Maryland's Bar Admission Process
Passing the bar exam isn't enough.
Applicants for admission to the bar must show that they possess the personal qualities required to practice law and have the necessary character to justify the trust and confidence that the public and the legal system will place in them.
Before an applicant will be admitted to the Maryland bar, the aspiring lawyer must pass three levels of scrutiny from current members of the bar.
First, a Character Committee composed of volunteer attorneys makes a recommendation based upon one of its members' investigation. Second, the Board of Law Examiners will review these findings and recommendation, and may conduct further proceedings, before making a recommendation to the Court of Appeals. Finally, the Court of Appeals makes the ultimate decision on whether to admit the applicant.
|Application for Admission
The process starts with your submission of an Application for Admission to the Bar, where any error, omission or inconsistency may trigger a closer examination by the Character Committee member assigned to vet your background. If there is anything in your background that may raise issues, you would be wise to consult with an attorney specializing in character and fitness reviews to ensure the proper disclosures and wording before submitting this all-important document and the Character Questionnaire contained in Part II of the application. Candid disclosures may not prevent further scrutiny, but they will certainly increase your chances of admission as the character and fitness process proceeds.
|Committee Member Assigned
The Character Committee Chair assigns the application to a committee member for investigation. That member will review the Character Questionnaire carefully and contact references for verification of this data.
After you pass the Bar Examination, the committee member assigned to your case will interview you. This is more than a mere formality, as the member may pose important questions to determine whether you are fit to practice law.
|Recommendation to Committee Chair
The committee member reports the results of her investigation and her recommendation to the Chair of the Character Committee. If the Chair agrees with a favorable recommendation, he will sign the application and send it to the Board of Law Examiners. If the member does not recommend admission, or the Chair disagrees with the member, the Committee may conduct further investigation, or even hold hearings to evaluate an applicant's character and fitness, before making its recommendation to the Board.
|Board of Law Examiners
Upon receiving the Character Committee's recommendation, the Board may likewise hold hearings before making its own recommendation to the Court of Appeals of Maryland. Like any hearing, an applicant whose character or fitness has been called into question should retain experienced counsel.
|Court of Appeals Decision
Maryland's highest court has the last word on whether an applicant shall be admitted as a member of the Bar. In some instances, the Court will hear oral argument on an applicant's character or fitness and issue a written opinion on whether to grant admission to the bar.
This is the ultimate goal of all bar applicants. With patience, persistence and the right counsel, lawyers who once presented serious character and fitness concerns have been able to raise their right hands and lead rewarding careers as members of the Maryland Bar.