Character & Fitness Overview
The Character and Fitness screening is performed to assure the protection of the public and safeguard the system of justice. It is expected that an attorney should be one whose record of conduct justifies the trust of clients, adversaries, courts and others with respect to the professional duties owed them. The revelation or discovery of any of the following may be treated as cause for further inquiry in determining whether or not the applicant possesses the character and fitness to practice law:
- Commission or conviction of a crime: misdemeanors and felonies - All applicants with felony convictions are required to appear for a hearing before the Character and Fitness Committee. If licensure is recommended, a subsequent review by the Board of Bar Examiners (which may include a hearing before the Board) is required before the applicant can be licensed.
- A pattern of traffic violations - this includes all traffic charges, regardless of disposition, with special attention to recent charges. Make certain the charge as well as the disposition are included for each incident.
- Neglect of financial obligations - You should review your credit report before submission for any negative reports, including charged off amounts, collection accounts, etc. Providing an explanation and documentation of exactly how you have addressed any delinquency to resolve it is extremely helpful and will expedite the investigation. Charged off monies do not absolve you of the financial responsibility. A scrupulous review of the history and current status of all student loans should be performed and reported in full in the appropriate area on the Questionnaire. Any negative information should be addressed as previously stated.
- Violation of the honor code or any misconduct requiring a review by the school or any of its boards, including law school, college or university - Any violation of the law school honor code resulting in a suspension or expulsion requires a hearing before the Character and Fitness Committee. If the Committee recomends licensure, a subsequent review by the Board (which may include a hearing before the Board) is required before the applicant can be licensed. All incidents should be reported on the questionnaire, and you should include any letters of reprimand, sanction, or dismissal with the Questionnaire.
- Substance Abuse - Criminal and/or traffic charges that involve alcohol or controlled substances should be reported fully and completely. A current assessment may be required and will be performed at your expense. If required, you will be provided a list of approved professionals to perform the assessment. A statement of your current status regarding use of alcohol or controlled substances is helpful.
- Any act(s) involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.
- Misconduct in employment and/or termination for cause, including a request for your resignation.
- Failure to disclose full and complete information as instructed on the Questionnaire.
- Failure to promptly and fully cooperate with the Board of Bar Examiners, and any agent thereof, when requested.
- The character and fitness portion of your application is ongoing and continuous until you are licensed. Remember that it is your obligation to notify the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners, in writing, of any information that changes or is in addition to any response on the Questionnaire.
This is not intended to be a complete list, but instead a general guideline to assist you in completing the Character & Fitness Questionnaire. Questions can be addressed to the Board of Bar Examiners office, in writing.
You should refer to Section III:C of the Character and Fitness Requirements of the Rules for the factors that will be used in determining the character and fitness of the applicant, and the weight and significance of the conduct.