Hi everyone, I’m sorry I’ve been gone so long. Like I said, I’ve been working a ton lately and am just now getting back into the swing of things. Add to that the fact that if I haven’t been in class, at work, or sleeping, I’ve been finishing up applications and yeah, blogging has suffered.
I know many of you are still anxiously waiting for your LSAT score. Don’t worry, they’ll be here soon! Hopefully you heeded my prior advice and have started working on your applications and/or letters of recommendations. If you haven’t done either I STRONGLY encourage you to lock down those letters of recommendation. It takes time for a professor or employer to write one for you, plus this time of year LSAC can (although not always) get backed up and it’ll take a few days to process them once they receive them. Luckily you can almost always work on the applications (unless you like logging into LSAC on Sunday nights, like me, when they have the site down for routine maintenance.)
Tonight I’ll cover the topic of the Character and Fitness portion of the application. Most of you are probably thinking, I don’t have a felony, there’s no need for me to stress this. That’s what I’ve been thinking for the past three years too. I haven’t been suspended or placed on probation, I haven’t killed anyone or gotten a DUI. However, each school is very different when it comes to what they require for Character and Fitness questions on their application. Some schools will be kind enough and simply say if you have been placed on probation, have a felony, etc. disclose this. However, if they leave it vague, and simply say “have you been convicted of a crime” the future lawyer in you should snap to attention. In these situations, where it could be vague, I like to stay safe and e-mail the admissions committee. There job is to answer questions, and this is by far the safest approach. The admissions committee isn’t going to be upset because you were covering your basis. The consequences though, could be dire. Say you have five speeding tickets, but the law school you apply to is vague. You could easily have no problem being accepted, and the law school issues your JD in three years, but when you go to sit for the bar the State Bar Association pulls your law school application. At this point, it doesn’t matter what the law school thought was relevant. If the State Bar Association considers it a conviction worth noting and you didn’t disclose it, it can cause trouble when you’re trying to be deemed fit to sit (it rhymed, what can I say?).
Perhaps the more frustrating thing is when you do have to report what seems minor affairs. I have two speeding tickets, six years apart from one another, both deemed “misdemeanors”. Some schools will say to discuss everything except minor traffic incidents. Again, that would be a case to e-mail. Others will be specific and are my favorite, when they say everything except parking and speeding tickets. Yet others will only say parking tickets, or to disclose ALL charges/convictions. These are the fun ones. As far as I’m aware, it’s easy enough to get a copy of your driving record in whichever state you’re in. I know in North Carolina the process is easy and you can download it for a small fee from the DMV. I went ahead and did this, and for any schools that want me to disclose my speeding tickets I simply upload a copy of my driving record and a two paragraph explanation of what happened. In these explanations, be it for speeding tickets or something more serious, try to stay away from commentary. It’s good lawyerly practice to simply state the facts of the incident, i.e., I was driving 8 mph over the speed limit when said state trooper pulled me over. The more clearly factual you make the incident the less room there is for an admissions committee to question how you handled the incident. Most committees aren’t going to care, it’s simply the fact that you’ve done your due diligence and disclosed the matter.
Now get to writing those character and fitness reports, those of you who are unfortunate like me and have had some form of incident. As I said before, as long as you’re not a habitual offender or a convicted murderer you should be fine. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Disclose it, don’t make a big deal of it and the committee won’t either. Next post I’ll try to focus on a more “fun” aspect of your application!