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Don’t Put Off Until Tomorrow What You Can Do Today

Thomas Jefferson was definitely onto something when he said this famous quote. In my personal opinion, his little gem of advice is never more applicable than when it comes to the process of completing your bar application(s). I am sure that you’ve heard both from professors and students, who graduated before you, not to wait until the last minute to complete your bar application. I like to call bar applications “transformers” because what appears to be only 5 pages of simple questions can definitely be more than meets the eye! If you have worked between undergrad and law school, moved states in the last 7-10 years, or had a run in with the police (even as a juvenile), then completing a state’s bar application can take way more time than you originally estimate.

To avoid running around like a crazy person at the last minute when you are also likely trying to finish graduation requirements, I have a few suggestions that will help make the application process much easier and less of a head ache. First, you should print out a copy of the application during the summer between 2L and 3L years or during 3L winter break at the latest. Even if the new year’s bar application is not yet available, print the one from the prior year as the applications typically do not change very much. After you have the application, do an initial read through. Then try to complete it to the best of your ability. Save this completed draft so that when your application becomes available all you have to do is copy over your responses.

Going through the application early on will give you time to remember old addresses, gather prior employer contact information, and confirm who will serve as your references. Additionally, depending on the state, you may need to request driving records, obtain finger prints, find copies of professional certifications/licenses (e.g., teaching, real estate, accounting, etc.) to prove you were in good standing, and get documentation relating to certain legal issues such as child support, arrests, or proceedings involving you as a named party. Most states will also pull your credit report; applicants can be denied admission to the bar based upon flags in credit history. Given that credit reports can have mistakes, you should request a free copy to identify if anything needs to be rectified before submitting your application.

Obviously, all of the things mentioned above will take some time to get your hands on as state governments and companies can work at the speed of a dripping faucet. Don’t get caught in discovering at the last minute that you need something crucial. Several states do not process incomplete applications and others charge outrageous late fees if you end up needing more time to send in your materials. However, taking a look at the application in the summer or winter will ensure that you will have all of your ducks in a row by the deadline!

About the Author

Earthen E. Johnson earned her J.D. from the Earle Mack School of Law at Drexel University and received her B.A. in history and American studies from the University of Virginia. Between college and law school, Earthen taught third grade in Camden, NJ through Teach For America and then led an educational non-profit organization in Philadelphia.

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