NJLAP has provided a free and confidential helping hand for lawyers, judges, law students and law graduates for more than 20 years. Evaluating bar candidates referred by the Committee on Character is just one part of the important work we do. You are encouraged to become familiar with NJLAP through this website. Over the course of your career you may never need to call, but you will know someone who does. We look forward to working with you.
Once you have received a referral letter from the COC, please make sure you return your release form, via hard copy, to the COC, indicating that you have chosen NJLAP for your evaluation provider. We cannot start your file, or schedule your evaluation until all your paperwork has been received and reviewed.
While you are waiting, please review the FAQs below, with particular attention to the item that deals with the educational opportunities that NJLAP provides, free of charge, to candidates. The COC finds that completion of the assigned classwork is a significant way to help fulfill some of their requirements. In addition, completing the classwork before coming in for your evaluation appointment is highly recommended so that your counselor can review your work ahead of time. Please allow one week after the completion of your classwork to be processed and put in your file.
1. I got a Letter from the NJ Committee on character (COC) Telling me that I have to make an Appointment Immediately!
NJLAP can schedule you for an appointment with one of our counselors as soon as we have received all the appropriate paperwork from the COC.In addition, please note:
a.) With your letter from the COC, you will have an authorization and release form to execute and return to them. Once you have done so, and have chosen NJLAP as your evaluation provider, the COC has permission to send us a copy of your Certified Statement of Character and all pertinent paperwork. It will be reviewed and you will be assigned to a counselor. Your counselor will call you to schedule your evaluation appointment or discuss any additional paperwork that is needed (see item b). You will also get an email with registration information for the online class (see item 15 below) which we advise you to complete, if possible, before your evaluation appointment.
b.) Candidates are reminded to supplement the Certified Statement with narratives, amended narratives, police reports, disposition records and/or documentation of treatment. If you have already sent these items to the COC, you do not have to send these to NJLAP as they are already in your file. The COC will send us copies of all paperwork in your file. However, if these documents were missing from your COC file, you should immediately provide these documents to the COC, via an online amendment to your Certified Statement as well as copies, mailed or emailed, to NJLAP. These documents help NJLAP complete a proper evaluation. Sending NJLAP and the COC these documents will avoid delays in case processing.
2. I already had an evaluation done in another state, Do I still need to have one in NJ?
Yes. In addition, NJLAP and the COC will need documentation and copies of all other evaluations.
3. The incident that has raised concern with the COC was over 2, 5, 10 years ago. Why is this important?
Any incident that occurred during Law School is considered more serious, due to its recent occurrence. In addition, past incidents may indicate a possible pattern of concern.
4. Where are you located, what are your hours, are evening appointments available?
NJLAP is available to see candidates at our office at the New Jersey Law Center, One Constitution Square, New Brunswick, NJ 08901 during the hours of 9am and 5pm, Monday through Friday. Our telephone number is 800-24-NJLAP (800-246-5527). The length of your appointment varies according to your particular situation, on average, evaluations often last up to 2 hours.
5. What is NJLAP’s Role in the Character and Fitness Process? Does an Evaluation Mean I will be certified?
6. I am in recovery. Do I still need to come for an evaluation?
Yes. Be prepared to discuss and document, your efforts at recovery including the following:
- a.) Clean/Abstinent date(s)
- b.) Formal Treatment (Inpatient, Outpatient, Group/Individual Therapy
- c.) Informal Treatment (State Drinking Driving Programs, AA, NA or other support groups). Documentation may be required as to your participation and or completion of any of these efforts. In order to complete our review as part of your certification process, it would be wise to begin requesting and gathering this information as soon as possible.
7. I live in Pennsylvania, California, Brooklyn, etc. Do I Have to come in for an Evaluation? Can it be done over the phone or by Someone Else?
Evaluations are done in person following CoVID protocols, or virtually. You may choose a more conveniently located private provider, however the COC must approve that provider in advance. If you have already signed a paperwork release for NJLAP, you must notify us that you are withdrawing that permission and are signing a new release for the OC-approved provider. NJLAP will then destroy your file. Keep in mind that you will be responsible for all related costs when choosing another provider.
8. What Educational & Preventive experiences does NJLAP offer? How do I participate?
- Educational classwork will be assigned to each candidate on an individual basis Candidates will be sent an email prior to their evaluation appointment containing reading materials and assignment instructions. Completed classwork should be submitted to your assigned counselor in a Word document through email. Successfully completing the classwork before the evaluation appointment is highly recommended.
- NJLAP offers a multi-faceted educational experience, including classwork that focus on substance use, abuse and addiction; or mental health, stress, resilience and wellness. In addition, classwork covers pertinent bar candidate case law. In addition, candidates are invited to attend open Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers (LCL) meetings as needed.
- Benefits of Participation: Participation in NJLAP’s educational offerings supports a candidate’s obligation to meet RG303.6, in the Rules Governing the Committee on Character:
- “303.6 Burden of Proof. The candidate shall have the burden to establish by clear and convincing evidence his or her good character and current fitness to be admitted to the practice of law in this state.”
- If you are not familiar with the COC’s rules and regulations, you may download them from the Board of Bar Examiners’ website, listed at the end of these FAQs.
What is the Importance of Candor and Disclosure with the COC and NJLAP?
- See In re Hyra, 15 N.J. 252 (1954):
- “A full disclosure of one’s personal life and his affairs should be made by every prospective candidate and it can be generally stated that there is no place in the law for a man who cannot or will not, tell the truth even when his own interest are involved. In the legal profession particularly there must be reverence for the truth.”
- See In Matter of the Application of Frank B. McLaughlin, 144 N.J. 133 (1996):
- The Court emphasized truthfulness and honesty as requisite traits for admission to the bar. The Court noted that a candidate who conceals issues or misleads the Committee on Character subverts the process of character review and the Court’s responsibility to protect the public and preserve the justice system.
- In In re McLaughlin, Justice Handler discussed the need for attorneys and bar applicants to adhere to the highest principles of integrity. He explained:
- Candidates for the bar are expected to understand and satisfy the personal, educational, and professional requisites that inhere in good character and fitness and are indispensable in seeking authorization to engage in the practice of law. Good character does not emerge on licensure. It is absurd to suggest that good character is not revealed until one becomes an attorney. The fundamental character traits of honesty and truthfulness are not valued in abstract, but are assumed to be inherent aspects of one’s personality; they can, and must, be considered the measure of a candidate‘s eligibility to seek admission to practice law and ability to fulfill the responsibilities of legal profession
- Excerpted from New Jersey Law Journal article, June 1, 2009
- The COC has advised the NJLAP that present lack of candor when disclosing or discussing a matter that has taken place in your past is a separate and distinct act of misconduct. In fact, the COC may view present lack of candor more seriously than the original matter itself since it would constitute recent misconduct. Lack of candor may be grounds for the COC to recommend that your certification for admission to the bar be withheld. Additionally, if the lack of candor is discovered after you have already been certified for admission to the bar, the COC can refer the matter to the Office of Attorney Ethics for further action.
- As an additional reminder, you have an ongoing duty to report any updates or changes to your Certified Statement to the COC until your date of admission.
- For answers to questions about 303 hearings, such as:
- What is a 303 hearing?*
- What is the possibility that I will have a hearing?*
- When will I know if I will be having a hearing?*
- What will the 303 hearing be like?*
- a. Should I / do I have to bring an attorney to the hearing?
- b. How long will it take?
- c. How long after the hearing will I be certified?
- *Please visit the NJ Board of Bar Examiners website to download the Committee on Character Regulations or call 609-815-2911.