Fit Financial Character
As I mentioned in my June 14, 2011 post-NAPLA report, the issue of character and fitness is figuring into several different aspects of law school admission and bar passage. The first is in the use of social media and keeping your image professional, as we addressed in "the Big Picture." The second has featured in the news a lot lately -- financial fitness. People are being denied Bar Admission (i.e., licenses) because they have been found to be financially irresponsible.
Our lunch lecture on the first day of the conference was, "Does Money Really Equal Character?" by Dennis Rendleman, Senior Counsel for Center for Professional Responsibility, American Bar Association. Mr. Rendleman suggested that we look at the National Conference of Bar Examiner's " Request for Preparation of a Character Report," which I found on the NCBE web page.
By eliminating redundancies, paraphrasing and shortening questions (which would be a violation of the character and fitness test were I to do this in a form that would be used), and collapsing several lines (e.g. NAME: First, Middle Last) into one, I was able to reduce the form to a mere nine pages.
You have to report all sorts of amazing things:
But they're not what I came to talk about. (Why do I feel like Arlo Guthrie in Alice's Restaurant? "Alice's Restaurant" was an anti-war song of the 1960s. In the linked 16 minute version, Guthrie is halfway through before he says, "But that's not what I came to tell you about.")
I came to tell you about the financial issues on the character and fitness form.
Here is a vastly simplified version of the reporting requirements:
7. List your employment and unemployment information, beginning with the most recent for the last ten years or since age 18, whichever period of time is shorter. Include any law-related employment that occurred prior to the time period for which you are reporting.
Employment encompasses all part-time and full-time employment, including self-employment, externships, internships (paid and unpaid), clerkships, military service, volunteer work, and temporary employment.
If you are self-employed or employed by a relative, provide a reference (preferably someone associated with the business) to whom you are not related by blood or marriage who can verify the nature and length of your employment or practice. DO NOT furnish your own name or your own contact information for verifying employment.
8. Have you ever been terminated, suspended, disciplined, laid-off, or permitted to resign in lieu of termination from any job? (If the employment was not previously listed, please go back and add it to Question 7.) If yes, provide the following information about each occurrence:
Employer or Firm
19. Have you ever been a named party to any civil action?
20. Have you ever had a complaint or action (including, but not limited to, allegations of fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, forgery, or malpractice) initiated against you in any administrative forum?
23. Have you ever filed a petition for bankruptcy? If yes, complete a separate FORM 4 for each bankruptcy petition filed.
24. A. Have you ever had a credit card or charge account revoked?
E. If your answer to Question 23 is yes, are there any additional debts not reported in Questions 24(A-D) that were not discharged in bankruptcy?
28. Provide complete information for at least six references, preferably persons who have known you for a minimum of five years.
It is your responsibility to provide accurate and complete information. If necessary, you need to consult with applicable courts, agencies, or other entities to obtain dates, locations, or other required information.
I'm having a lot of trouble imagining how anyone who is poor or self-employed will make it through the current economic crisis without some explaining to do. And if you ever worked for a bank, I'd just give up now! They want to know if WE defaulted on loans or filed for bankruptcy; imagine if you worked for a mortgage company that went belly-up. You can only hope the "I was just following orders" line is in fashion.
The moral of the story? I don't know. I hope it's not being used to discriminate against the already marginalized, but I can't imagine, "Oh, your trust fund paid the bills for you" making you as unfit as a person who didn't have a rich relative to fall back on.