Character and Fitness

Character and Fitness Guidelines for Bar Admission

"In addition to a bar examination, there are character, fitness, and other qualifications for admission to the bar in every U.S. jurisdiction. Applicants are encouraged to determine the requirements for any jurisdiction in which they intend to seek admission by contacting the jurisdiction. Addresses for all relevant agencies are available through the National Conference of Bar Examiners." (Statement required by ABA Standard 504)

Each state office of attorney admissions considers an applicant’s moral character and fitness to practice law before granting admission to practice law (often referred to as "bar admission"). Bar applicants are required to answer questions and to produce evidence bearing upon their moral character and fitness to practice law.  

Character and fitness guidelines may vary from state to state. The relevant rule in Colorado is Rule 208.1 (you may need to scroll down to access the Rule). This Rule states that a basis for denying the applicant due to lack of character may exist if his or her record tends to show a “deficiency in honesty, integrity, judgment, trustworthiness, diligence, reliability or capacity to practice law.”

One factor that the Colorado Office of Attorney Admissions looks at, for example, is whether the information you provided on your law school application is consistent with the information in your bar application. Learn more about why you need to provide your law school application when applying for the bar.

If you have concerns about anything in your personal history, or if you become involved in any criminal matters before orientation, while in law school, or shortly thereafter, you should contact Dean Leary to discuss the issue. Dean Leary can help you work through the process of disclosing these matters on your applications.

If you have disclosures that may raise questions about your character and fitness, submit your bar application well in advance of the deadline if possible, as some states require that all issues be resolved before you can take the bar exam. 

Mistakes and struggles are part of life and how you handle them is what matters. Seeking help is often the most professional thing to do. Further, the Office of Attorney Admissions may consider steps you have taken to accept responsibility for mistakes and prevent future trouble. Here are a few additional resources that can help:

  • Colorado Lawyers Assistance Program (COLAP)
    Students are encouraged to seek help from COLAP. COLAP is an independent, confidential resource for judges, lawyers and law students. COLAP has expertise in working with students on the character and fitness portion of the bar application and can answer your questions about how much you need to disclose. COLAP also provides counseling for those struggling with depression, anxiety, stress and burn out, alcohol and drug abuse, prescription drug concerns, marital and family relationships, gambling, career concerns, eating disorders, balancing work and family, and aging in the profession. If you have questions, call COLAP’s confidential phone line at (303) 986-3345 or (855) 208-1168 (toll-free).
  • CU-Boulder Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)
    CU offers free counseling for all CU-Boulder students, including law students, through a program called CAPS. Through CAPs, you can talk confidentially with a licensed psychologist, social worker, or professional counselor about any concerns or issues you may have, including substance abuse, stress management, relationships, and much more.