Character & Fitness Requirements

  1. No person shall be licensed to practice law in Virginia by the Board unless such person first produces evidence satisfactory to the Board that the applicant is a person of honest demeanor and good moral character and possesses the requisite fitness to perform the obligations and responsibilities of a practicing attorney. The applicant has the burden to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the applicant possesses these qualifications. If an applicant fails to answer any question on the Character and Fitness Questionnaire or which is otherwise propounded by the Board, or to supply any requested information or documents, the Board may find that the applicant has not met the burden of proving good moral character and fitness.
  2. The primary purpose of character and fitness screening before admission to the Virginia Bar is to assure the protection of the public and safeguard the system of justice. 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 to them. A record manifesting a significant deficiency in the honesty, trustworthiness, diligence, or reliability of an applicant may constitute a basis for denial of admission. The revelation or discovery of any of the following may be treated as cause for further inquiry before the Board decides whether the applicant possesses the character and fitness to practice law:
    1. commission or conviction of a crime;
    2. violation of the honor code of the applicant's college or university, law school, or other academic misconduct;
    3. making of false statements or omissions, including failing to provide complete and accurate information concerning the applicant's past;
    4. misconduct in employment;
    5. other than an honorable discharge from any branch of the armed services;
    6. acts involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation;
    7. abuse of legal process;
    8. neglect of financial responsibilities;
    9. neglect of professional obligations;
    10. violation of an order of a court;
    11. denial of admission to the bar in another jurisdiction on character and fitness grounds;
    12. disciplinary action by a lawyer disciplinary agency or other professional disciplinary agency of any jurisdiction, including pending, unresolved disciplinary complaints against the applicant;
    13. commission of an act constituting the unauthorized practice of law, or unresolved complaints involving allegations of the unauthorized practice of law;
    14. failure to respond promptly to requests from the Board or the Character and Fitness Committee, or any other failure to cooperate with the Board or the Committee; and
    15. any other conduct that reflects adversely upon the character or fitness of an applicant.
  3. The Board shall determine whether the present character and fitness of an applicant shall qualify the applicant for admission to the practice of law. In making this determination, the following factors will be considered in assigning weight and significance to the applicant's prior conduct:
    1. age of the applicant at the time of the conduct;
    2. recency of the conduct;
    3. reliability of the information concerning the conduct;
    4. seriousness of the conduct;
    5. factors underlying the conduct;
    6. cumulative effect of the conduct or information;
    7. evidence of rehabilitation;
    8. positive social contributions of the applicant since the conduct;
    9. candor of the applicant in the admissions process; and
    10. materiality of any omissions or misrepresentations.
  4. Any applicant who affirmatively asserts rehabilitation from prior conduct which bears adversely upon such applicant’s character and fitness for admission to the Bar shall be required to produce clear and convincing evidence to the satisfaction of the Board of such rehabilitation. That evidence shall include, at a minimum:
    1. the applicant’s strict compliance with specific conditions imposed by the Board or the Committee on Character and Fitness, as well as any disciplinary, judicial, administrative or other order, where applicable;
    2. the applicant’s unimpeachable character and moral standing in the community, including affirmative recommendations from people aware of the applicant’s misconduct who specifically consider the individual’s fitness in light of that behavior;
    3. the applicant’s good reputation for professional ability, where applicable;
    4. the applicant’s lack of malice and ill feeling toward those who by duty were compelled to bring about the disciplinary, judicial, administrative or other proceeding, and to any victim thereof;
    5. the applicant’s personal assurance, supported by corroborating evidence, of an intention to engage in exemplary behavior in the future;
    6. the applicant’s restitution of funds or property, where applicable; and
    7. the applicant’s sustained and substantial behavior in the applicant’s occupation, religion, or community or civic service demonstrating rehabilitation, including documentation verifying time spent performing such volunteer service. Merely showing that the applicant is currently living as and doing those things he or she should have done throughout life, although necessary to prove rehabilitation, does not prove that the applicant has been rehabilitated and has undertaken a useful and constructive place in society.
  5. In evaluating whether an applicant is eligible for admission to practice law in Virginia, the Board considers whether the following essential eligibility requirements have been met by clear and convincing evidence, based upon the information supplied by the applicant character and fitness investigation:
    1. knowledge of the fundamental principles of law and the ability to recall that knowledge, to reason, to analyze, and to apply one's knowledge to relevant facts;
    2. the ability to communicate clearly, candidly and civilly with clients, attorneys, courts, and others; the ability to exercise good judgment in conducting one's professional business;
    3. the ability to conduct oneself with a high degree of honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness in all professional relationships and with respect to all legal obligations;
    4. the ability to conduct oneself with respect for and in accordance with the law and the Rules of Professional Conduct; the ability to avoid acts that exhibit disregard for the health, safety and welfare of others;
    5. the ability to conduct oneself diligently and reliably in fulfilling all obligations to clients, attorneys, courts, and others;
    6. the ability to avoid acts that exhibit disregard for the health, safety and welfare of others;
    7. the ability to conduct oneself diligently and reliably in fulfilling all obligations to clients, attorneys, courts, and others;
    8. the ability to use honesty and good judgment in financial dealings on behalf of oneself, clients, and others;
    9. the ability to comply with deadlines and time constraints; and
    10. the ability to conduct oneself professionally and in a manner that engenders respect for the law and the profession.
  6. Every applicant must file with the Board a completed Character and Fitness Questionnaire and pay the required fee. The character and fitness fee shall be set by the Board. The current fee schedule is available at