It’s simple to understand why so many people would immediately conclude that a felony conviction will also retain them from becoming lawyers. If you’ve had any trouble in the past, never let a felony conviction make you write off completely, ever being a lawyer. The procedure may not be as complex as you might think.
The simple answer to that is yes! A convicted felon may be licensed to practice law, but not in all states. As of 2015, only 3 states and one territory have strictly prohibited convicted felons from ever becoming lawyers: Kansas, Mississippi, Texas, and the Northern Mariana Islands. This data was gathered from pages 16-17 of the 2015 National Bar Examiner’s Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements 2015.
It’s likely quite safe to assume that all of us have made huge mistakes in our lives and have done stuff that we feel guilty about. Although some of us are convicted felons, many of those in the population have at least some form of criminal record. The point is this: you’re not as lonely as you think you are.
You too can be a lawyer—-Someday.
If you have been prosecuted for a felony conviction, do not refuse to become a lawyer. In fact, the large bulk of jurisdictions in the United States have a somewhat forgiving approach when it comes to criminal history.
If you’ve no intention of ever-modifying your criminal path, becoming a lawyer is not a major goal for you. But if you’d like to stay on the right side of the law, you’re already halfway there anyway. Some jurisdictions need some level of time, whereas others also require proof of redemption. And there’s one thing you should always be cautious of — looking like a liar.
Don’t Be Cute: Be Honest
If there would be any advice which can be offered, it is as follows: DISCLOSE. Don’t try to hide past or perhaps even current character issues. We’re sorry for putting that in bold, but it has to be said. Each state will link you to a moral character review and during that time you would also have to submit information of your past life, including education, address, and, of course, criminal background. Since you’re a convicted felon, you’ve got a rap-sheet in the state you’ve been convicted of and with the FBI.
If you are a convicted felon—-indeed, if you have been convicted of anything other than a routine misdemeanor, the assumption moves from one of presumed great character to one where the applicant must validate that it is of good character. If your state discovers that you’re actively trying to hide something, you’re going to hurt yourself, so you can goodbye your lawyer’s dream. Your refusal will also be on the record, and you’ll have to make your refusal known to the other state if you apply there also.
Disclose, Disclose, Disclose
You’re upset by the past. You think the bar will pass over your file and dismiss it by revealing your past misdeeds. Your first tendency is to reject that you ever have been found guilty of anything. Fight all of this: DISCLOSE all convictions.
Somebody else I know in the legal ethics industry had already made it very clear that dishonesty is almost a veil for any applicant trying to pass on a moral character in his or her jurisdiction. Take it to your heart. You will likely experience a sense of closure as well as cleanliness in revealing your wrongdoings during the procedure of moral character. It’s going to feel like a confessional. Believe it or not, genuine honesty will maximize your risk of success on a moral character.
Law school education
A final note. The general policy of so many law schools is that even the conviction of a felony does not instantly bar admission to that school anymore. There are, of course, many more schools than states, as well as the policies, are far more extensive. The process of application is probably the most challenging one.
One thing is worth mentioning: some states need law school education — and other’s don’t. When you go to law school and eventually pass the bar is the more traditional route way to become a lawyer. You must focus on being accepted to an ABA-accredited school if you’d like to minimize problems with jurisdictions that could probably boost issues related to your education.
Go out and just be honest
It could not be overemphasized — your best approach to beat the stage of the moral character of application to the state bar is sincerity and complete transparency. If you feel nicer, you could really seek a lawyer with knowledge in this field to guide you throughout the process. They saw it all. Chances are that your case has been seen a million times.