Character & Fitness Applications and Deadlines; Planning Ahead

As we’ve been discussing for a while, if you plan to take the July bar exam in Georgia, you must first complete and clear the “character and fitness” process. Regular applications for clearance are due in Georgia by 4 pm on December 2; details are here:  Certification of Fitness.

The Director of Bar Admissions, Ms. Heidi Faenza, held her usual annual meeting about this process with Emory Law students on September 9, on Zoom; it was recorded and Emory Law students can watch it here: September 9, 2020 meeting. You can also reach it via The Fourth Floor on Canvas.

The information will be helpful even if you plan to take the bar in another state, as character and fitness review processes mostly seek the same kinds of information. You can start gathering the information you will need (past employers, addresses, etc.) now. It takes longer than you think it will!

If you plan to take the bar in a different state, each state’s rules and deadlines are different. Look up yours at www.ncbex.org, the website of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, where you will find links to each state’s bar jurisdiction website as well as information about registering for the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (“MPRE”) which most states require in addition to their bar exam. Remember that the only official information about a jurisdiction’s rules and deadlines comes from the jurisdiction itself; always check the official bar admissions website to make sure any information you’ve gotten elsewhere is accurate and up-to-date.

I recommend, again, that you read the book “Pass the Bar!”, by Profs. Riebe and Schwartz, between now and the start of classes. It includes really helpful “action plan checklists” that start with the period 6-12 months before your commercial bar review course starts, which is now if you plan to start such a course in May 2021, for the July 2021 bar exam. The book was written before some of the changes in the MBE in recent years (e.g., it says there are 6 MBE subjects and there are now 7), and it doesn’t address any pandemic-related changes made in 2020, but in every other respect, it is one of the best independent guides to passing the bar on your first attempt that I know, and a great supplement to the guidance you’ll get from your commercial bar review course (which I hope you’ve chosen and enrolled in by now).

The book walks you through the many things you can do, throughout your 3L year, to improve your odds on the bar exam. Every one of you can pass the bar first time, but it takes advance planning and this will help. It also discusses individual risk factors any student might have, that could affect that student’s bar passage; others are described here: Bar Exam Risk Factors. Specific solutions to address each of those are listed in “Pass The Bar!”; if you feel any of them apply to you, please schedule an individual advising appointment with one of the OAESS team.

New York Removes Questions About Mental Health History From Bar Application

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The State of New York will change its character and fitness questionnaire to relieve applicants from worry that seeking mental health treatment might affect their admission to the bar, according to an announcement today:

New York State’s court system will remove questions about mental health history from its bar application, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore announced Wednesday.

After debate and study, the court system plans to revise the application, DiFiore said in her 2020 State of Our Judiciary address.

“The amended application will no longer ask intrusive questions about a candidate’s mental health conditions or treatment history,” she said in her prepared remarks. “Instead, the application will focus on disclosure of behavior and conduct that is relevant to a candidate’s fitness to practice law.”

The presence of mental health questions on the bar exam, and stigma around mental illness, have proven to be barriers to treatment within the legal profession, according to a New York State Bar Association report. DiFiore said the mental health and well-being of New York’s lawyers is of “paramount importance.”

Reminder: State Bar visit this week

We will be offering a number of bar readiness programs for graduating students, and the first will be on Wednesday, Sept. 18, from 12:15-1:45 pm, when the Director of Bar Admissions for the State Bar of Georgia will come in person to explain the character and fitness application process. Details are in On The Docket and in flyers on the electronic bulletin boards. In Georgia, you do this in your fall semester; each state has its own deadlines, which you must look up and enter into your planners. You can start here: Comprehensive Guide to State Bar Requirements. For example, the deadline to register for the November MPRE is this week, and the test is transitioning from paper to computer; you must go to www.ncbex.org for specific information about the MPRE.

If you haven’t yet read at least some of the book “Pass the Bar!”, discussed in my June email, I highly recommend it; the planning guide/timeline I sent all graduating students via email is based in part on the action checklists in that book. They start at the beginning of your last year of law school, i.e. now if you plan to graduate in May and take a bar exam in July.

The information presented this week by Georgia bar officials will be relevant to other states also, since most character and fitness reviews by bar admissions staff and committees involve similar concerns, so don’t miss this unique opportunity to hear directly from top bar officials. Pizza will be available at Wednesday’s program but feel free to bring your own lunch if you wish. 

Save the Date — Info Session with Bar Examiner and Director of Bar Admissions; Deadlines

Emory Law Bar Readiness State Bar Georgia

If you will graduate in May and take a bar exam in July, mark your calendar for March 27, when the Georgia Office of Bar Admissions will return for its annual spring visit. Unlike the fall visit, when the director of bar admissions speaks to students mostly about the character and fitness process, the spring visit includes one of the actual bar examiners, the lawyers who write and grade the essay questions on the Georgia bar. The presentation will be on March 27, from 12:15-1:45 pm, in Rm. 1E.

This session will be useful even if you plan to take the bar exam in a different state, as the director of bar admissions will speak generally about things like the MBE (Multistate Bar Exam) and MPT (Multistate Performance Test), which are included on the Georgia bar exam and most other states’ bar exams. She will also go into detail about the Georgia bar exam, so if you plan to take that, don’t miss this session. Also, if you have individual concerns or questions about the character and fitness review process, she normally makes herself available for private conversations with students after the main session.

Please visit www.gabaradmissions.org for detailed information, and remember to keep checking your bar applicant portal for any communications from the Office of Bar Admissions. You don’t want to miss any questions or deadlines from them, as they will strictly enforce all policies and deadlines. The very last deadline for submitting a character and fitness application for the July 2019 Georgia Bar is March 6, 2019. Review all Georgia deadlines here: Georgia Bar Admissions Deadlines and Fees.

If you will take the Uniform Bar Examination or another state’s bar exam, make sure you are tracking and meeting all relevant deadlines and requirements. You can review those at the website of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, www.ncbex.org, in the Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements. NOTE: “The information in this publication is correct as submitted to NCBE by contributing jurisdictions at the time of publication. It should be used only as a general guide. Since jurisdiction rules and policies change, NCBE strongly advises consulting the jurisdiction’s bar admission agency directly for the most current information.”

Georgia Bar Character and Fitness Deadline 12/6!

Dear students: if you are applying to the Georgia bar, remember that the character and fitness application and the required fee are due IN THEIR OFFICE by 4 pm, 12/6. A postmark does not count. For details, go here: https://www.gabaradmissions.org/deadlines-and-fees.

Planning to Take a Bar Exam? Remember Fall Deadlines!

If you plan to take a bar exam the summer after you graduate, there may be a number of important deadlines you must meet in this fall semester, depending on each state. For instance, in Georgia, graduating students are supposed to complete their Character and Fitness paperwork and applications by early December. The specific date of that deadline varies from year to year, so you must check here: Georgia Fitness Application Deadlines.

The National Conference of Bar Examiners publishes a digest of all the states’ different bar admissions and exam requirements, updated annually: Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admissions Requirements. As they note on their webpage: “The information in this publication is correct as submitted to NCBE by contributing jurisdictions at the time of publication. It should be used only as a general guide. Since jurisdiction rules and policies change, NCBE strongly advises consulting the jurisdiction’s bar admission agency directly for the most current information.” Always double-check bar-related information directly with your bar state’s admissions office, through their website.

Most states require that you take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE). That is offered nationally three times a year, in November, March, and August. The National Conference of Bar Examiners writes and oversees that exam too, and provides much information here: MPRE.

Now is a really good time to enter all the upcoming deadlines and dates into your calendar or planner, to make sure you stay on top of them. Bar admissions offices are very strict about their deadlines, so you don’t want to miss them!

Information session with bar officials TOMORROW, 9/6/17

If you will graduate this year and expect to take the bar exam in Georgia, come learn about the “character and fitness” application process directly from the Director of Admissions for the State Bar of Georgia, Mr. John Sammon. He and other bar staff will explain the process, which you do for Georgia in your fall semester and submit by the start of December. The information is generally relevant to most states’ character and fitness processes, so come even if you plan to sit for the bar in another state. The program starts at 12:15 pm in Rm. 1E; pizza and soft drinks will be served and you are welcome to bring your own lunch too if you wish.

Bar Deadlines Approaching!

If you plan to take the bar exam in Georgia, remember that you must first file a Character and Fitness application and be certified through that process before you can sign up for the bar exam itself. In Georgia, the deadline to do that without a late fee penalty is in early December; the exact date changes from year to year, and you will find it here: Georgia Office of Bar Admissions. Bar deadlines are strict and include details such as: in Georgia, all materials and payments must be received IN THE OFFICE BY 4 P.M. on the deadline date, as the director of bar admissions explained when she spoke here in September: Georgia Bar Admissions Info Session.

If you plan to take the bar exam in a different state, go to the National Conference of Bar Examiners website and look up bar deadlines and requirements for that specific state. In some states, you register for and take the exam first, then you apply for Character and Fitness certification. You are expected to know the relevant deadlines and meet them.

Bar-related information was placed in all 3Ls’ mail files at the start of the semester. If you haven’t looked at it yet, now would be a good time. Additional bar-related information can be found on the webpage of the Office of Academic Engagement & Student Success, under the Bar Readiness tab. If you have any questions, please stop by and talk with one of us, we’ll be happy to help!

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Important Bar Information Session for Graduating Students

Sally Lockwood 78L, Director of Bar Admissions for Georgia, will explain the “Character and Fitness” review process to all graduating students who plan to take the bar in July 2017. In Georgia, the application deadline is in early December. The process is similar in most states, so come learn even if you do not plan to take the bar in Georgia. The first 100 students to attend and sign in will get a free copy of “Pass the Bar!”, a book I highly recommend for its detailed strategies for success on the bar, including action checklists you can start working on now. You must stay to the end of the program to claim your book.

For detailed, official information about Georgia bar applications, deadlines and fees, go to the Georgia Office of Bar Admissions website. For official information about admission to the New York bar, go to the New York Board of Law Examiners website. For official information about admission to the Florida bar, go to the Florida Board of Bar Examiners website, which also has its own official summary of Florida bar admissions information. For other states, it is simple to link to their bar admissions offices through the website of the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

Please remember that bar admissions officials will expect you, as the applicant, to know their requirements and meet their deadlines, and they will expect you to keep yourself informed and up to date, as it is possible for their information to change. Now is a good time to read through their rules and requirements thoroughly, set up an applicant account if that is available, bookmark their webpages and make a habit of checking those regularly. While this blog is an occasional source of reminders, it is NOT the final word on bar admissions, nor is it updated daily or even weekly, so please do not rely on it alone for tracking deadlines.

Upcoming Deadlines for the Georgia Bar Exam!

These reminders have been shared by Georgia’s Office of Bar Admissions. For more detail, it is important to go directly to their website, www.gabaradmissions.org.

For those students intending to sit for the February 2016 Georgia Bar exam, please note that the late deadline to submit a Bar exam application is Friday, February 5, 2016, prior to 4:30 p.m.

For those students intending to sit for the July 2016 Georgia Bar exam, please note that the late deadline to submit a Character and Fitness Application is Wednesday, March 2, 2016, before 4:30 p.m.