Records of Fidelity and Trustworthiness


Here's another new strip, as promised. Unfortunately my problems with the Application for the Determination of Moral Character have nothing to do with any specific scandalous happenstances (my 25th birthday notwithstanding), it's just a giant pain in the ass.

My beefs with the moral character application are many. To begin with, it's 27 pages long and asks for a lot of information that's either completely unnecessary or ferociously inappropriate. After listing every address I've lived at for the past eight years and every job I've held since I turned 18 (I'm still working on tracking down my supervisor from the failed dotcom I worked at in college), I began marking "No" to a long series of questions about my sordid past. Some of the questions are arguably important, asking about any criminal convictions, losses of professional licenses, or fraud actions. Others are on the fringe - You need to indicate whether you've ever discharged a debt or defaulted on a loan. And then there's the question that asks if you've ever been diagnosed with a medically recognized mental illness. While I agree that being crazy may (just may) impair your ability to law talk, couching the inquiry under the heading of MORAL CHARACTER adds a stigma to mental health that just doesn't need to be there.

Also obnoxious is the personal references section. You need no less than five "reputable and responisble persons who know you well." Setting aside the fact that I don't know that many reputable and responsible persons in the first place, there are further restrictions. They can't be people you've worked for/with, only one can be a professor, they can't be related by blood or marriage (which means that Molly could be my reference if we were just shacking up, but not now since we've committed the immoral act of matrimony), and at least one must be a member of a U.S. or foreign bar. At this point since I've got my references lined up I'm objecting on purely philosophical grounds, but it still pisses me off.

Many thanks to the people who agreed to be my vouchers, by the way. Now let's just remember not to mention our trip to Encinada and my evening with "Maria."

Moving beyond the four corners of the application for a moment, I'll point out that the MCA is one of THREE morality filters the Bar places between law students and the legal profession. Assuming, arguendo, that the Bar has any business imposing ethical or moral requirements on attorneys in the first place (a proposition that the libertarian in me finds questionable at best), is the MCA really necessary given the fact that every ABA-accredited law school (except Stanford) has a required course in legal ethics? Not to mention the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, a licensure requirement that, rumor has it, has shifted from perfunctory to difficult this year. Any one of these three things, it seems to me, would more than adequately instill the requisite ethical values upon future lawyers.

But my biggest problem with the MCA is the fact that, at 27 pages, $363, and numerous unnecessary and intrusive questions, it's a shining metaphor for the Bar itself. When it comes to ethical standards, the Bar is all hat and no cattle. They make a huge deal about the sanctity of the legal profession and ethics and morals and responsibility and blah blah blah, but once you're in, well, you're pretty much in. The rules are almost never enforced. If there's one thing I learned in Norman Spaulding's Legal Profession course it's that attorneys can get away with anything and avoid professional sanctions (though not necessarily malpractice). Even if by some satanic miracle you find yourself "disbarred," chances are you can get back in after a few years. So I'd much rather take this $363 I'm about to send to the California Bar and spend it at the kind of California bar that will render me chemically unable to practice law for a brief period of time. Either way the money is going down the drain, but I'd at least like to enjoy the ride.

And that's my story.


I'm also not looking forward to filling out that long ass form, but I'll consider it to be more like those fun naughty or nice quizes I used to giggle over with friends in middle school. I also have a vague fear that perhaps I'll have to report something that I'll actually be so ashamed of I'll briefly consider checking "No"... but, but of course, I'll tell the truth, since it seems to be much worse that you lie about/deny something than the fact that you did it in the first place. The loan/debt thing is more about you intentionally leaving lenders in the lurch than just defaulting on a loan. The ABA realizes this is necessary sometimes; they just don't want you tarnishing their "good name" by screwing over clients for personal gain in the future.

As for the mental illness thing, it really amuses me that the ABA tries to get so much info on this that they really come right up to the line allowed by the ADA. They can only ask you about stuff you've been diagnosed with or any incidents caused by any mental illness. This is where the "fitness" aspect of the whole "character and fitness" requirement comes into play... that and drug and alcohol dependency. I don't really think that you can get away with anything once you're admitted to the bar. My Prof. Resp. book is 99% stories about attorneys being disciplined for stuff; so I'm getting the opposite impression that the ABA will always be there breathing down your neck about every little thing you do.

I didn't know about the references part. It sucks that your wife can't vouch for you, but I guess they figure she's biased toward you (for some reason). Good thing Aaron and I won't be getting hitched before I finish school... although I don't know how "reputable and responsible" he would be in the eyes of the ABA. I really don't know who I'd put down, especially since the only bar members I know are people that I worked with and I sure don't know any professors well enough to ask them to vouch for me. I guess I should start my list now... or at least sucking up to my professors.

There's a guy practicing down here in SoCal who became a lawyer after doing time in prison for fraud (yes, *FRAUD*. You know, one of those crimes of "moral turpitude".)
(I hear he's really good, by the way.)

Here's a current story from the Seattle Times about an attorney who is in hot water for leaning over a table while her client "hugged" her from behind with his pants down.

$363? not $360 or $365? this whole trying to be a lawyer process seems to be done in the most annoying fashion possible.

for that price you could get a small one of these for you cats:

or you could buy Meli 2 of those coats that i want.

Yay! The return of Claudio!

Other Blogs

Law-Type Blogs

Other Webcomics

Log Archives

eXTReMe Tracker

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by hb published on September 15, 2004 10:18 AM.

Ted's In Love With A Robot was the previous entry in this blog.

Thoughts on the September 16th Episode of The Apprentice is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Powered by Movable Type 5.04