This is honestly something you need to think about before entering law school. I have copied this from another fabulous blog at www.thelawinsder.com, in it's entirety. Shout out to this author. I was going to write something similar myself, but the author did a complete and accurate job.
FROM: Law Student 101: Understanding the Moral Character and Fitness Application
For July bar examinees, application deadlines are fast approaching. Those deadlines include the application for a determination of the examinees’ moral and character fitness
to practice law. Some states require that it be submitted
simultaneously with the exam application, while others, such as
California, allow submission at any time. Though it can be a daunting
form, it is extremely important that applicants take it seriously and
answer every question with complete honesty.
First time bar applicants are usually surprised that the moral
character and fitness process is such an extensive background
screening. Considering that questions, such as employment history, may
require responses going back to the applicant’s 18th
birthday, some of the information may be distant memory. How many of us
remember our supervisor’s name from a part-time job at the GAP freshman
year of college? It is important that applicants read the entire
application before answering any of the questions. The applicant should
gather all of the requested information so that everything is available
for references as the application is completed. Some of the same
information may be called for in different questions.
Complete and Honest Disclosure
You cannot get away with dishonesty on bar applications. Failure to
answer truthfully and fully is a sure way to be denied admission. The
examiners really do check all of the information you provide. This is
why in some states a moral character determination can take up to six
months (a reason you should not delay in submitting the application).
Telling half-truths and omitting information will only raise flags for
investigators and could result in a formal inquiry, during which you
will have to appear before the moral character committee and explain
problems or discrepencies they uncovered. The applications allow for
attachments or addendums, and if there is an issue the applicant feels
will draw concerns, such as delinquent debt or past crimes, he/she
should attach an explanation.
History That May Cause Problems
The author of this blog post is admitted to practice in two states,
both of which have notoriously rigorous moral character standards and
investigations. From colleagues, I have heard a variety of horror
stories, and it seems there is no consistency as to what will invoke a
formal inquiry or rejection. For example, colleagues who left school
with massive credit card debt, sometimes delinquent, had no problem
getting through the process (because they were completely honest and had
an explanation), while another colleague, already admitted in one
state, had to submit to a hearing because of a Chapter 13 bankruptcy,
which was entirely related to medical bills—the debts had even been paid
in full by the time he applied for Florida admission; though he passed
the Florida bar exam on his first attempt, it was almost a year after
before he was granted admission. Nevertheless, there are a few issues
that will definitely cause problems, such as crimes of moral turpitude,
like theft or embezzlement, violent crimes, and academic dishonesty.
There is not a solid definition for “crimes of moral turpitude,” but
rest assured that if the crime involved dishonesty or harm to another
person, it certainly would be included.
Applicants always worry about DUI’s and possession of marijuana, two
of the most commonly committed crimes in the United States. These are
probably not crimes of moral turpitude. They are crimes of poor
decision making. Check with your state bar examiners. Depending on how
recent the crime was committed, it may not be a concern. However, if
the applicant failed to complete the sentence, he/she will have a
difficult time being approved. Again, complete disclosure is necessary–
failture to disclose a DUI for example, is a sure way to delay the
approval process. As for crimes committed during adolescence for which adjudication was withheld or a plea of nolo contendere
was entered, read the question carefully. The question “have you been
convicted of a crime” is very different from “have you ever been charged
with a crime.”
Debt is another area that bar applicants worry about. Again, there
is not a consistent approach among the states, or even within a state.
Bar examiners know that every law student in America leaves school with
substantial student loan debt and, often, significant credit card debt.
The bar committees want to make sure that you are responsible with
debt. Thus, delinquent or “charged off” credit accounts may draw
further questions, but even those can be overcome with an adequate
explanation and a plan to solve the debts. However, take as caution the
case of an Ohio bar applicant.
Recently, the Ohio bar denied admission to a man who had defaulted on
student loans and had $16,000 in delinquent credit cards. The irony, of
course, is that without bar admission, he can’t work as a lawyer, and
without work, he will never be able to clear the debts.
Most states require that applicants continue to supplement
applications for a period of time, usually six months. Don’t neglect
this duty. If you are requested for an inquiry, consider hiring an
attorney with experience in bar disciplinary matters.
Finally, be aware that the cost of the application is far from the
only cost you will incur when completing the application. It may be
necessary to gather official transcripts from colleges, copies of court
records, credit reports, driving license abstracts, MPRE score reports,
etc. These all cost money to obtain. You should also submit the
application via FedEx, UPS, or certified mail so that you will have