Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Moral Character Application & Memory Exam

I did not go to last week's informational meeting on the Moral Character Application for the California Bar (what's all this business about the food?), but I did get an email with the handouts. Later, I went to the Bar's website and started the application.

Holy mother. An accounting of my location at all times in the last ten years? With my patchwork progress through post-secondary education, career diversions, and general slap-dash approach to important life decisions, it took almost an hour just to create a workable outline. Those months in Guatemala? There are fuzzy patches. That semester off from school in 2002? Come to think of it, what did I do with that time?

I know I am not the only one who doesn't want to blow this. Alumni advice on how to avoid tripping up here, and throughout the rest of the application process, would be appreciated.

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15 Comments:

Anonymous Chris Hoofnagle said...

Order a copy of your free choicepoint report here: http://www.choicetrust.com/servlet/com.kx.cs.servlets.CsServlet?channel=welcome&subchannel=disclosure

This report will have all of your addresses where there's ever been a public (or private) record of you living there.

Chances are, the bar is using this same service to check your previous addresses!

10/24/2009 6:55 PM  
Blogger tj said...

Halfway through the process, many of my fellow 3Ls learned a cool trick: check your shipping info on ebay (other websites may do the same).

If you've been buying and selling much on that site, you should have a good accounting of your whereabouts.

10/24/2009 10:10 PM  
Anonymous Boalt '08 said...

The most important thing is to not leave any gaps. Small periods out of town don't need to be recorded if you maintained your previous address.

If there are gaps in your timeline, the bar association WILL follow up with you.

10/25/2009 2:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

also, parents can be of great help - mine always kept my addresses written down somewhere, often in the same place, and would just write the new one down. also searching through old email (if you still have it) for emails with subjects like "my address in Guatemala."

I had some gaps in my employment history, and basically said I was seeking work, spending time with family, preparing for the LSAT and completing law school applications, etc. Which was, in fact, what I did. They didn't seem to have an issue with that. As long as you are honest, they aren't going to judge what you did if it wasn't illegal or wasn't say, an involuntary stint in a mental hospital. A lot of people have gaps in their school and/or employment history. Just make sure to account for them.

Another thing - I definitely had an addendum for my addresses - one key thing for me is that at various points I've used my parents' address as my permanent address. I made sure to account for that as well - which periods I used it for that purpose, and also where I physically lived during those times I was doing so. If they check public records, it's quite possible they'll get conflicting information - your utility bill goes to your college apartment but your car was registered at your parents'. I didn't run into any issues on this front, so I think that's a safe way to go about it.

Start early, do through research, use friends and family and old email/shipping records, and just be as thorough as absolutely possible.

10/25/2009 9:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your credit report usually has those addresses too but Choicepoint may be even more thorough. And don't be afraid to stick in a little written addendum explaining things that don't fit into the blanks. Like, "During the summer of 2001, I was living abroad but received my mail at the following address." A real person ends up reading all of this and is just trying to make sure all of your time can be accounted for.

But it is a royal pain in the neck for people who have moved around a lot or had a bunch of jobs. The form takes a lot longer to fill out so allow yourself plenty of time. Notice that you only have to lists jobs that you held for a certain number of months--like 6 maybe--so that cuts down on things.

And submit it early. It took me a LOT longer to get my letter saying I had been found to have good character than it did for friends who have been in school since kindergarten and living with their parents every summer.

But if you fill in all the gaps for the person reading your file, you'll be fine. I had all kinds of jumping around and hullabaloo in my work and residential history too. The Bar only had to follow up with me about one thing. And that was the registrar's failure to return the form when they requested confirmation of my enrollment.

10/25/2009 6:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh yes, early is better, especially if you are old like me and have complications (e.g. name changes, adult film stars with the same name). I have gone through the FBI clearance twice to work for a judge, and that took about 3 weeks. My moral character app took 7 months. The gap thing is nuts -- I had to send a follow up letter explaining the one month gap I left when I was moving/not working the July before starting law school. Really, Bar examiners, what could I have gotten up to in that amount of time?

10/26/2009 1:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I sit here having a 2L panic attack freak out, I am so very reassured that the freak outs will not end once I become a 3L.

If only I had known that signing up for law school means a lifetime of freaking out.

10/26/2009 5:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It took the bar over nine months to approve my moral character. They didn't explain all of the delay, but at least one reason was that they lost parts of the application--they admitted that they received them, but couldn't find them when I called. So I also recommend filing as early as possible.

10/26/2009 7:29 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

5:08, here's some friendly advice: stop freaking out. Listing your addresses for the past decade is really not that difficult. Even under the worst conditions, it shouldn't take more than a few hours to figure out.

10/27/2009 10:14 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

But Dan, this doesn't let us parse out the important issues - such as: when do I technically move from the old address to the new? Is it the date on the lease? Is it when I arrive? Is it when I forward my mail? Is it when I leave with the full van for the cross-country drive? Do I even have an address while I'm in the van? Should I list the motels?

The possibilities for fun here are endless!

10/27/2009 10:16 AM  
Blogger caley said...

Yeah, I just wanted to echo 7:29's advice: FILE THIS EARLY!!!

So long as you don't have any crimes to report, you'll pretty much get rubber stamped through the process. But, if you wait (like my roommate did) until everyone and their mother start turning in the application, you're very likely to not hear back from the state bar until well past the exam itself.

And if you have any slight indiscretions to report (e.g. those unpaid parking tickets, that ticket for going 75 in a 20, that time you got a drunk in public in Austin by that cop who just would not accept your excuse that you weren't drunk, you just had an ear infection!) definitely file early.

It's really not a difficult process, just get it done.

10/27/2009 5:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do they take into account how high you scored on the MPRE while criticizing your legal indiscretions? If they don't, they should.

10/27/2009 5:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. Make a photocopy of your whole application before you send it in.

2. Take it to the post office, don't just drop it in a drop box. There was a rumor going around my year that identity thieves were stealing packets out of mail drop boxes.

10/28/2009 10:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard that the identity thieves are starting to get jobs at post offices. Now you're all screwed.

10/28/2009 10:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm the guy that gets shot out of the cannon at the circus. Most of the time the other circus people leave me where I landed and I have to find a ride home later. So with 100+ cannon ball rides per year for 10 years that's about ...
a lot of addresses.

11/21/2010 4:32 PM  

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