Character and Fitness Issue for Bar Exam.

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public_defender
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Character and Fitness Issue for Bar Exam.

Postby public_defender » Tue Sep 13, 2011 11:23 pm

On my law school application there were no questions about current treatment for substance abuse issues; however, I know I will have to disclose to the bar, even though some states do not require disclosure of medical records, or a signature authorizing them to search your medical records. Basically, lying isn't an option because I am proud of what I have achieved despite my "situation."

Anyway, I know us law school folks have a sharp, often stinging sense of humor, and my situation carries a lot of stigma. So please try to be understanding and help me, because I want to help other people in situations similar to mine by being a public defender.

My problem is that I became addicted to prescription pain-killers about 5 years ago. During my last year of undergrad it got so bad I had to seek treatment in a methadone treatment facility. After I began my treatment, I finished my undergrad, and applied to law school, and have completed 30 credit hours so far. I still am receiving treatment at a methadone clinic I transferred to in the state where I attend law school. I don't know if I should continue investing more time and money if I won't even be able to practice, though. I am a normal, sober, functioning and productive member of society as evinced by my status as a 2L law school student.

NOTE: Im going to complete a two-year contract with the lawyers and judges assistance program, as well as do volunteer work for two local practitioners in my home town, and do as much volunteer work at homeless shelters, etc. as possible. SHOULD I THROW THE TOWEL IN? Cut my losses with student debt now, or risk being in A LOT more debt but with a useless JD?

public_defender
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Re: Character and Fitness Issue for Bar Exam.

Postby public_defender » Wed Sep 14, 2011 12:11 am

Sorry if this isn't exactly the correct place to post this question; I'm just panicking and trying to get any feedback possible.

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Tiago Splitter
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Re: Character and Fitness Issue for Bar Exam.

Postby Tiago Splitter » Wed Sep 14, 2011 12:18 am

Call the state bar and see what they say. No one here will be much help.

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Jack Smirks
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Re: Character and Fitness Issue for Bar Exam.

Postby Jack Smirks » Wed Sep 14, 2011 12:37 am

Why are you asking this question after 1L instead of before applying?

Also, as long as you disclosed everything the law school application asked for you should be ok. If you didn't have any criminal charges/convictions to disclose there was no reason for you to disclose your time in rehab. As you can see here (LinkRemoved) (pg 18-19)most states don't even outright disqualify you even if you have a felony on your record. Tiago is right though you should contact the state bar ASAP as some states have a law student registration program and a preliminary determination of your eligibility can be made.

public_defender
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Re: Character and Fitness Issue for Bar Exam.

Postby public_defender » Wed Sep 14, 2011 1:39 am

I guess I should have. . . But I just didn't think it would come up on the character and fitness exam.

I didn't realize it would be such an extensive process; I didn't know medications I was/still am taking would matter as long as it didn't affect my ability to practice.

I am going to call the state bar where I plan on practicing - but I know they will just say "there is no per se disqualification", and when your time comes, we will review and investigate your application accordingly.

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mrtoren
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Re: Character and Fitness Issue for Bar Exam.

Postby mrtoren » Wed Sep 14, 2011 9:26 am

public_defender wrote:I guess I should have. . . But I just didn't think it would come up on the character and fitness exam.

I didn't realize it would be such an extensive process; I didn't know medications I was/still am taking would matter as long as it didn't affect my ability to practice.

I am going to call the state bar where I plan on practicing - but I know they will just say "there is no per se disqualification", and when your time comes, we will review and investigate your application accordingly.

So you have options: 1) take a leap of faith, trust that you will be able to explain yourself to the bar, and that they will listen or 2) take off, cut your losses, and ditch this shaky profession. Red pill or blue pill. No one should zealously convince you to take one route over the other because neither is safe. Its the world we live in. Some people go big and get burned, others lead more conservative lifestyles and never get anywhere. It depends on who you are.

bp shinners
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Re: Character and Fitness Issue for Bar Exam.

Postby bp shinners » Wed Sep 14, 2011 1:40 pm

public_defender wrote:I am going to call the state bar where I plan on practicing - but I know they will just say "there is no per se disqualification", and when your time comes, we will review and investigate your application accordingly.


There are people out there who specialize in the C&F process for the state bars. While the bar itself might give you a boilerplate answer, you should be able to find someone who will give you an answer based on experience. The TLS forums, however, aren't one of those specialists.

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reasonable_man
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Re: Character and Fitness Issue for Bar Exam.

Postby reasonable_man » Wed Sep 14, 2011 2:17 pm

public_defender wrote:I guess I should have. . . But I just didn't think it would come up on the character and fitness exam.

I didn't realize it would be such an extensive process; I didn't know medications I was/still am taking would matter as long as it didn't affect my ability to practice.

I am going to call the state bar where I plan on practicing - but I know they will just say "there is no per se disqualification", and when your time comes, we will review and investigate your application accordingly.


You 100% should have disclosed this on the bar application in my opinion. That said, the State Bar is not going to be of much help to you. What you really need is a lawyer in the state in which you intend to seek admission to the bar. Specifically, you need an attorney that deals directly with Attorney discipline. You need a lawyer's lawyer basically. Beyond that, there is little help that anyone here can provide you.

public_defender
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Re: Character and Fitness Issue for Bar Exam.

Postby public_defender » Wed Sep 14, 2011 2:55 pm

previous poster - I HAVE NOT applied for the character and fitness exam yet; I am still only 30 credit hours deep towards my JD.

i was not asked to disclose such information on my law school application, so there is no issue with candor.

im just worried about WHEN I DO apply for the character and fitness exam, and what will happen when i reveal that i am receiving methadone as part of my treatment for opioid dependency. hopefully, i will have successfully completed a two year lawyers and judges assistance program while receiving my treatment, so i will have documentation showing that i took all the proactive steps towards recognizing my problem (even though i have been receiving treatment, and am a perfectly stable, sober individual capable of practicing law).

i just think that false, negative perceptions and stigma will overcome ANYTHING I do in the next two years to prove that me taking methadone will not have an adverse affect on my ability to practice law.

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reasonable_man
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Re: Character and Fitness Issue for Bar Exam.

Postby reasonable_man » Wed Sep 14, 2011 3:17 pm

public_defender wrote:previous poster - I HAVE NOT applied for the character and fitness exam yet; I am still only 30 credit hours deep towards my JD.

i was not asked to disclose such information on my law school application, so there is no issue with candor.

im just worried about WHEN I DO apply for the character and fitness exam, and what will happen when i reveal that i am receiving methadone as part of my treatment for opioid dependency. hopefully, i will have successfully completed a two year lawyers and judges assistance program while receiving my treatment, so i will have documentation showing that i took all the proactive steps towards recognizing my problem (even though i have been receiving treatment, and am a perfectly stable, sober individual capable of practicing law).

i just think that false, negative perceptions and stigma will overcome ANYTHING I do in the next two years to prove that me taking methadone will not have an adverse affect on my ability to practice law.



I thought I was clear.. but possibly not. You should seek the assistance of an attorney right now to advise you. For instance, that attorney can tell you what, if any, additional programs you should enroll in, whether it would be worth it to amend your law school application (some schools will let you do this), etc. There is also no reason the lawyer cannot review your materials before they are submitted to make sure that you have presented yourself correctly and when the time comes, you will already have someone at your disposal for this purpose. Lawyer up now and start facing this head on.

nelaw2010
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Re: Character and Fitness Issue for Bar Exam.

Postby nelaw2010 » Wed Sep 14, 2011 3:45 pm

Based on what you posted, you should be fine. What the C&F wants to see is:

1) what was the problem
2) was there any moral turpitude (aside from the dependency, did anything happen while you were taking pills?)
3) What have you done since admitting you have a problem?
4) Do you have therapists or other experts willing to write a statement on your behalf?

Remember, the C&F Committee has to be confident that your past addiction will not result in any behavior that will be detrimental to your clients.

Furthermore, drug/alcohol dependency is common for practicing attorneys (it is after all a high stress environment). Attorneys who are disbarred for reasons relating to drug/alcohol dependency are generally readmitted after showing sufficient rehabilitation. However, it also depends what they did that got them disbarred. Did they punch a client and steal the clients money, then used the defense that they were on drugs at the time?

Based on your post, it looks like you became addicted to drugs. You realized you had a problem, and you sought help. What else could you have done? Did you hurt/kill anyone while on drugs? Did you commit any other act of moral turpitude while on drugs? Or did you simply take drugs?

It sounds to me like you have done/are doing everything a reasonable person in your situation could and should do.

Perhaps the C&F will also want to know that you have you learned what environmental factors led you to become dependent on drugs (stress, financial worries, relationship problems). What coping mechanisms have you learned in rehab that will allow you to better deal with those problems in the future?

Remember, the C&F is primarily concerned that nothing in your past is unresolved and would therefore pose a threat to a future client, i.e., excessive debt that might lead you to steal from a client.

This is not Les Miserables, where you are forever branded by your crime and must spend the remainder of your life running from Inspector Javert (I know it's a cheesy reference, allow me some creative liberties).

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reasonable_man
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Re: Character and Fitness Issue for Bar Exam.

Postby reasonable_man » Wed Sep 14, 2011 4:00 pm

nelaw2010 wrote:Based on what you posted, you should be fine. What the C&F wants to see is:

1) what was the problem
2) was there any moral turpitude (aside from the dependency, did anything happen while you were taking pills?)
3) What have you done since admitting you have a problem?
4) Do you have therapists or other experts willing to write a statement on your behalf?

Remember, the C&F Committee has to be confident that your past addiction will not result in any behavior that will be detrimental to your clients.

Furthermore, drug/alcohol dependency is common for practicing attorneys (it is after all a high stress environment). Attorneys who are disbarred for reasons relating to drug/alcohol dependency are generally readmitted after showing sufficient rehabilitation. However, it also depends what they did that got them disbarred. Did they punch a client and steal the clients money, then used the defense that they were on drugs at the time?

Based on your post, it looks like you became addicted to drugs. You realized you had a problem, and you sought help. What else could you have done? Did you hurt/kill anyone while on drugs? Did you commit any other act of moral turpitude while on drugs? Or did you simply take drugs?

It sounds to me like you have done/are doing everything a reasonable person in your situation could and should do.

Perhaps the C&F will also want to know that you have you learned what environmental factors led you to become dependent on drugs (stress, financial worries, relationship problems). What coping mechanisms have you learned in rehab that will allow you to better deal with those problems in the future?

Remember, the C&F is primarily concerned that nothing in your past is unresolved and would therefore pose a threat to a future client, i.e., excessive debt that might lead you to steal from a client.

This is not Les Miserables, where you are forever branded by your crime and must spend the remainder of your life running from Inspector Javert (I know it's a cheesy reference, allow me some creative liberties).




While most of this is probably true... The correct advice is still this : LAWYER UP. You may be right, but the fact remains that h/she should have an attorney guiding him/her through the process. These aren't parking tickets. This is documented substance absue. He/she needs to do this just right so that admission is not an issue. I believe that Op will eventually be admitted (once the process is rolling), but the fact remains that op needs to speak with a lawyer that practices in this area. I'm a lawyer. If my license was on the line, I'd hire a lawyer to help me protect it. A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client. This old saying has lasted for good reason.

nelaw2010
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Re: Character and Fitness Issue for Bar Exam.

Postby nelaw2010 » Wed Sep 14, 2011 4:04 pm

reasonable_man wrote:
nelaw2010 wrote:Based on what you posted, you should be fine. What the C&F wants to see is:

1) what was the problem
2) was there any moral turpitude (aside from the dependency, did anything happen while you were taking pills?)
3) What have you done since admitting you have a problem?
4) Do you have therapists or other experts willing to write a statement on your behalf?

Remember, the C&F Committee has to be confident that your past addiction will not result in any behavior that will be detrimental to your clients.

Furthermore, drug/alcohol dependency is common for practicing attorneys (it is after all a high stress environment). Attorneys who are disbarred for reasons relating to drug/alcohol dependency are generally readmitted after showing sufficient rehabilitation. However, it also depends what they did that got them disbarred. Did they punch a client and steal the clients money, then used the defense that they were on drugs at the time?

Based on your post, it looks like you became addicted to drugs. You realized you had a problem, and you sought help. What else could you have done? Did you hurt/kill anyone while on drugs? Did you commit any other act of moral turpitude while on drugs? Or did you simply take drugs?

It sounds to me like you have done/are doing everything a reasonable person in your situation could and should do.

Perhaps the C&F will also want to know that you have you learned what environmental factors led you to become dependent on drugs (stress, financial worries, relationship problems). What coping mechanisms have you learned in rehab that will allow you to better deal with those problems in the future?

Remember, the C&F is primarily concerned that nothing in your past is unresolved and would therefore pose a threat to a future client, i.e., excessive debt that might lead you to steal from a client.

This is not Les Miserables, where you are forever branded by your crime and must spend the remainder of your life running from Inspector Javert (I know it's a cheesy reference, allow me some creative liberties).

While most of this is probably true... The correct advice is still this : LAWYER UP.


Agreed. Consult a C&F attorney in your area. A good C&F attorney will help you draft a statement that is forthcoming, non-evasive, and will disclose all relevant information while telling your story in a manner that places you in a favorable light.

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vanwinkle
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Re: Character and Fitness Issue for Bar Exam.

Postby vanwinkle » Wed Sep 14, 2011 4:06 pm

It will be significant and in your favor that you've been taking steps for some time to treat this problem, have remained in treatment, and that it hasn't affected you some time now. Hope is not lost, in my personal, non-professional opinion.

That said, get a lawyer. We're all either 1) law students who don't yet know everything for sure, or 2) lawyers who aren't willing to give legal advice to random people on the Internet. (I'm in category #1, btw.) You need to get this confirmed, and start preparing for C&F, by seeking legal assistance.

You can contact your state bar association for a referral. Don't be too specific at first ("I'm a law student with a potential C&F concern and I'm looking for someone to advise me") and they'll help you out. Or go to your school's dean of students and tell them the same thing. Someone will point you in the right direction.

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reasonable_man
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Re: Character and Fitness Issue for Bar Exam.

Postby reasonable_man » Wed Sep 14, 2011 4:13 pm

vanwinkle wrote:It will be significant and in your favor that you've been taking steps for some time to treat this problem, have remained in treatment, and that it hasn't affected you some time now. Hope is not lost, in my personal, non-professional opinion.

That said, get a lawyer. We're all either 1) law students who don't yet know everything for sure, or 2) lawyers who aren't willing to give legal advice to random people on the Internet. (I'm in category #1, btw.) You need to get this confirmed, and start preparing for C&F, by seeking legal assistance.

You can contact your state bar association for a referral. Don't be too specific at first ("I'm a law student with a potential C&F concern and I'm looking for someone to advise me") and they'll help you out. Or go to your school's dean of students and tell them the same thing. Someone will point you in the right direction.


Sound advice. I'd think the dean or a LS professor that you trust is the best way to go. Chances are, they will know an attorney worth speak with about your issue. Most lawyers do not deal with attorney discipline, so its key that you're working with someone that knows the deal. You are not the first to have this issue and with the correct planning ahead of time, I really believe you can get admitted (which is all the more reason to bite the bullet and get a lawyer now).



Best of luck to you. I helped someone out that had legal trouble arising out of addiction to pain pills. Those things are just as bad as street drugs (maybe worse), and you're certainly not the first to become addicted. The fact that you recognized the problem and are taking all the necessary steps to rectify it speaks well of your character, which is why I say that you should have an attorney on board to make sure that this is obvious to the C&F board. I believe the great philosipher Rocky Balboa mumbled it best:

"The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward."

nelaw2010
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Re: Character and Fitness Issue for Bar Exam.

Postby nelaw2010 » Wed Sep 14, 2011 4:15 pm

reasonable_man wrote:
"The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward."



Rocky, Rocky, Rocky!!!!!!!!! (The Russian's cut!!!! -- Rocky IV reference)

public_defender
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Re: Character and Fitness Issue for Bar Exam.

Postby public_defender » Wed Sep 14, 2011 5:38 pm

wow thank you so much guys. . . i know ultimately i need to consult with an attorney, it's just that my only source of income now is student loans. i should probably just go ahead and tell my mom and im sure she would be willing to help me.

i do think that my entering the lawyers and judges assistance program, and completing their two year monitoring program will be VERY HELPFUL - it will show that I passed random drug screens for two years, and had counseling. LJAP works very closely with the bar, so as far as a counseling/treatment program for good recommendation, i don't think there's a better option.

if the LJAP doesn't see a problem with me being maintained on methadone to deal with withdrawals (while i complete their program), i don't think that me receiving the medication will be a bridge to practicing law; as long as i can show by clear and convincing evidence that it won't affect my ability to practice law.

by the time im ready to apply for the bar, i should have A LOT of things working for me - successful completion of LJAP, doing volunteer work at the local homeless shelter and cafeteria, AND, perhaps MOST IMPORTANTLY, I will be doing volunteer work for two solo practitioners in my hometown whenever i go home on break. that's A LOT of "rehabilitative" factors. . . .

Oh and I never had any charges related to my substance abuse. ive had some misdemeanors here and there - all dismissed and all disclosed - the most recent one will be about 5 years from when i apply for the bar.
Last edited by public_defender on Wed Sep 14, 2011 10:02 pm, edited 2 times in total.

public_defender
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Re: Character and Fitness Issue for Bar Exam.

Postby public_defender » Wed Sep 14, 2011 5:48 pm

damn it's just going to be so embarrassing having to admit i take methadone. . . but still, it's all stigma - if i can show i finished law school, successfully volunteered/worked for TWO respected attorneys, AND completed the lawyers and judges assistance program i just don't see how they can say me taking the medication will inhibit my ability to practice. . . still an uphill battle but i REFUSE to give up on my dreams. . . i want to help others in shitty situations like me SO BADLY. . . i don't care if i make 40-45k a year for my first 5-7 years. . .

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vanwinkle
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Re: Character and Fitness Issue for Bar Exam.

Postby vanwinkle » Thu Sep 15, 2011 10:36 am

public_defender wrote:wow thank you so much guys. . . i know ultimately i need to consult with an attorney, it's just that my only source of income now is student loans. i should probably just go ahead and tell my mom and im sure she would be willing to help me.

Talk to your school or state bar. They may be able to get you pro bono help. Your school should especially be able to help with this; they're aware that you're a law student with 0 income, and it's in their best interest for you to pass the bar, too. Tell them you have a C+F concern and need someone to speak to confidentially, and they'll probably find you someone.

You can find out your options and see about free assistance without disclosing your specific problem, if you're smart about it.

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reasonable_man
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Re: Character and Fitness Issue for Bar Exam.

Postby reasonable_man » Fri Sep 16, 2011 8:36 am


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sarahmargie
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Re: Character and Fitness Issue for Bar Exam.

Postby sarahmargie » Fri Sep 16, 2011 9:07 am

Man, sorry.
Last edited by sarahmargie on Mon Sep 19, 2011 1:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

public_defender
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Re: Character and Fitness Issue for Bar Exam.

Postby public_defender » Fri Sep 16, 2011 3:03 pm

sarah - i am only on 35 mg's right now ( i started at 30 4 years ago - i don't know why there is this myth that people will keep "wanting more and more"?). . . im thinking about getting down to 25-20 and then waiting about 48 hours before going to suboxone. . . then if i choose to come off of suboxone, which has a much easier withdrawal profile, i should be able to do so. also ill then be treated by a private dr. in his office. ill have so much testimony on my side by the time im ready to take the bar; that me receiving suboxone will in NO WAY affect my ability to practice law. I will have hundreds of hours of completely voluntary community service (working with homeless people), and I will have the testimony and support of two solo practitioners which i will be doing work for everytime i am home on semester break. . . .

i just want to be financially stable, and have a good support system. hopefully ill be married by the time im practicing law, so ill have more support. also, ill probably end up doing court-appointed work in my hometown (65 dollars an hour) with some other solo practitioners - so ill be making a good bit more than the 45-50k i would working at a public defender's office. I should be making around 110k a year before taxes and everything. so i should be able to have a nice little account set up for student loan repayments.

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vanwinkle
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Re: Character and Fitness Issue for Bar Exam.

Postby vanwinkle » Sat Sep 17, 2011 11:19 am

sarahmargie wrote:Why don't you just start dropping down on the methadone?

Why don't you stop giving medical advice to people when you don't even know the facts of their case?

Seriously, people shouldn't be giving medical advice on a student forum. Giving it is just about as reckless and stupid as someone actually taking it.

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reasonable_man
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Re: Character and Fitness Issue for Bar Exam.

Postby reasonable_man » Sat Sep 17, 2011 1:29 pm

vanwinkle wrote:
sarahmargie wrote:Why don't you just start dropping down on the methadone?

Why don't you stop giving medical advice to people when you don't even know the facts of their case?

Seriously, people shouldn't be giving medical advice on a student forum. Giving it is just about as reckless and stupid as someone actually taking it.



I think we finally found something worse than people giving legal advice over the internet...

public_defender
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Re: Character and Fitness Issue for Bar Exam.

Postby public_defender » Sun Sep 18, 2011 11:45 am

. . . after i get advanced writing out of the way, im thinking about starting a slow taper. i really should have tried before i came to law school, and like an idiot, I didn't take the time to fully investigate the character and fitness application and qualifications. i was just under the impression that since i was a normal, stable, functioning individual who hasn't had any problems with pain killers in half a decade, i was fine; i was just under the belief that i take my medication like anyone else that requires medication (although of course i brought it on myself), and i carry on about my day. . .

i've been doing some research, and this one guy back in 2005 was admitted to the connecticut state bar after being on methadone for 6 years, and was currently maintaining at a low dose like me; he said he went to an addiction specialist and a psychologist and got statements saying he was perfectly "fit", and that his medication would not adversely effect judgment, etc., etc. . . this guy didn't take any proactive steps like im taking either. HOWEVER, he did say he had "conditions" like drug tests every month for two years. . . but that's understandable - im going to be "the suit" in between a defendant and his life! every state is different so i will still be contacting an attorney and/or somebody who is with the bar committee.

the good thing is, they don't view it as a "character" flaw, so i won't have to have a preceptor for client funds to make sure i don't steal them. . . that would be pretty humiliating and repugnant. . . .




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