Published on International Forum on Teaching Legal Ethics and Professionalism(

Character & Fitness Reconsidered

Long title
The Character and Fitness Inquiry Reconsidered
Levin, Leslie C.
Author(s)' contact information
University of Connecticut, USA
Conference title
International Legal Ethics Conference VI
Conference location
City University London
United States
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Lawyers who engage in misconduct can do substantial harm. In an effort to screen out those who are “unfit” to be lawyers, U.S. bar examining authorities collect detailed personal information from bar applicants. The stated rationale for this “character and fitness” inquiry is that this information can be used to identify who will subsequently become a problematic lawyer. Despite the history of discrimination associated with the character and fitness inquiry and the highly personal nature of the information requested, there has been only one systematic empirical study that attempts to test this assumption. That study suggests that the character inquiry is not well-suited to determine which bar applicants are likely to become problematic lawyers. This paper describes that study and other research that attempts to predict future wrongdoing in the professions. It also identifies future research that is needed and proposes alternatives to the current U.S. character and fitness inquiry.
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