Washington D.C. Bar Admission Process:
Passing the bar exam is just the first step towards becoming a licensed attorney in Washington, D.C.
Applicants must also demonstrate the necessary moral character and fitness required to practice law and earn the trust and confidence of the public and the legal system. The admission process is governed by Rule 46 of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals and overseen by the DC Bar’s Committee on Admissions.
The initial stage involves submitting an Application for Admission to the Bar, which is a critical document that must be carefully completed to avoid any errors or omissions. The Character Committee member assigned to review your background may closely examine your application, and it is advisable to consult with an attorney specializing in character and fitness reviews to ensure accurate disclosures and proper wording.
The application process consists of two components. First, applicants must create an account on the Committee on Admissions webpage. Second, they need to complete a Character and Fitness Questionnaire on the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) website. Accuracy and thoroughness in responding to all questions are crucial.
While a standard interview is not conducted in the District of Columbia, the Admissions Committee may require applicants to attend an informal hearing to evaluate their moral character and fitness. Although informal, this process can be challenging, as applicants face a panel of lawyers who may ask tough questions. Depending on the circumstances, it is advisable to consult with a bar admissions attorney to determine whether attending the informal hearing or opting for a formal process is more appropriate.
If an applicant is not certified after the informal hearing, they will be informed of the grounds for denial. They then have 30 days to request a formal hearing or the application will be considered withdrawn. The formal hearing is an evidentiary hearing where the applicant has the opportunity to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses. Retaining legal counsel is crucial during this stage to navigate the process effectively.
Following the formal hearing, if the Committee remains unwilling to certify the applicant’s admission, a written report of findings is provided to the applicant. They have 15 days to decide whether to withdraw the application. If the application remains active, the Committee sends the report to the DC Court of Appeals.
The DC Court of Appeals makes the final decision on whether to grant an applicant a license to practice law. Upon receiving the Committee’s report, the Court may order the applicant to show cause why the application should not be denied. The Court will review the record of the Admissions Committee hearing, hear oral arguments on character and fitness, and issue a written opinion determining whether admission to the bar will be granted.
With proper legal counsel throughout the character review process, applicants can navigate any character and fitness issues effectively, increasing their chances of being admitted to the bar. Once the application is approved, successful applicants will proceed to the swearing-in ceremony, marking the culmination of their journey to become members of the DC Bar. If you need help getting admitted to the DC Bar, need advice or expert legal representation, the McGavock Reed Law Firm is here for you every step of the way. Contact us today!