Thank you for consulting this page. Law schools ask many different versions of the character and fitness question and we want to provide you with some background information about what we ask and why, as well as provide some hopefully helpful answers to frequently asked questions.
To begin, we want to put your mind at ease. First, we review all applications holistically with the greatest focus on your recent conduct. Second, we welcome applicants who have made and learned from mistakes. We are asking about these things because honesty and candor are necessary characteristics for lawyers. This does not mean that you need to have been honest at all times in the past. It does mean, however, that you need to be honest on your law school application, with your law school, and in your commitments as a law student and as a lawyer. This is a necessary component of having the requisite character and fitness to practice law.
During your third year of law school, when you apply for admission to practice law, you will apply to a state authority overseen by the state's highest court (typically, the office of attorney admissions) and that office will review your character and fitness. The review of your character and fitness typically will include a review of your law school application to make sure that you were honest on your application.
And now for the specifics of our application question #7. If you are confused about any of the questions, your first step should be to go back to your application and carefully re-read the applicable section. If that doesn't answer your question, below are the answers to several frequently asked questions.
In our questions we ask for information on any offense against the law, including any crime, misdemeanor, petty offense, ordinance violation, warning, alcohol or drug-related offense, traffic violation within the past five years (excluding parking tickets), traffic violation involving drugs or alcohol at any time, or other violation of any law, statute, or regulation that you ever have been under investigation for, taken into custody and questioned about, accused formally or informally of, charged with, arrested for, cited for, convicted of, or pled guilty or no contest to.
We also ask for information regarding incidents from any of your academic institutions, including warnings, disciplinary actions, probations, suspensions, requests from the school for you to resign or take time off, expulsions, honor or student conduct code violations, or violations of residential or dorm policies such as those related to alcohol or controlled substances.
No, unless they involved drugs or alcohol.
We ask you to provide a full explanation that includes particulars such as:
- Facts regarding what happened,
- Disposition (what happened with the case), and
- Any penalties, sanctions, or fines imposed.
You can request your driving record, student academic or disciplinary record, or criminal history through the appropriate authorities. If no records exist, please tell us as much as you can about the incident. E.g., “In spring of 2011, I remember receiving a warning from an R.A. in my dorm regarding underage alcohol possession in my room. I was not able to find any university records confirming the warning or the exact date of the warning.”
Tell us as much as you remember. If you need to estimate the date, exact charge, location, fine imposed, etc., please do so to the best of your ability, and let us know you’re not 100% sure of certain details. E.g., “Sometime in late 2014, I received a speeding ticket for going about 15 miles above the limit in Reno, Nevada. I paid a fine of approximately $150. The Nevada DMV did not have any record of the ticket.”
You do not need to disclose any of the following on your application to our school:
- Any incident that culminated in a record being sealed or expunged by the court; or
- Any traffic violation that did NOT involve alcohol or controlled substances AND took place more than five years prior to the date of the application.
You must still disclose the incidents.
The question asks about what has happened, not whether it is on your record or was dismissed, so you should still disclose.
You must still disclose the incidents.
That is common advice from prelaw advisors. Our perspective is based on our work with the Colorado Supreme Court authorities on admission to practice law; providing detail now will save you stress and time later because honesty and candor are important qualities required of lawyers. Being admitted to law school knowing that you have not disclosed a mistake puts you in an uncomfortable position of worrying that you will be found out. The stakes for failing to disclose something continue to get higher and disclosure on the application allows applicants to avoid this unpleasantness.
As the saying goes, you cannot change the past. However, telling the truth about the past, learning from your mistakes, and taking steps to ensure that you do not repeat those mistakes are behaviors demonstrated by the best lawyers.