If you are an applicant for admission to practice law in Washington, you should take steps to ease the character and fitness review process. The consequences if you fail to do so can be severe: from delay in admission to denial of permission to take a bar exam to denial of admission to practice.
The following tips are intended to help:
1. Apply early in the admissions process. The earlier you apply, the earlier the character and fitness review can begin. You will not be permitted to sit for the bar exam until the review and any required follow-up character and fitness investigation (and hearing, if necessary) is complete.
2. Read the application questions carefully. Questions about your criminal history, for example, request information not only about convictions and adult offenses but also about arrests and juvenile offenses.
3. Answer application questions completely and accurately. Err on the side of providing too much information, rather than too little.
4. Do not minimize. If you shoplifted, say that you shoplifted.
5. Accept responsibility for your actions where appropriate. Providing context for your actions may also be helpful.
6. Submit documents. Include with your application any documents requested or necessary to make the extent and nature of the matter at issue clear. If you were a party to a civil matter, for example, submit the docket sheet, complaint, final order, and other documents, if necessary.
7. Supplement your application. You have an ongoing duty to supplement your application if the information responsive to the questions changes between the date of your application and the date of your admission.
8. Cooperate. Cooperate fully and completely with any Bar information or investigation request.
9. Be prepared to wait. Applications that present a “substantial question whether the applicant possesses the requisite good moral character and fitness to practice law” are referred to the Character and Fitness Board for a hearing. If you applied for the bar exam, you likely will not be able to sit for the exam for which you applied, even if the Board recommends your admission. No applicant is permitted to sit for the exam or be admitted until the Supreme Court has made a final character and fitness determination.
10. Contact the WSBA at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-727-8209 with any questions. Realize, however, that we are processing hundreds of applications; it will take time to review your application even if it presents no substantial question.