What Type of Law
One more consideration: what type of law do you wish to practice? There are all types of fields to consider, from bankruptcy, estate planning, personal injury, family law, corporate law, criminal law, immigration law, tax law, litigation law…the list goes on.
Certain areas of law may be harder to pursue for felons with certain convictions. For instance, you were convicted for fraud but want to practice financial law? Maybe not the best idea. But family law could be more open to you. Again, there’s a wide range of options, so if one door is closed, the others may be open for you.
If the board decides to let you proceed, you’ll take the bar exam. Otherwise, they could either reject your application outright or possibly ‘delay’ it pending further proof of your character. In other words, they’ll let you know you’ve basically not done a good enough job to convince them, but keep trying! It’s their way of saying ‘maybe.’
Five Year Waiting Period
Some states require a five year waiting period from the time of the sentence ending. Other states may be prejudice against persons who are in financial need because it could indicate they might be open to accepting bribes, etc.
But one nearly universal criteria that all applicants must pass it the ability to show they have no ‘moral turpitude,’ or in other words any tendency to display ‘behavior that gravely violates the sentiment or accepted standard of the community,’ such as lying or cheating.
This might seem humorous to some, when we consider that lawyers are often portrayed as liars themselves, frankly. But the field of law is one of extreme technicality. A lawyer is not permitted to ever lie in court, but they must do their job to represent their client as best as they can, and in some cases this means getting that client off on a legal technicality. They cannot lie, but they also cannot come out and say to a jury that they believe their client is guilty, even if they believe that to be the case.
Importance of Moral Turpitude
So a felon, as with any applicant, is held to a high moral standard during the screening process. A crime involving moral turpitude could mean a ‘do not pass GO.’ Each case is different, and as the ABA itself has stated, ‘The fact of a conviction, we have argued, is a matter to be taken into account,’ but, ‘A person’s conviction may be, but is not necessarily, related to the ability to engage in a particular trade or occupation.’ In other words, they will certainly look at the conviction itself to see how it may or not not affect the felon’s ability to perform the job appropriately.
The Bar Exam
If you are cleared to take the 2-3 day bar exam, register for the exam dates, study hard, and do your best to pass! It won’t be easy. Many testers opt to sign up for a two month long preparation course, which isn’t required, but can be very helpful if the person has the time and money.
The bar exam consists two parts: the 200 question Multistate Bar Examination, or the MBE, and the state specific part, meaning they want to see your understanding of state law. This is often done via essay.
There may also be a Multistate Performance Test, or the MPT, sort of a mock situation in which a lawyer applicant can be tested in a live simulation. Not all jurisdictions require this, though.