Guidance on Character and Fitness Questions
The Character and Fitness questions on Emory Law’s application sometimes provide a bit of anxiety for applicants.
This guide is intended to ensure your answers are complete and accurate, which in turn, will greatly assist you when you apply to be a licensed lawyer in your chosen state after graduation from law school.
When you apply for Bar licensure to practice law, you will undergo a rigorous character evaluation from the Bar Admission’s Character and Fitness Committee in the state(s) in which you wish to practice. As part of the Bar application, many states ask you to submit a copy of your law school application. The state’s Bar’s Character and Fitness Committee will compare your answers to its questions with those provided in your school application.
If your answers are inconsistent, the Bar Committee will initiate a more intensive review of your file. For example, it may contact your law school to question whether you would have been admitted in light of this new information. You may suffer sanctions and revocation of law school admission for failing to disclose. The Bar Committee may schedule an in-person hearing to ask you why you failed to disclose information earlier. In some instances, the committee may delay your certification of fitness, which in turn, may prevent you from becoming a lawyer as soon as you may like.
Each state’s character and fitness questions are unique to that jurisdiction. Emory Law’s questions capture as much information as possible to assist you when you apply to be a licensed lawyer in your chosen state(s) and when you undergo the evaluation by the State’s Bar Admission Character and Fitness Committee.
Below is specific guidance on the four fitness and character questions found on Emory Law’s application for admission. Two principles govern you while completing this part of the application:
- When in doubt, disclose.
- If you have any questions, please email us at jdadmission(at)emory.edu.
We understand that our character and fitness questions may be more rigorous than other schools to which you apply. As with all aspects of the Emory Law experience, your integrity, honesty and character in answering these questions completely is fundamental to the community we strive to maintain.
GUIDANCE ON QUESTION 1 - Academic Conduct
Have you ever been subject to any academic disciplinary action while in college or any educational setting since high school, regardless of the outcome of the action? This includes academic probation, warning, reprimand, suspension, expulsion or dismissal or any type of academic discipline.
This questions concerns any sort of academic misconduct or allegations of misconduct with which you may have been involved. Regardless of the resolution, you must disclose. Examples of academic misconduct include—but are not limited to—accusations of using Internet research inappropriately in a class assignment, allegations of inappropriate collaborations on a take-home exam, accusations of misbehavior during an assignment or exam, academic probation, academic suspension, expulsion or any other academic irregularities.
You must disclose these allegations regardless of what an adjudicator, dean of students, professor or anyone else told you. We understand that at some schools allegations and sanctions may be removed from your file after a certain time. However, you still must disclose that they did occur. If you were found responsible/guilty, describe any sanctions levied against you (failing grade, grade reduction, community service, expulsion, etc.)
Sample Scenario: During his freshman year, Alex attended orientation at State University. During the program, he had to write an essay about the school's history. He and a friend worked together on their papers and shared research. The orientation coordinator discovered similarities in the papers and initiated academic proceedings against them. The dean of students met with Alex, verbally reprimanded him and sent Alex on his way. The dean said he would not make a notation on Alex’s file and that this event would be between them unless Alex repeated the offense. Alex graduated four years later with a 3.9 GPA with no further issues.
Alex should report this incident to Emory Law.
GUIDANCE FOR QUESTION 2 - Social Conduct
Have you ever been accused of, reprimanded for, detained for or charged with any criminal offense or school conduct violation, regardless of the outcome? This includes any criminal accusations, including traffic offenses, except for parking violations. This also includes any reprimands or social actions while in college or any educational setting since high school (such as noise violations). If yes, submit an addendum titled Social Conduct to explain the situation, including the background and circumstances as well as the outcome and resolution. Disclose even if any charges were dismissed, or if you were acquitted or allowed to plead nolo contendere, or if the conviction was reversed, set aside or vacated, or if the record was sealed or expunged. You must disclose regardless of whether you have been told you need not disclose any such instance. When in doubt, disclose.
This question should be viewed in two parts.
First, have you ever been accused of or sanctioned for any criminal conduct, regardless of when it occurred? This includes allegations of juvenile criminal conduct. It does not matter if the situation was sent to a diversion program or any other alternative resolution forum, was dismissed before court, was removed from your record after community service was performed, was expunged or otherwise removed from your record. You must disclose the allegations. In addition, if you were punished, you must also explain the sanctions, including whether they were probation, incarceration, community service, curfew or other punishment.
We understand that at the time of the allegations and dispute resolution, a judge, lawyer, adviser or someone else may have told you the matter would be removed from your record or that your record would be sealed. You still must disclose the incident. The underlying point of this question is to disclose any interaction you have had with the criminal system, regardless of the outcome.
Emory Law requires that you submit information on traffic tickets as well. A simple recitation of the ticket, approximate date, background on the situation and resolution—including any fines or other sanctions—will suffice.
The second part of this question relates to social conduct allegations or violations. This deals with incidents that occurred while in college or other post-secondary education such as noise violations, alcohol citations, disruptive behavior or other incidents that violated your school’s conduct policy. Even if the allegation, violation, citation or other reprimand was removed from your record and, regardless of whether someone told you otherwise, you must disclose it to Emory Law.
Sample Scenario 1: Georgette shoplifted from a store when she was 13 years old. As part of the county’s juvenile justice program, she was sent to an alternative juvenile court where a jury of high school peers sentenced her to write a letter of apology. All records of the incident were destroyed, and the incident never appeared on Georgette’s criminal record. Moreover, the supervising attorney coordinating the juvenile court specifically told Georgette she would never need to tell anyone about this incident.
Emory Law requires Georgette disclose this incident.
Sample Scenario 2: During orientation, Sam was cited for playing his radio too loud in the dorm. The floor R.A. told Sam never to do it again and had Sam write an email of apology.
Sam should disclose this incident.
GUIDANCE FOR QUESTION 3 - School Interruption
Have you ever taken a voluntary or involuntary leave of absence or have your studies been interrupted during your undergraduate, graduate or professional school attendance, apart from regularly scheduled breaks?
Note: This question does not apply for normal scheduled breaks in your academic studies. If you took a semester or more off, either voluntary or involuntary, let us know and describe why your education was interrupted and what you did during the interruption.
Guidance for Question 4: Military Separation
Were you ever separated from any branch of the armed forces or the Coast Guard under conditions other than honorable? If yes, submit an addendum titled Military Separation.
Disclose any dishonorable separations from military service.