With a criminal record, becoming a lawyer is definitely going to be an uphill task. It is not impossible though. Here are some routes you can take if you wish to become a lawyer, in spite of having a criminal record.
Law is an enticing career for many, but it is a highly competitive field to which admission is quite challenging. And for someone who has a criminal record, the ride is even tougher to say the least. Perhaps your past is your past and you want to turn over a new leaf, and there are many practicing lawyers who have such a record in their past. However, it has only been an uphill task to be able to attain a degree and then give the state license exams to become a practicing lawyer with a criminal record, be it for drug abuse or for felony. Even so, there is a little hope for you if you seek to become a lawyer with such a background. Here are certain things you may have to do.
What You Can Do
A lot of you may assume that you can just avoid mentioning that you have had a background where you have been convicted of some kind of crime, so that you can smoothly get into law school. However, do that and you will kill all the possible chances you have to become a lawyer. Law schools run a criminal background check on all applicants, and if it shows up then, you are likely to be banned from gaining admission into any law school all over the country.
The best way to become a lawyer with a criminal record is to be honest about your situation at the time of application. This will allow the university to be a little more considerate towards your cause. Honesty clearly shows that you are of good moral character and are willing to take responsibility for your actions. Even then, whether or not you will be able to gain admission to the university depends on several factors which have been enlisted here.
- The kind of crime you have committed along with its intensity are factors that matter. For instance, the consideration for someone who has been involved in drug peddling vs. someone who has been convicted of felony will be different. Chances will definitely be better for someone who was involved in minor offenses such as misdemeanor.
- Next, the time period that has lapsed between your sentence and your application will matter. The longer it has been, the more relaxed the rules may be for you. Of course, your record has to be completely clean after the particular instance to prove that you are capable of becoming a responsible lawyer.
- Finally, a one-on-one interaction with the admissions committee where you will explain the circumstances surrounding the crime will help them decide whether or not you should be given a chance. This session should be used to persuade them in your favor.
Some universities will require you to provide affidavits that serve as a character certificate for you. Further, letters of recommendation from people you have worked with in the past will also give you the additional boost in trying to become a lawyer. Do keep in mind that it is ultimately the discretion of the university to give you admission. They have the complete right to deny you admission based on your criminal background.
Whether or not you are allowed to become a lawyer will also depend on the laws of the state you are applying in. Bar associations are independent bodies that have their own laws and may slightly differ from the other. If they do have a law that does not allow candidates with a criminal background to become lawyers, you may find yourself in a tough spot.
However, you may fill out the bar exam application and honestly mention exactly what your criminal background is. If you are denied admission, you may appeal to them and present your case to convince them why you should be allowed to become a lawyer. Having witnesses along with you who will vouch for your good character in the appeal will always be more helpful. You may benefit from applying in states where the laws are a little more relaxed.
Law in itself is a system of justice and a means to ensure that all crimes are given due punishment. However, those who have gone ahead and broken these laws (intentionally or unintentionally), but wish to become lawyers, will have to take a lot of efforts to do so. It is not impossible to become a lawyer with a criminal record, as long as you are honest about it.