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Unlocking the Bar Report

Unlocking the Bar identifies and examines the barriers individuals with criminal records encounter when applying to law school and the California State Bar. The authors conducted their original research and surveyed relevant secondary literature. The report includes findings, analysis, and recommendations for expanding access for qualified applicants.

The original research includes:

  • A survey of 88 individuals with criminal records that asked questions about access to the legal profession;
  • An analysis of the moral character disclosure statements of all 20 American Bar Association (ABA)-accredited law schools in California;
  • Interviews with admissions officers from 10 of those law schools;
  • Interviews with student services officers from seven of those law schools;
  • A review of moral character requirements in all 50 states;
  • Interviews with current and former California State Bar officials and California CBE members;
  • Interviews with California law school graduates with a criminal record, some of whom were admitted and some of whom were denied admission to the California State Bar;
  • Interviews with California lawyers who advise on California State Bar moral character determinations; and
  • A 2018 Roundtable discussion whose participants included a range of current and former California State Bar, National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), and ABA officials; individuals who attended law school and were admitted to a state bar after being incarcerated; California law school admissions and student services officers; and academics.