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.
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).