I just got back from the ethics interview about an hour ago. It was actually really interesting and enjoyable to speak with Mr. Lawyer-interview-man, so I'll forgive him for keeping me waiting for 15 minutes. And for making fun of my high school (because he went to a rival school).
Mr. L-I-M basically told me that my record was boringly spotless with nothing that raises even a yellow flag (yay, being a dorky stickler for playing by the rules finally gets rewarded!), so most of our time was spent by him giving me "heads up" about potential ethical quandaries I most certainly will encounter as a newbie attorney and by me asking him questions.
The gyst of what he told me was that there are two ethics scenarios that are most likely to confront a new lawyer. One, friends and relatives who seek free legal advice -- and we all know it's a no-no to provide counsel to someone who isn't a client. An even bigger no-no when you work for the government. The second scenario was the money issue: that many a good attorney has been disbarred because of that sudden emergency -- a kid who got sick or whatever -- that led the lawyer to "borrow" against a client account. Bada-bing, bada-boom, the rest is history. Big fat no-no to co-mingle personal/professional funds, or, ahem, steal from your clients.
After our little "advice" session, Mr. L-I-M told me he'd recommend me to be admitted (yay!) and asked if I had any questions. So I asked back. I said that I knew that clearing this ethics interview was a pre-requisite to being sworn in in MD, but then I asked if anyone ever failed at this juncture? That is, graduated law school, passed the bar but didn't get admitted because of the ethics interview...? He said that it does happen. Not often, but it does happen. But then he told me that it's more frequently the case that those who are borderline on the ethics stuff usually fail the bar too, so the issue becomes moot.
I then asked him what options those folks had... I mean, I can't imagine going to law school, passing the bar but failing the ethics interview -- and then just giving up after all the years of work! I asked if he thought people took other bars to try to be admitted elsewhere. He said that might be an option, but he honestly didn't know what people did.
I also asked what he looks for that raises the red flags or causes him to recommend against admission, aside from the really, really obvious. Mr. L-I-M told me -- and here's the important advice for those of you in law school -- pretty much anything short of something truly criminal that you do before
law school can be forgiven, but things that happen in
or after law school will not be overlooked. And that includes speeding tickets, DUIs, anything that gets you an official piece of paper from some authority. The idea is that your actions reflect your judgment, and by law school, you should have a very good idea of the gravity of the consequences of your behavior.
He also said that he looks for patterns and context. Even in situations that don't immediately jump out as involving ethics. So a speeding ticket for going 70 MPH on I-95 isn't a big deal, unless you get several of them in a short period of time. But getting a speeding ticket for going 50 in a 35 MPH school zone would be considerably more troubling. Because it shows questionable judgment. Ditto drunk and disorderly. Or sanctions of some kind. Or repeatedly being late paying your bills (check your credit score!). Reflects judgment. You get the picture.
Last but not least, Mr. L-I-M said that someone who is taking affirmative actions to correct or ameliorate past behavior will get some latitude of consideration, but someone who just blows off his or her "youthful indiscretions" as such may not be given the benefit of the doubt -- because that person's failure to appreciate fully the gravity of his/her behavior and its consequences, well, that (and here's the refrain) reflects poorly on that person's judgment. And we don't need any more attorneys with poor judgment.
Clearly, Mr. L-I-M's basic message was that from here on out (and even from law school on out), it all goes down on your permanent record, and you won't be given any slack in this profession. You worked too hard to become a lawyer, so don't jeopardize your career by doing something just plain dumb. Because it all counts now. And if you do/did mess up, own up to it and take steps to mitigate for it. (/sermon)
Oh, and the other thing -- he told me that he had a bunch of files for folks who weren't going to be admitted in June, not because they failed the interview but because their references didn't send in the paperwork on time. Lesson there: only use references who will take this as seriously as it needs to be taken. I cannot even begin to imagine how pissed off I'd be if I were delayed being admitted because a friend was too lazy to fill out a form and mail it back within the time requested. I mean, damn!
It was very interesting talking to him. So all you wanna-be-MD-lawyers, don't slack on paying your credit card bills or get too many speeding tickets before you're admitted. Mr. L-I-M, while a very affable guy, clearly takes his role as gatekeeper very seriously and reviews the files thoroughly (I mean, he knew what high school
I went to... and I graduated from high school in 19-freakin'-86!). Luckily for me, I had a skinny file (see above comments about being a dorky stickler for the rules), but he said he's had many, many files which were inches deep and took several rounds for the wanna-be lawyers to clear the ethics hurdle. And not all of them did. So the past can come back and bite you in the ass. Ouch.
So, yeah, one more hurdle down for me. Phew. Friday: destination Baltimore. Wahoo!