[ Stephanie Baldwin, 2L at the University of Arizona ]
Yes… we are only 2Ls but believe it or not we should start thinking about the character and fitness portion of our bar applications. The Character and Fitness (C & F) portion of the bar application varies state by state, so you will want to check out the rules for the state you want to apply to for a better understanding of the process. Most states will have an example application you can look at, and you should take advantage of this. You might even be able to start your application now and work on it over the next year, updating it as needed.
Why should we be thinking about this now? Because the C & F application and process can be cumbersome, as it requires A LOT of information and preparing for the bar exam is already stressful enough! Do you really want to be tracking all of this down when you could be studying for the Bar exam? Likely not. Reading through the application now might also save you major headaches in the future, especially if you have had any issues in the past. Here are some easy things you can do in your 2L to help relieve some of the pressure you will be feeling in 3L when you start to fill out your C & F application.
First… where have you lived?
You will likely need every address you have ever lived at. If you have moved around a lot, are an older student, veteran, military spouse, or left all of your worldly belongings and backed packed around the world after college graduation, this could be an unexpected challenge. In Arizona, we need to report every address for the last 10 years or since we were 21, whichever is shorter. A professor gave me a great tip and said to look at your past addresses on Amazon. You will have more than likely ordered something from there to every place you have ever lived, so this could be one way to help find your addresses. If you’re not a fan of Amazon, I am sure there is some other delivery site you’ve used frequently that will have this information for you. You can also start tracking your addresses now, just in case you move frequently during law school. This is important, especially if you live in another town for a clerkship.
Next, where have you worked?
You will likely need to list every placed you have ever worked. Yes, even for those employers you worked at for only a few weeks. You will likely need the address, phone number, and a contact name. Again, this could be relatively simple or a huge issue, depending on how many employers you’ve had. Here, your law school application will likely be helpful. If you do not have a copy, take some time this weekend and log into LSAC.org and print one off. It might also be useful to log onto websites like LinkedIn or Monster.com to find old resumes or job applications. This will likely take more time than you think. If you do it now, your 3L self will thank you.
Finally, what’s on your credit report?
It is easy to get your credit report, and it’s free to do so. To be honest, this is something you should be doing every year anyway. It’s good to get into the habit of doing it. Why do you need this? Because in addition to a background check, your state bar examiners will also request a copy of your credit report. By requesting your report now, you will be made aware of any issues on your report and will have plenty of time to deal with them before you submit your C & F application. You are entitled to 1 free credit report a year, from each of the 3 credit reporting agencies. Here is a fun tip I learned from my mom→ DO NOT request all three credit reports at the same time. Spread it out over the year requesting one every 3-4 months. For example, request one in December, a different one in April and the final one in August and then start again in December. If you see anything negative on your credit report, be sure to take steps to try to correct whatever it is.
While it may seem silly to be worried about this as a 2L, taking these simple steps now, will be beneficial come this time next year!
If you found this Character and Fitness blog helpful or have any other tips to prepare for the C & F application, let me know over at the @The2LLife on Instagram and Twitter.