioral)
- Civil litigation (lawsuits filed by or against you, restraining orders, etc.)
- Criminal behavior (regardless of formal charges, outcome, or expungement)
- Financial behavior (bankruptcy, unpaid bills, taxes, child or spousal support, and loans)
- Behavior while in the military
- Alcohol and/or other chemical dependencies
The exact text of the character and fitness application questions can usually be found on a state’s board of law examiner website, and students are encouraged to locate and read the questions asked in relevant jurisdictions (Pennsylvania’s questions can be found here). No matter the jurisdiction, students should understand that they will be expected to answer character and fitness questions with absolute candor and honesty when applying for bar admission, and that lack of candor on one’s bar application is considered to be among the most serious character and fitness violations.
Connection to Law School Application
In determining one’s character and fitness, one factor that many states – including Pennsylvania – will consider is whether the information you provided on your law school application is consistent with the information you provided on your bar application. For this reason, it is in your best interest to ensure – as soon as possible – that the information on your law school application is both complete and completely accurate. You may access and review the answers you provided on your law school application via your Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) account. If you wish to change, amend, or expand upon an answer you provided on your Villanova Law application, you may do so by clicking the first link below.
Connection to Events Occurring or Arising After Law School Matriculation
Relatedly, Villanova Law students have a continuing obligation to promptly notify the school if and when an incident occurs that would be responsive to the character and fitness questions asked on most bar applications (see above). If you wish to disclose an incident that occurred after you matriculated at Villanova Law, you may do so by clicking the second link below.