C&F Lawyers

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CS1775
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C&F Lawyers

Post by CS1775 » Wed Jan 02, 2019 12:16 pm

This is the closest sub-forum, so... 2L here with questions about C&F lawyers:

I have a criminal record from when I was 18, 19. The charge was underage possession of alcohol + intent to distribute, a misdemeanor. I did a nolo plea without a lawyer and the case was sealed. The case cannot be seen by the public in a criminal record database, but can be seen by the state attorney general and presumably the state bar.

Obviously I intend to disclose this on my bar application. My problem is that I have no record whatsoever of this sealed case - the house I lived in at the time was foreclosed on after I moved out and I didn't have time or notice to get any of my documents.

I spoke to a law school faculty member about this today during an unrelated conversation and he advised me that I would need a lawyer to unseal the record. I also spoke to a lawyer right around the time I entered law school and she said something similar.

So, what I would like to know is:

1) Do I need a lawyer who specializes in Character and Fitness problems or can I hire a criminal defense attorney?
2) Would this be something a state legal services agency could handle, assuming I pass any means testing?
3) If I need to hire a private lawyer, how much should this cost? I know markets vary widely, so let's just say I'm in New England outside of Boston.

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HelloYesThisIsDog
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Re: C&F Lawyers

Post by HelloYesThisIsDog » Wed Jan 02, 2019 5:29 pm

1) get a c&f lawyer. Why would you settle for someone who doesn't have experience representing people in proceedings before the bar?

2) maybe? Depends on what your state offers. This isn't something public defenders help with, and it's not necessarily something your average civil legal aid organization is equipped to handle. You could ask, but the better approach might be to find an attorney willing to help pro bono.

3) I think you answered your own question. It varies widely, and different attorneys may have different approaches. A friend of mine (NOT in New England) had some initial pro bono help with their c&f application, but the attorney said they would have to pay if it went to a hearing. In the context of that state, it made sense, since there is not a ton of work until it is clear the applicant is headed towards a full fledged hearing, as opposed to just obtaining documents and refining the application in the beginning. In other words, you could have little or no outlay, or a big outlay, if the bar ends up really scrutinizing you.

Your best bet is to get a consultation with a C&F attorney, be 100% candid with that attorney about EVERYTHING, warts and all, and let them give you a sense of what your risks and costs are going to be. They could probably do that for free.

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CS1775
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Re: C&F Lawyers

Post by CS1775 » Thu Jan 03, 2019 12:35 pm

HelloYesThisIsDog wrote:
Wed Jan 02, 2019 5:29 pm
1) get a c&f lawyer. Why would you settle for someone who doesn't have experience representing people in proceedings before the bar?

2) maybe? Depends on what your state offers. This isn't something public defenders help with, and it's not necessarily something your average civil legal aid organization is equipped to handle. You could ask, but the better approach might be to find an attorney willing to help pro bono.

3) I think you answered your own question. It varies widely, and different attorneys may have different approaches. A friend of mine (NOT in New England) had some initial pro bono help with their c&f application, but the attorney said they would have to pay if it went to a hearing. In the context of that state, it made sense, since there is not a ton of work until it is clear the applicant is headed towards a full fledged hearing, as opposed to just obtaining documents and refining the application in the beginning. In other words, you could have little or no outlay, or a big outlay, if the bar ends up really scrutinizing you.

Your best bet is to get a consultation with a C&F attorney, be 100% candid with that attorney about EVERYTHING, warts and all, and let them give you a sense of what your risks and costs are going to be. They could probably do that for free.
Good to know.

My main concern is that C&F lawyers don't exactly grow on trees, whereas criminal defense lawyers are more common (and presumably lower in cost) and would be more familiar with sealing/unsealing records. But, I should probably go the "full service" route and talk to a C&F lawyer.

I scheduled an appointment with a law school dean (law school knows about my record) to talk about hiring a C&F lawyer, as I'm sure this has came up before and the law school probably will have connections.

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HelloYesThisIsDog
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Re: C&F Lawyers

Post by HelloYesThisIsDog » Thu Jan 03, 2019 1:14 pm

Yes, and some of your professors might also know people.

It's true C&F lawyers don't grow on trees but you're better off with a lawyer who deals with the bar a lot (i.e. representing attorneys being disciplined) rather than a regular criminal defense attorney who simply doesn't know how to handle those kinds of proceedings. Unsealing a record is only a small part of what you need help with here.

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Nony
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Re: C&F Lawyers

Post by Nony » Thu Jan 03, 2019 1:51 pm

HelloYesThisIsDog wrote:
Thu Jan 03, 2019 1:14 pm
Unsealing a record is only a small part of what you need help with here.
I mean, yes, but frankly I’d be surprised if - once OP gets their records - this kind of history would be any significant problem for the bar.

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HelloYesThisIsDog
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Re: C&F Lawyers

Post by HelloYesThisIsDog » Thu Jan 03, 2019 3:19 pm

Nony wrote:
Thu Jan 03, 2019 1:51 pm
HelloYesThisIsDog wrote:
Thu Jan 03, 2019 1:14 pm
Unsealing a record is only a small part of what you need help with here.
I mean, yes, but frankly I’d be surprised if - once OP gets their records - this kind of history would be any significant problem for the bar.
I agree it's probably not, but I'm always hesitant to say that to folks on here because in my experience, people consciously and subconsciously sanitize and omit facts that might substantively change the analysis.

If he wants peace of mind, he can have a real C&F lawyer spend an hour talking to him, probably for not much out of pocket (if any), telling him it's fine and giving him some pointers on how to properly frame the issue in his application and addenda.

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CS1775
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Re: C&F Lawyers

Post by CS1775 » Fri Jan 04, 2019 3:01 pm

Spoke to administration today and the deans think that this will be a non-issue provided I can explain the charge, date, and disposition of the case on my application. For the time being, I'm going to hold off on this.

In the mean time, I need to brush up on exactly what will be inquired into on a C&F exam and who the local C&F lawyers are.

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HelloYesThisIsDog
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Re: C&F Lawyers

Post by HelloYesThisIsDog » Thu Jan 10, 2019 5:01 pm

It's not an "exam," it's a review of your answers and a background check, and, if warranted, an investigation by investigators employed your state's bar (or whichever authority handles admissions). Each state bar takes varying levels of efforts for the baseline background check for each applicant. Some fingerprint and send to the DOJ, others might do state/local checks based on address history, and more. They may try to obtain more documents initially based on what you disclose up front. You won't know much about what's happening until you get a thumbs up or some kind of notification that you're getting reviewed more thoroughly (if you get that at all).

riot
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Re: C&F Lawyers

Post by riot » Fri Jan 11, 2019 8:52 pm

CS1775 wrote:
Fri Jan 04, 2019 3:01 pm
Spoke to administration today and the deans think that this will be a non-issue provided I can explain the charge, date, and disposition of the case on my application. For the time being, I'm going to hold off on this.

In the mean time, I need to brush up on exactly what will be inquired into on a C&F exam and who the local C&F lawyers are.
For whatever it’s worth I had two MIPs in quick succession that I was pretty nervous about (one of which I wasn’t able to get a record of) and I cold called a C&F lawyer and he told me to take the approach you’re outlining above, and to call him back if I had a problem after I submitted my application. I didn’t have a problem. This was in NY. This is obviously not legal advice and you should obviously look into your state’s procedures, but try not to get too freaked out about it. Lots and lots of lawyers have dumb alcohol charges from high school and college.

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