You do not have to have a "perfect" record (I know a State's Attorney who had an underage drinking citation from when (s)he was younger). However, (1) you have to be honest about your prior record during the character and fitness portion of the bar exam process, (2) you should have a clean record from now going forward and (3) the State Board of Law Examiners pays particular interest to crimes involving dishonest acts (stealing, fraud, etc...).
You can contact the State Board of Law Examiners at (410) 260-3640 if you have any specific questions. You might able be able to call up some local attorneys and talk to them about the practice of law in general to see if it is really something you would be interested in.
I proudly serve clients throughout Maryland, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. My phone number is (443) 352-8517 and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, you can also visit my website at www.proylaw.com.
Licensed in MD, PA and DC. This is not legal advice. I am not your attorney until we have mutually agreed that I am your attorney. You should consult with an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction regarding your specific circumstances.
It depends on what makes your record "less than perfect." Contact the board of law examiners of the state you plan on practicing in to see if they offer any pre-law school screening.
Legal disclaimer: Mr. Tabaku may be reached at (240) 750-4663 or email@example.com. Mr. Tabaku is an attorney licensed in the state of Maryland. This answer is for general information only based upon the facts stated in the question and does not create an attorney client relationship between Mr. Tabaku or Tabaku Law Firm, LLC and any person. You should schedule a consultation with an attorney to discuss the specifics of your legal issues.
Your criminal record is not, of itself, a bar to your admission (at least not in Maryland and the District of Columbia). You do carry the burden of proving you have the necessary moral character to be a lawyer, however, so your record will need to be disclosed in full, and your subsequent rehabilitation and good moral conduct since those offenses explained in detail. Here is a link to a Maryland Court of Appeals opinion discussing the denial of an applicant who failed to reveal his past record, and in fact attempted to conceal it, which includes a discussion of other cases where admission was granted despite rather extensive criminal histories: https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http://mdcourts.gov/opinions/coa/2012/19a06m.pdf&pli=1