Bar Admission Through The Florida Board of Bar Examiners
Law school graduates receive a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. Because law school fosters an environment of creative thinking and problem solving, some law school graduates are offered employment in positions that do not require additional credentials. In Florida, in order to represent clients, a law school graduate must also pass the Florida Bar Examination, and the Florida Board of Bar Examiners’ character and fitness investigation.
The Florida Board of Bar Examiners is an administrative agency of the Supreme Court of Florida. The Board consists of 12 members of The Florida Bar and three nonlawyer members of the general public. The Florida Board of Bar Examiners is responsible for making recommendations to the Supreme Court of Florida regarding whether each applicant seeking admission to The Florida Bar should be admitted. The Board must ensure that each applicant meets the requirements with regard to character and fitness, education and technical competence before recommending an applicant for admission.
In making a determination as to your character and fitness to be an attorney, the Board conducts a thorough background investigation regarding your honesty, fairness and respect for the rights of others and for the laws of this country. This investigation includes an analysis of each applicant’s ability to comply with deadlines and court rules; communicate candidly and civilly with clients, attorneys, courts and others; conduct financial dealings in a responsible, honest and trustworthy manner; and avoid acts that are illegal, dishonest, fraudulent or deceitful. The primary purposes of the character and fitness investigation are to protect the public and safeguard the judicial system. Since this review process is very thorough, students are encouraged to begin this process while in law school. In addition, The Florida Bar also requires law students to pass a Professional Ethics exam, which is administered several times a year. This exam can be taken by a student while still in law school. Understanding the ethical rules of The Florida Bar is also important in helping to know what limits and barriers may be placed on a lawyer’s practice in a specific area of law.
The Board also administers the Florida Bar Examination, administered twice a year, in February and July. All law school graduates must pass this examination to obtain a license to practice law in Florida and be a member of The Florida Bar. Once you pass the Bar examination and meet the character and fitness requirements established by the Supreme Court of Florida, you will be recommended to the Supreme Court for admission to the practice of law in this state. The Florida Bar exam is typically a two-day event that includes a full day devoted to Florida-specific law on multiple areas (i.e. family law, torts, criminal law, constitutional law, property, etc.).
The Florida part of the test includes the writing of essays and answering multiple-choice questions. The next exam day covers many of the same subjects but relates to the multi-state, or national laws, and is mostly tested by multiple-choice questions. Unlike other professions such as management, accounting or engineering, one cannot practice law without having met all of the requirements of The Florida Bar. Accordingly, law students need to begin preparations for the Bar exam while in law school. This can involve taking Florida-specific law subjects or taking special research courses focusing on areas of Florida law. In addition, most graduating law school students take a Bar exam preparation course immediately after they complete their law school education and right before the exam. This course could take up to eight weeks to complete and covers all areas of Florida and multi-state laws. With Bar exam pass rates averaging about 70 percent, pre-exam preparation for the exam is imperative to ensure passing the exam.
Finally, developing data show a correlation between how well a student does in law school (GPA) and the chances of passing the Florida Bar Exam.
Induction ceremonies for new lawyers are held twice annually, usually in May and October.
The Board recommends that you file a student registration application in the first year of law school. By registering with the Board as a law student, you will pay a lower fee, and you will obtain a preliminary decision from the Board as to your character and fitness. Certified legal internships (CLIs) are available to law school students. In order to participate in these internships, you must obtain a preliminary decision regarding your character and fitness from the Florida Board of Bar Examiners. This is an important reason to file a student registration in the first year of law school.
In addition to the character and fitness investigation and the Bar examination, applicants seeking admission to The Florida Bar are required to receive a degree from an American Bar Association-accredited law school (or, if the degree is from a nonaccredited law school, the applicant must have 10 years of practice in another state before being considered for admission).
For information on admission or to file an application for admission to The Florida Bar, visit the Board’s website.
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