California Moral Character Application Process: What Happens If an Applicant Is Flagged?

Feb 5, 2019 | Blog, Moral Character Application

It’s that time of year again for law students: time to complete their California moral character application. Generally, the California moral character application process takes around six months. That means most law students will complete the process around the time that July bar exam results are released. Yet, if an applicant is flagged, the process can be much different and take much longer. If you’re a law student with possible issues, you should begin your moral character application early so that you can get through the process.

Why Would a Law Student Get Flagged for Further Review?

There are some things that may cause the review committee to flag a law student’s California moral character application. Disclosure of arrests and even past mental health treatment can delay the approval process. Failing to disclose certain things can also pose an issue. Students may not even finish the approval process in time to participate in the December swearing-in ceremony.

Law students with a past of any kind often find themselves feeling overwhelmed, fearful, and disheartened. Frankly, it feels like all of the time spent in law school was for naught. The good news is that law students can get assistance with the application process to make it easier.

California Moral Character Application Process for Flagged Applicants

If your application is flagged for review, it will take longer than the usual six months to get through the process. This is why we recommend that 2Ls who think they may have issues begin the process early (and get help to properly complete your application).

First, the review committee sends out an official letter that informs you that they need to look more into your application. If you’ve waited until February of your last year to start the California moral character application, you will not get admitted in December. This letter will also ask you for more information.

Next, you’ll provide a written response. If the review committee is not satisfied with your response, you’re given an “invitation” to an “informal conference.” This is not an invitation that you can decline, by the way, if you want to become a practicing lawyer. This informal conference is not exactly informal, either. While we certainly appreciate the committee’s intention of ensuring that California lawyers are moral and upstanding individuals, the informal conference is a seriously stressful and monumentally difficult experience. In their letter to you, you’ll be given a full list of reasons why you’re required to appear.

To continue to reinforce the fact that this isn’t exactly as “informal” as the name may lead you to believe, this meeting is on the record…and recorded. Oh, and they call it a hearing. You’ll be extensively questioned. If your answers don’t satisfy the committee, you’ll get a letter telling you that they “determined that you have not met your burden of establishing good moral character.” You’ll also receive details on how you may appeal that decision.

The appeals process is long and it’s expensive. However, it may be in your best interest to go through the process. You’ll need to pay the filing fee and for a lawyer to help you get through the process. The appeals process may take at least six months. After the hearing, you may not hear anything for another three months. However, if the appeal is in your favor, the bar can then appeal. As you can imagine, it can become quite a long, drawn out process.

Zavieh Law Helps Law Students Pass the California Moral Character Application the First Time

We want to help law students pass the moral character application the first time. Doing so requires that the application itself is properly completed. Here are our three tips:

  • Be honest. It’s much easier to overcome negative information you willfully provide to the review committee than it is to deal with the review committee who finds out you didn’t tell the truth.
  • Be thorough and complete. It’s better to include information that likely won’t be relevant than it is to accidentally leave out something important.
  • Be diligent. All of the information you provide to the bar should be accurate…even the tiny details. Small mistakes, even if they weren’t intentional, can make you look dishonest.

Finally, get help with your application before you turn it in. It’s much easier to address problems at the beginning than go through the review and appeals process. Zavieh Law can help you develop a well-crafted narrative and documentation to help you successfully complete the process. This can save you a lot of time, money, and unnecessary stress.