As an attorney, you will represent clients and owe those clients a fiduciary duty. You will also be an officer of the court. The goal of a character and fitness determination is “to assure the protection of the public and safeguard the justice system.”[i] To do that, the Board of Bar Examiners in each jurisdiction determines an applicant’s character and fitness through an investigation.

Each jurisdiction will define “character and fitness” for itself. A typical definition is that an applicant must possess the “traits, including honesty, trustworthiness, diligence and reliability that are relevant to and have a rational connection with the applicant’s present fitness to practice law.”[ii] Boards of bar examiners are concerned the most with an applicant’s criminal record, untreated mental illness and substance abuse, lack of candor, and irresponsibility.[iii] Each board will have its own guidelines on each of these concerns.

Kansas Character and Fitness—Kansas Supreme Court Rule 707

 Missouri Character and Fitness—Mo. Rule Governing Admission to the Bar in Missouri 8.11  

[i] Mont. R. Pro. on Comm’n on Character and Fitness (available at http://www.montanabar.org/display/common.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=6).

[ii] Minn. R. for Admission to the Bar 2A(6).

[iii] Lori E. Shaw, What Does it Take to Satisfy Character & Fitness Requirements?, 37 Student Lawyer, October 2008 (available at http://apps.Americanbar.org/abapubs/lrd/pdfs/what does take.pdf).