Can I Become a Lawyer If I Have Bad Credit or a Bankruptcy?

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Good character, which includes honesty in finances, is required for admission to the bar.
Good character, which includes honesty in finances, is required for admission to the bar. (Image: Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Prospective lawyers must be admitted to the bar in their respective states before they can practice law. In most states, part of that admissions process includes a character or moral fitness screening. The main purpose of the screening is to determine whether the applicant is trustworthy. Rules differ slightly depending upon the state. But in general, neglect of financial obligations or an attempt to defraud creditors could be grounds for denying an application.

Definition of Financial Integrity

While financial integrity is considered important in most states, the definition varies with the state and with the interpretation of members of the state bar's Committee on Character. For example, the California statement on moral character specifically says that indebtedness or bankruptcy alone will not disqualify a potential candidate. However, bankruptcy in which creditors were defrauded, or indebtedness that is handled irresponsibly, may be grounds for disqualification. In Virginia, applicants must provide a statement as to how they are addressing any delinquency, especially student loans. In New Jersey, candidates must certify that they are current in all student loans.

Process

Applicants who have a bankruptcy or serious delinquencies on their credit report will usually have an opportunity to address them with the Committee on Character. The burden of proof to establish good character is on the applicant. Proactively checking the rules in your state, and fixing problems on your credit report before applying, will improve your chances of being seen as responsible.

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