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Apologies and Fitness to Practice Law: A Practical Framework for Evaluating Remorse in the Bar Admission Process

Journal of the Professional Lawyer, Forthcoming

Valparaiso University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 11-21

62 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2011  

Mitchell Mark Simon

University of New Hampshire School of Law

Nick Smith

University of New Hampshire

Nicole Negowetti

Valparaiso University Law School

Date Written: March 31, 2011

Abstract

Especially in cases of past criminal conduct, courts have consistently looked to applicants’ remorse in evaluating applications for bar admission. In light of the importance of remorse in the character and fitness process and the difficulty committees — and indeed all of us — face in interpreting the meaning and value of apologetic gestures, this Article develops specific guidelines that committees can use to evaluate whether a bar applicant’s statements of remorse are sufficient to show rehabilitation. It provides an analysis of the inconsistent treatment of apologies and remorse in the character and fitness context and explains the confusing, and often contradictory, meanings conveyed by apologies. Following Nick Smith’s theory of the categorical apology set out in "I Was Wrong," we enumerate thirteen questions that should guide review boards as they evaluate the apologies and remorse of bar applicants. We argue that such a principled framework can lend rigor and consistency to the review process which will, in turn, better serve both the bar and applicants to the bar.

Keywords: bar admission, character and fitness, bar conduct committee, remorse, apology

Suggested Citation

Simon, Mitchell Mark and Smith, Nick and Negowetti, Nicole, Apologies and Fitness to Practice Law: A Practical Framework for Evaluating Remorse in the Bar Admission Process (March 31, 2011). Journal of the Professional Lawyer, Forthcoming; Valparaiso University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 11-21. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1856162

Mitchell Mark Simon (Contact Author)

University of New Hampshire School of Law ( email )

Two White Street
Concord, NH 03301
United States
603-228-1541 (Phone)

Nick Smith

University of New Hampshire ( email )

United States

Nicole Negowetti

Valparaiso University Law School ( email )

Valparaiso, IN

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