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Informal Panel Hearings are conducted before two or three members of the Board of Law Examiners. Each hearing is set in the morning or afternoon session, typically with 5-6 other applicants. Cases are called in the order noted in your notice of hearing. Although the hearings are informal, your testimony will be recorded for potential future reference. The Board generally allots about 30 minutes per hearing on average, but hearing times vary significantly among applicants, depending on the nature and number of issues involved.

The Board members will question you about the items listed in your notice of hearing and possibly other matters. You will have an opportunity to offer additional evidence and information. If you are represented by counsel, he or she will have a chance to ask you follow up questions and make closing remarks. The Board does not have its counsel representing it at panel hearings, unlike in formal hearings. The panel will not announce its decision on that day but generally attempts to do so within two weeks of the hearing date.

The panel has four main options:

  1. Approve your application on character and fitness grounds,
  2. Defer your application and request additional information or documentation,
  3. Refer your application to the full Board for a formal hearing, or
  4. Deny your application but this denial can be appealed as a matter of right to the full Board for a formal hearing.

Any result other than an approval often results in a significant delay in the Board reaching a final decision on your application and potential admission.

You may be wondering how our firm could help you at the informal hearing.  Here are several ways we can assist, represent, or defend you in informal panel hearings based on our experience in these matters:

  • Assist you in preparing for the likely questions from the panel and in presenting the facts in the most favorable light;
  • Anticipate evidence and information that the panel may request at the hearing and thereby possibly avoid a deferral and corresponding delay;
  • Suggest other potential evidence and information about the listed issues and your general character and fitness;
  • Identify other potential issues and attempt to address and prepare you for potential inquiries in those areas;
  • Present arguments on your behalf or explain how to present them in the brief time permitted; and
  • Lower your anxiety by helping you through an unfamiliar and unnerving process.
  • Information about our firm’s three-tiered fee structure for panel hearings and other informal procedures is set forth in our general section on Law Examiners.

Formal Hearing before the Full Board of Law Examiners

Hearings before the full Board of Law Examiners are formal evidentiary proceedings.  Pre-hearing discovery by the Board’s outside counsel is often conducted. The hearings are held during the Board’s regular quarterly meetings. All Board members are present for the hearing, absent some conflict by a member.

Witnesses are placed under oath, examined, cross-examined, and often questioned by Board members. The applicant is given an opportunity to present witnesses and other evidence. Opening statements and closing arguments are generally presented by the Board’s counsel and counsel for the applicant or the applicant. A court reporter is present to transcribe the hearing.

The Board’s decision on an application is final, although a denial may be appealed to Superior Court under a deferential review standard. If an application is denied, the Board’s rules provide that the applicant cannot reapply again for three years from the denial, although the Board occasionally shortens this time period.

If you have received a notice of hearing for a formal hearing, it is more difficult to represent yourself, although it is possible. Our firm’s lawyers defend applicant clients in formal hearings before the Board of Law Examiners. Our representation includes all aspects involved in defending a formal evidentiary hearing. We work with our clients to agree on a strategy for the hearing, assist with pre-hearing discovery, communicate with Board counsel, prepare you for the hearing, interview and prepare your witnesses, prepare to cross-examine the Board’s witnesses, and make closing arguments, among other tasks.

Comity Requirements, Exam Conduct and Special Accommodations

Our firm’s attorneys defend and represent applicants in a number of other matters before the Board of Law Examiners, including qualifications for comity admission, alleged misconduct during the bar examination, and special accommodations for the exam.

Comity requirements.   If you have applied for comity admission, you will need to establish that you have satisfied all of the requirements to qualify. The Board interprets these comity requirements very strictly. For example, the Board will insist that you actively and substantially engaged in the practice of law for a full 4 of the last 6 years before filing your application. We have worked with clients in the past to help document the practice requirement and, in other cases, provided advice about whether there was a realistic probability of meeting this qualification.  We have also represented and defended clients in comity hearings before the Board on these issues.

Examination misconduct.  The Board also regularly conducts inquiries on alleged violations of its examination rules.  You may have received a letter inquiry or a notice of hearing concerning such an issue. If so, you should take it seriously. The Board enforces its examination procedures sternly. Less serious allegations can be handled through an exchange of written submissions, while more serious allegations are typically scheduled for hearing.   Even if the alleged violation seems minor to you, you should respond timely and truthfully. We have assisted clients in submitting written responses and collecting documentary evidence and also defended them in hearings before the Board on such examination conduct.

Special Accommodations.  The Board will grant petitions for special accommodations during the exam for applicants who can demonstrate a qualified disability. These special accommodation petitions are evaluated under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Board scrutinizes these requests closely. We have assisted clients in preparing these petitions, including the required medical evaluation, and also represent clients before the Board in attempting to obtain special accommodations.

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