I am in my final semester of law school. And you know what that means… FREEDOM!!! Well… not quite yet. Successfully passing the bar exam and going through the bar application process comes first. I am currently in the midst of this process. Since I am in my last semester and have a lot on my plate, my life is very, very busy. And although I want to believe I have a lot of time left before the bar exam, the reality is that it will be here before I know it!! So I am trying to stay on top of everything, including my bar application. So here are my reflections on my bar application process so you can also anticipate what is to come!
The bar application is a very important (but daunting) task that law students must complete to be eligible to be admitted into the bar. Each jurisdiction chooses the specifics of the bar application process and documents they require. Generally, in your bar application you provide all of your contact information, complete an application to sit for the bar exam, and submit a very long and detailed affidavit of personal history. Once you complete this information, your application goes to the character and fitness department of the state you are applying to for admission. This department evaluates your fitness to practice law and may require additional documentation or have follow-up questions about the information you submitted.
Application To Sit and Affidavit of Personal History
I am currently applying for admission in Michigan. In order to start the character and fitness process and sign-up for the July bar exam, I had to submit an application to sit and an affidavit of personal history. In this, I had to list my contact information, my residence and employment history, and a good amount of personal information. Fortunately, I have only lived in one state, and I am relatively young, so compared to some of my classmates, I did not have a lot of information to submit. However, gathering all of the information, completing the application, and reviewing everything to make sure it was correct took a significant amount of time. It didn’t help that I was extremely anxious that I would forget something or put the wrong information down by accident so I went over my application about ten times.
Fingerprints and Third Party Documents
After submitting your application, you are required to submit certain “third party documents” to the Michigan character and fitness department. You must submit certified driving and criminal records from every state and country you have lived in, send a notarized and signed waiver release, submit reference letters, and send two law school certifications (one specifically addressing your character and one specifically confirming graduation). Within two weeks of submitting my application, I needed to submit a waiver release form, signed and notarized. For my criminal records, I got fingerprinted and submitted my documents to the character and fitness department. I also had to go to the secretary of state department and get my certified driving records. Finally, I submitted the two law school certifications to the registrar. Although this process also took some time (and several appointments…) it feels good to have all of these tasks completed, especially since I finished them extremely early!!
In Michigan, you need to have five personal references who have known you on a continuous basis for a period of five years or longer. The references also cannot be related to you by blood or marriage. I am fortunate since I have many people who know me and could vouch for my good character. However, I was a little taken aback by the years requirement. My fiance, who knows me best next to my parents, cannot even be a reference because we have known each other for going on four years. Fortunately, I have enough references who meet those qualifications but I can understand why this may be difficult for other applicants. My reference letters are actually the last thing I need to submit to character and fitness. I have received two of the letters and am just waiting on the other three, so I am in a good place in my application process. However, I would like to get this done as soon as possible so I can stop stressing and check this off of my to-do list.
Next Stop: Bar Prep and Exam!
With my bar application completed and the majority of my third party documents submitted, I feel relieved. I am making an effort to stay on top of things, even though I am feeling burnt out. However, there still is lingering anxiety and stress since I still have my reference letters left to submit, and I want to make sure I pass character and fitness. Although I still feel stressed, I am looking forward to the next steps in my career. I hope to start my bar prep as soon as it opens and my focus has completely shifted to the finishing out the semester and getting geared up for the bar exam! If you are in the process of working on your bar application or even just thinking ahead, just remember that although the bar application process may seem tedious and stressful, it is an important task for you to complete. Make sure you get your information correct and be as forthcoming as you reasonably can be. You can successfully make it through your bar application and take the next steps towards admission to the bar!