Celia Lerman, Intellectual Property Lawyer in California & Argentina.

Response to Moral Character Application Question

Below is a response to a question I recently received from a foreign lawyer regarding California’s moral character application. Please let me know if you have any doubts or concerns!

Q: I have a question what is the need of moral character Determination Application??

And do I have to fill the this application before the California Bar Application???

And also is Foreign Applicant Lawyer and US based Lawyer are same???

The State Bar of California requires all bar applicants to prove that they are of good moral character. According to the State Bar of California, an individual is of good moral character if they exhibit the traits of “honesty, fairness, candor, trustworthiness, observance of fiduciary responsibility, respect for and obedience to the law, and respect for the rights of others and the judicial process.” Attorneys who have been suspended, disbarred, or are not in good standing in any jurisdiction are prohibited from submitting an application to the State Bar of California. Given the considerable damage lawyers can inflict onto others, the application of determination of moral character is necessary to determine eligibility for admission to the State Bar of California, ensuring that all bar applicants will practice law with integrity and virtue. 

The moral character review can be a long and painstaking process (there is a six month standard processing period). That is why it is important to fill out the application accurately and completely the first time around. The State Bar of California conducts its own review and investigation of you and your application, so failures to disclose information, dishonesty, or incompleteness will only delay your application process. The application generally includes documents like “recommendations and references from past employers, fingerprints, criminal convictions, debt, and violations of schools’ honor codes.” Applicants with serious issues in their past are invited to an informal conference in order to discuss red flags. 

With regard to your second question, according to the State Bar of California, the application of determination of moral character must be submitted online after a law student or attorney applicant has already registered with the State Bar. Students should submit the application as early as possible, and no later than the beginning of their last year of law study.

Lastly, both foreign lawyer applicants and American lawyer applicants complete the same application of determination of moral character. For more information about the State Bar of California’s moral character application, click here.


  1. http://www.calbar.ca.gov/Portals/0/documents/admissions/Moral-Character-Determination-Application-Instructions.pdf [Accessed July 10, 2020].
  2. http://www.calbar.ca.gov/Admissions/Moral-Character [Accessed July 10, 2020].
  3. http://www.calbar.ca.gov/Portals/0/documents/admissions/Moral-Character-Determination-Application-Instructions.pdf [Accessed July 10, 2020].


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