Character and Fitness... What if I Don't Pass?

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mtgmike
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Character and Fitness... What if I Don't Pass?

Postby mtgmike » Wed Feb 04, 2009 1:51 am

This post is long and contains sensitive info, but I'm facing a major dilemma.

Much of my life over the past four years has focused out the planning and facilitation of attending a good law school, followed by a career related to a JD.

Two years ago I was arrested on two misdemeanor charges for "obstruction of justice" and "criminal mischief". A temporary restraining order was put in place from the incident.

Both charges were dismissed unconditionally three weeks later and are eligible for expungement. The restraining order was discontinued around that time as well.

Following the incident, I received medical treatment for major depression. I believe my illness played a central role in my arrest.

The incident was isolated and I've never had any other problems. I waited an additional year to apply to law schools so I could get my life back in order. I disclosed the arrests on all my apps and I got into all the schools I wanted to go to.

I figured it was one bad day out of thirty two years of life, the circumstances surrounding the incident were extremely unusual, and I suffered enough from it already.

Now I'm more inclined to panic.

I've been doing a good deal of research on the character and fitness aspect of the bar.

This article in particular raised concerns.

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_q ... ntent;col1

It's very long but it discusses the character and fitness issue, provides examples of cases where people were denied, and discusses the discrepancy between schools willingness to accept students vs the policies of the bar character and fitness.

A number of state bar web sites specifically list history of the obstruction of the administration of law to be significant factor in an persons fitness to practice law. Considering my arrest was for "obstruction of justice", I see this as a big problem.

Emotional and mental stability is also a factor. Even though I'm fine now, clearly I wasn't fine at the time of the incident.

Expunged records are still available to the bar and the bar is not precluded from assuming guilt even when charges are dismissed.

I'm thinking my arrest record and medical records surrounding the incident create a fair shot at being denied the chance to sit for the bar.

On the other hand, since the incident was isolated and solitary, I think I have at least some chance of being allowed to sit for the bar.

I can't count on that. I need to make a plan B, C, and D.

I've asked on this forum what the prospects are of finding a career or gainful employment with a JD but without taking the bar. The responses have been things akin to teacher, waiter, or landscaper for someone that passed the bar.

I'd like to ask once again, are there jobs and a future with a JD from a decent school if I should be denied the opportunity to sit for the bar due to this character and fitness issue?

If I end up taking on the $75k in debt for school, but can't sit for the bar or get a decent job, what will likely come of this? Bankruptcy?

Would I be better off trying to get a full scholarship to a tier3/4 school in case I can't pass the bar. In that case my debt might be more manageable and I could at least pursue a career in academia with the JD.

Even if I could only be a paralegal that has to pay better than pizza delivery and at least I would get medical insurance.

I'd like to take the risk and go for my dream, but at the same time I need to be practical about it.

Any pros and cons about taking the risk or info about people with careers with a JD that haven't sat for the bar would help. What about Corporations? Federal law? Business? Financial planning? Does a JD have any value in these markets without being admitted to the bar?

JPetrella18
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Re: Character and Fitness... What if I Don't Pass?

Postby JPetrella18 » Wed Feb 04, 2009 2:19 am

mtgmike wrote:This post is long and contains sensitive info, but I'm facing a major dilemma.

Much of my life over the past four years has focused out the planning and facilitation of attending a good law school, followed by a career related to a JD.

Two years ago I was arrested on two misdemeanor charges for "obstruction of justice" and "criminal mischief". A temporary restraining order was put in place from the incident.

Both charges were dismissed unconditionally three weeks later and are eligible for expungement. The restraining order was discontinued around that time as well.

Following the incident, I received medical treatment for major depression. I believe my illness played a central role in my arrest.

The incident was isolated and I've never had any other problems. I waited an additional year to apply to law schools so I could get my life back in order. I disclosed the arrests on all my apps and I got into all the schools I wanted to go to.

I figured it was one bad day out of thirty two years of life, the circumstances surrounding the incident were extremely unusual, and I suffered enough from it already.

Now I'm more inclined to panic.

I've been doing a good deal of research on the character and fitness aspect of the bar.

This article in particular raised concerns.

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_q ... ntent;col1

It's very long but it discusses the character and fitness issue, provides examples of cases where people were denied, and discusses the discrepancy between schools willingness to accept students vs the policies of the bar character and fitness.

A number of state bar web sites specifically list history of the obstruction of the administration of law to be significant factor in an persons fitness to practice law. Considering my arrest was for "obstruction of justice", I see this as a big problem.

Emotional and mental stability is also a factor. Even though I'm fine now, clearly I wasn't fine at the time of the incident.

Expunged records are still available to the bar and the bar is not precluded from assuming guilt even when charges are dismissed.

I'm thinking my arrest record and medical records surrounding the incident create a fair shot at being denied the chance to sit for the bar.

On the other hand, since the incident was isolated and solitary, I think I have at least some chance of being allowed to sit for the bar.

I can't count on that. I need to make a plan B, C, and D.

I've asked on this forum what the prospects are of finding a career or gainful employment with a JD but without taking the bar. The responses have been things akin to teacher, waiter, or landscaper for someone that passed the bar.

I'd like to ask once again, are there jobs and a future with a JD from a decent school if I should be denied the opportunity to sit for the bar due to this character and fitness issue?

If I end up taking on the $75k in debt for school, but can't sit for the bar or get a decent job, what will likely come of this? Bankruptcy?

Would I be better off trying to get a full scholarship to a tier3/4 school in case I can't pass the bar. In that case my debt might be more manageable and I could at least pursue a career in academia with the JD.

Even if I could only be a paralegal that has to pay better than pizza delivery and at least I would get medical insurance.

I'd like to take the risk and go for my dream, but at the same time I need to be practical about it.

Any pros and cons about taking the risk or info about people with careers with a JD that haven't sat for the bar would help. What about Corporations? Federal law? Business? Financial planning? Does a JD have any value in these markets without being admitted to the bar?


I'm going to start by stating that in no way do I consider myself an authority on this matter. That said, were I in your situation the first thing I would do is take a step back, breath, and pat myself on the back for dealing with my issues and gaining admission to the schools of my choice. Next, I'd consider how flexible I'd be in regards to where I'd be willing to pursue practice. The more open you are in regards to this, the more likely that you will be able to adjust your plan and avoid becoming a delivery boy IF you should run into a problem down the road.

Because of this, my advice would be to pick a school with a widely regarded reputation (think T14 or at least something like Fordham or W&M over, say, Hofstra) and a decent scholarship/aid offer. I would STRONGLY advise against a T3 even with a full scholarship unless you are 100 percent sure you will not have an issue gaining admission to the respective state's Bar exam. The reputation of a third tier school will generally not serve you as well should you need to relocate in order to gain admission somewhere else.

My expectation is that if you've been transparent about the issues in your applications, you do well in school, avoid and 'relapses' during the coming years, and are able to get good character references when the time comes to apply for admission that you should be more than fine in most states. Congratulations on your acceptances and best of luck in making a decision :-)

aryncita
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Re: Character and Fitness... What if I Don't Pass?

Postby aryncita » Wed Feb 04, 2009 2:24 am

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Last edited by aryncita on Tue Aug 31, 2010 4:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

mtgmike
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Re: Character and Fitness... What if I Don't Pass?

Postby mtgmike » Wed Feb 04, 2009 2:30 am

Well thanks for the encouragement.

The school I want to go to is ranked around 30th, and I don't think it has much in the way of national rep. I'm flexible about employment. I deliver pizza right now but I want to start a lifelong career and build a family. I estimate my debt including living expenses would total around $75,000 dollars.

I would really like to know if there are job prospects with a JD without passing the bar, at the very least this would give me something else to plan or hope for if the glass ends up being half empty.

convicted
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Re: Character and Fitness... What if I Don't Pass?

Postby convicted » Wed Feb 04, 2009 3:18 am

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Last edited by convicted on Mon Jul 05, 2010 5:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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uganik
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Re: Character and Fitness... What if I Don't Pass?

Postby uganik » Wed Feb 04, 2009 3:34 am

You could always be a politician-

Like Blagojevich or Clinton, both of whom have lost or will be losing their right to practice law.


In all seriousness though, you aren't going to all this trouble to not become a lawyer, correct?

I do not think that the State Bar Examiners are inhuman. They are judging human beings, and human beings can at times be quite fallible, and as humans they understand this.

I loved the La Tourette case your link directed me to. What a joke this guy is/was. Based on this characters warped logic, someone could sue Powerscore because of their low LSAT score if they didn't get admitted into Yale.

Ironically my uncle, a Supreme Court Justice, wrote the decision on that case. He endorsed my candidacy to law school, being quite aware of my numerous imperfections, which he termed "in the realm of typical human behavior".

The very fact that you worry is indicative of your good character. I don't think La Tourette ever worried, and that was his problem. He blamed all of his troubles on everyone else, never looking at his own shortcomings. Without that awareness one can never improve, at least in the realm of character.

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Mr. Matlock
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Re: Character and Fitness... What if I Don't Pass?

Postby Mr. Matlock » Wed Feb 04, 2009 4:30 am

I agree 100% with all the advice that's been given here for you. I am also of the opinion (for whatever that's worth) that you will have NO problem gaining admission to any states bar. The only thing I would like to add would be to call the bar of the state you are currently most interested in practicing in. I can't imagine, with the money for school that's on the line, they wouldn't be willing to give you an opinion one way or the other.

Just one more thing, and this isn't for you neccessarily, but for everyone to keep in mind that even if you declare bankruptcy, your school debt stays with you. FOREVER. Good times.

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quidproquo
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Re: Character and Fitness... What if I Don't Pass?

Postby quidproquo » Wed Feb 04, 2009 4:32 am

you'll all pass if you act like something you aren't.

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Mr. Matlock
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Re: Character and Fitness... What if I Don't Pass?

Postby Mr. Matlock » Wed Feb 04, 2009 4:36 am

quidproquo wrote:you'll all pass if you act like something you aren't.

... and so then just being me???

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h_frog_88
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Re: Character and Fitness... What if I Don't Pass?

Postby h_frog_88 » Wed Feb 04, 2009 4:38 am

uganik wrote:Ironically my uncle, a Supreme Court Justice, wrote the decision on that case. He endorsed my candidacy to law school, being quite aware of my numerous imperfections, which he termed "in the realm of typical human behavior".


Seriously?

OP- Call the Bar in the state/states in which you may want to practice and ask them. It's anomymous and you will have a more definitive answer

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Mr. Matlock
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Re: Character and Fitness... What if I Don't Pass?

Postby Mr. Matlock » Wed Feb 04, 2009 4:44 am

h_frog_88 wrote:
uganik wrote:Ironically my uncle, a Supreme Court Justice, wrote the decision on that case. He endorsed my candidacy to law school, being quite aware of my numerous imperfections, which he termed "in the realm of typical human behavior".


Seriously?

OP- Call the Bar in the state/states in which you may want to practice and ask them. It's anomymous and you will have a more definitive answer

:roll: I could have sworn I just gave him that advice... well other than the anonymous part.

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SilverE2
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Re: Character and Fitness... What if I Don't Pass?

Postby SilverE2 » Wed Feb 04, 2009 9:01 am

uganik wrote:You could always be a politician-

Like Blagojevich or Clinton, both of whom have lost or will be losing their right to practice law.


In all seriousness though, you aren't going to all this trouble to not become a lawyer, correct?

I do not think that the State Bar Examiners are inhuman. They are judging human beings, and human beings can at times be quite fallible, and as humans they understand this.

I loved the La Tourette case your link directed me to. What a joke this guy is/was. Based on this characters warped logic, someone could sue Powerscore because of their low LSAT score if they didn't get admitted into Yale.

Ironically my uncle, a Supreme Court Justice, wrote the decision on that case. He endorsed my candidacy to law school, being quite aware of my numerous imperfections, which he termed "in the realm of typical human behavior".

The very fact that you worry is indicative of your good character. I don't think La Tourette ever worried, and that was his problem. He blamed all of his troubles on everyone else, never looking at his own shortcomings. Without that awareness one can never improve, at least in the realm of character.


Clinton (Bill) can still practice law, he was disbarred from the Supreme Court, meaning he can't practice law in the Supreme Court. From what I understand admittance to the Supreme Court bar is largely honorary as most lawyers who are admitted never argue a case there. But he can still practice in Arkansas because there he was just suspended for five years and fined.

convicted
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Re: Character and Fitness... What if I Don't Pass?

Postby convicted » Wed Feb 04, 2009 9:13 am

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Last edited by convicted on Mon Jul 05, 2010 5:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

GuyInGorillaSuit
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Re: Character and Fitness... What if I Don't Pass?

Postby GuyInGorillaSuit » Wed Feb 04, 2009 11:52 am

The State bar ethics hotline will not be of any help to you. They will, indeed, give you neither a yes or a no. Admissions decisions are heavily fact-based, and often influenced by non-attorneys who sit on C&F boards. Every C&F board has a "witch hunt du jour" - in some places, first it was the communists, then it was the civil rights protesters, and every time they are overruled by the courts, they move on to another subgroup. You may wish to read the following case:

Hallinan v. Committee of Bar Examiners , 65 Cal.2d 447

Which is found here: http://login.findlaw.com/scripts/callaw ... 5/447.html

holmesNYC
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Re: Character and Fitness... What if I Don't Pass?

Postby holmesNYC » Wed Feb 04, 2009 12:43 pm

In a very worst case scenario, there have to be business jobs, probably in tax, finance, and entrepreneurial settings, where the specialized knowledge of a JD would be advantageous to your work but the actual practice of law would be unnecessary.

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Mr. Matlock
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Re: Character and Fitness... What if I Don't Pass?

Postby Mr. Matlock » Wed Feb 04, 2009 3:00 pm

convicted wrote:This whole "call the state you want to practice in" line of advice is terrible. Has anybody actually done it or is everybody parroting the advice usually given in these threads?

Well, I have tried it. And you know what happens? The states who examine cases on an individual basis tell you they cannot discuss your case. All they can tell you is: "we discuss cases on an individual basis." What did you expect? What else would they tell you?

I called the District of Columbia. Guess what the answer was? They referred me to a Supreme Court case they recommended I reference. They apologized and said that's absolutely all they could say. No "maybe" and definitely not a "yes" or "no." Just a "reference this case." How helpful.

I never bothered calling the states that automatically disqualify felons. I imagine they may be the only ones to give you a definitive answer.

Please, people, stop parroting this useless advice.


Well, in my defense, it was just an idea I had and am not exactly sure if I was "parroting" this advice. Obviously I hit a nerve here with you and I certainly don't mean to offend. In theory, it sounds like harmless practical advice. However, apparently from your experience, it's worthless. So be it.

However, if you are still outraged, perhaps you could PM Ken with a possible "sticky" idea for the thread which would deal with the Character and Fitness questions.

With that, I bid you a good day!

soccer14
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Re: Character and Fitness... What if I Don't Pass?

Postby soccer14 » Wed Feb 04, 2009 8:17 pm

I started to read that article, but then realized it was 29 pages. But, It also did scare me a little. I dont know how credible the source is but seems like you have to disclose everything. Even things you don't think would matter. Anybody know when that article was written? I have a few drinking charges from when I was under 21, but I was def under the impression if I came clean about them, I would OK with the bar came around.

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MidwestJosh
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Re: Character and Fitness... What if I Don't Pass?

Postby MidwestJosh » Wed Feb 04, 2009 8:20 pm

Wow.

You seriously need to calm down.



Call the bar if you're that nervous, but I think you are going beyond the definition of overreacting

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MidwestJosh
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Re: Character and Fitness... What if I Don't Pass?

Postby MidwestJosh » Wed Feb 04, 2009 8:22 pm

convicted wrote:This whole "call the state you want to practice in" line of advice is terrible. Has anybody actually done it or is everybody parroting the advice usually given in these threads?

Well, I have tried it. And you know what happens? The states who examine cases on an individual basis tell you they cannot discuss your case. All they can tell you is: "we discuss cases on an individual basis." What did you expect? What else would they tell you?

I called the District of Columbia. Guess what the answer was? They referred me to a Supreme Court case they recommended I reference. They apologized and said that's absolutely all they could say. No "maybe" and definitely not a "yes" or "no." Just a "reference this case." How helpful.

I never bothered calling the states that automatically disqualify felons. I imagine they may be the only ones to give you a definitive answer.

Please, people, stop parroting this useless advice.


There's a HUGE difference between a convicted felon and a guy who was arrested and had dismissed charges.

drew
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Re: Character and Fitness... What if I Don't Pass?

Postby drew » Wed Feb 04, 2009 8:22 pm

I've read of a guy going to the bar, explaining his case, and getting a letter from them stating that he would be eligible to practice. (for admissions)

Your question, however, is related to passing the C&F, not admissions, so I would say to that: if you don't pass you're fucked.

mtgmike
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Re: Character and Fitness... What if I Don't Pass?

Postby mtgmike » Thu Feb 05, 2009 2:01 am

drewski803 wrote:I've read of a guy going to the bar, explaining his case, and getting a letter from them stating that he would be eligible to practice. (for admissions)

Your question, however, is related to passing the C&F, not admissions, so I would say to that: if you don't pass you're fucked.


Yeah that is exactly what I'm worried about. I don't know how I would pay off the loans if I don't pass.

I disclosed on my arrest on my application and offered to provide further details. No schools asked for further details.

My other concern lies primarily with the medical issues I was having. I've undergone intense treatment and counseling and I've got it all under control now.

I also had trouble holding down jobs consistently for a while due to medical issues and financial difficulties the past two years.

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gdizz01
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Re: Character and Fitness... What if I Don't Pass?

Postby gdizz01 » Thu Feb 05, 2009 5:06 pm

convicted wrote:This whole "call the state you want to practice in" line of advice is terrible. Has anybody actually done it or is everybody parroting the advice usually given in these threads?

Well, I have tried it. And you know what happens? The states who examine cases on an individual basis tell you they cannot discuss your case. All they can tell you is: "we discuss cases on an individual basis." What did you expect? What else would they tell you?

I called the District of Columbia. Guess what the answer was? They referred me to a Supreme Court case they recommended I reference. They apologized and said that's absolutely all they could say. No "maybe" and definitely not a "yes" or "no." Just a "reference this case." How helpful.

I never bothered calling the states that automatically disqualify felons. I imagine they may be the only ones to give you a definitive answer.

Please, people, stop parroting this useless advice.


this is the case for every bar- kind of sick they refuse to review you before you load piles of debt on yourself
**EDIT: SEE http://law.fordham.edu/rd/documents/adm ... ochure.pdf advisory opinions...this is actually the first time I've seen anything of the sort, but nice to know it's out there**
what are the states that automatically disqualify felons? Never heard that before.
**EDIT again...nothing like doing your own research http://www.abanet.org/legaled/publicati ... chart2.pdf for those who are interested**
Also, if you do real well in law school and act stable, I don't think you should have a problem IMO...specifically, you want to be able to demonstrate that the problems they may be concerned with are conclusively behind you.

TIMLAW4151
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Re: Character and Fitness... What if I Don't Pass?

Postby TIMLAW4151 » Fri Feb 06, 2009 7:41 pm

I don't get the medical condition thing. How can they check your confidential medical records without a court/judge granting it. I mean, medical records are not like criminal records. If I put NO for having ever had emotional/mental issues, how can they possibly get information from my doctor, if I have? How do they even know WHO my doctor is? What would cause a red flag for them to even investigate?

One portion of the character and fitness brochure from Fordham (from above) regarding causes for concern reads: "Conduct evidencing mental or emotional instability." What if you've never had any conduct illustrating emotional instability, yet seek treatment for it. Why should I have to cite evidence for seeking treatment for depression/anxiety for instance?

I just don't even think they would ever be able to find out.

convicted
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Re: Character and Fitness... What if I Don't Pass?

Postby convicted » Fri Feb 06, 2009 8:45 pm

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Last edited by convicted on Mon Jul 05, 2010 5:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Other25BeforeYou
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Re: Character and Fitness... What if I Don't Pass?

Postby Other25BeforeYou » Fri Feb 06, 2009 9:13 pm

TIMLAW4151 wrote:I don't get the medical condition thing. How can they check your confidential medical records without a court/judge granting it. I mean, medical records are not like criminal records. If I put NO for having ever had emotional/mental issues, how can they possibly get information from my doctor, if I have? How do they even know WHO my doctor is? What would cause a red flag for them to even investigate?

One portion of the character and fitness brochure from Fordham (from above) regarding causes for concern reads: "Conduct evidencing mental or emotional instability." What if you've never had any conduct illustrating emotional instability, yet seek treatment for it. Why should I have to cite evidence for seeking treatment for depression/anxiety for instance?

I just don't even think they would ever be able to find out.

It says on the second page of the brochure that you're never asked to disclose treatment. It asks if you are currently having mental health/addiction issues that could adversely affect your ability to practice law.




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