Ohio Character and Fitness Process for Future Lawyers

Kyle J. Bristow, Copyright© 2012

In order for a law school graduate to sit for the bar exam in Ohio, they must first satisfy the requirements set forth by the Ohio Supreme Court. One of these requirements is that they complete the “character and fitness" investigation—which includes a lengthy questionnaire about one’s history and an interview with two members of the admissions committee of a local bar association. If the interview does not go well or answers in the questionnaire cause red flags to be raised, further inquiry may be initiated. If a bar applicant is not approved or approved with qualifications, then they may appeal to the Board of Commissioners on Character and Fitness, which consists of twelve attorneys—one from each appellate district. A hearing may be held, at which evidence showing—or refuting—the bar applicant's ethical integrity may be introduced. If the Board votes to reject that bar applicants ability to sit for the bar exam, their case may be reviewed by the Ohio Supreme Court.

In Ohio, the following factors may be considered to determine whether someone is fit to practice law:

  • Criminal history
  • Drug or alcohol addiction
  • Academic misconduct
  • Mental and psychological disorders
  • Acts of dishonesty
  • Neglect of financial or professional obligations

Acts that evidence one’s unfitness to practice law, however, may be mitigated through the following factors:

  • Age of the applicant at the time of the conduct
  • Recency of the conduct
  • Reliability of the information concerning the conduct
  • Seriousness of the conduct
  • Factors underlying the conduct
  • Cumulative effect of the conduct
  • Evidence of rehabilitation
  • Positive social contributions of the applicant since the conduct
  • Candor of the applicant in the admissions process
  • Materiality of any omissions or misrepresentations

There are a number of factors that may not be considered in making a character and fitness determination:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Race
  • Color
  • National Origin
  • Religion
  • Disability, provided that the applicant is still able to satisfy the essential eligibility requirements for the practice of law

One should consider consulting with a lawyer if one has fears regarding the character and fitness process.

No attorney-client relationship is established via AVVO.com. The material posted by Kyle J. Bristow, Esq., is for educational purposes for prospective clients only and people should not make legal decisions based on it. You are advised not to take, or refrain from taking, any action based on what Mr. Bristow has stated on this website.