f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

February 15, 2004

Bankruptcy and Bar Admission – A Proposal

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 4:17 pm

I’m still finding it difficult to understand why egregious financial irresponsibility by a bar applicant is irrelevant to his or her fitness to be a lawyer, fiduciary and officer of the court.  So, I’ve tried to draft a question for bar applications that gets at the issue of financial irresponsibility without overly intruding on privacy or being excessively moralistic — and, without suggesting that every bankruptcy indicates irresponsibility.  (See this post, and that one for background; and contrast with this stuff.)  

Further Update (02-15-04 at 9 PM):  See Scheherazade‘s very thoughtful Let’s Stop Picking On David, for a discussion not only of the bankruptcy issue but of the wider one of using subjective or unnecessary judgments to keep people out of the legal profession, and the narrower one of my personality type.  I think two friends can learn a lot when they disagree (or think they do) on a topic and actually listen to each other.  Thanks, Sherry. 

Bar applications may already treat this topic (my memory fails and my files are absent, so assistance is welcome), and some help with the technical phraseology is probably necessary, but how about asking a question like this:


1) Have you ever petitioned for and been denied the dissolution of your debts in bankruptcy?  If so, explain the circumstances below.

2) a. Have you, within the past ____ years, sought bankruptcy protection or been forced into bankruptcy? 

    b. If so, and the total debts involved were in excess of $_________, explain the circumstances below.

quill pen  Seven years might make sense for the first filter, and perhaps $10,000 for the second.  It seems to me that reasonable minds could disagree on how to fill in the blanks to create a reasonably-tailored filter, or when to follow-up, or possible repercussions.  Totally ignoring the issue of financial responsibility, however, offers clients and the profession too little protection.  What do you think?

  • A wise friend has written with “privacy concerns.”  Bankruptcy is already a matter of public record, of course.  Further, no one has suggested to me that bar applications should not ask about such judicial history as judgments against the applicant and pending matters where he or she is a party.  Since privacy is always a balancing issue, I do not believe the intrusion here is undue considering the other interests being protected. 

1 Comment

  1. I have suffered in a similar way when applying for jobs when I had a bad credit report.

    Just why do many companies seem to assume bad credit = dishonest? That’s really what it comes down too, isn’t it? And I think it’s just plain wrong.

    People’s credit rating (good or bad) should have no bearing on a job in my opinion.



    Comment by Lisa Hurley — August 18, 2007 @ 1:28 am

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