Money = character in New York

I have just read a most disturbing article from the New York Times – Aspiring Lawyer Finds Debt Is Bigger Hurdle Than Bar Exam (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/02/business/02lawyer.html).  It seems that Robert Bowman, who worked himself from foster child to law graduate despite having to spend six years in rehab after a tragic accident.  He worked himself through undergraduate school and then to law school, taking out student loans on the way.  Add in some disputed hefty increases in his student loan debt, and suddenly his lenders claimed he owed over $400,000 in student loans.  He certainly hoped he could start hacking away at those student loan debts once he passed the bar and could get a job as a lawyer.  It took him a few tries, but he did pass the New York bar.  However, his dreams of becoming a lawyer were killed by five state appellate judges who determined that his student loans were too substantial and his efforts to repay them too meager for him to be a lawyer.

“Applicant has not made any substantial payments on the loans . . . Applicant has not presently established the character and general fitness requisite for an attorney and counselor-at-law.”

Has your jaw dropped as far as mine has?  Let me see . . . AIG, GM, Chrysler (the list goes on) have recently been given billions of taxpayer dollars because they are so far in debt that it is argued that the entire economy will fall apart if they do not get propped up.  Mr. Bowman did not make poor business choices that sent the entire U.S. economy into a tailspin.  He worked hard and got an education.  But in New York, hard work apparently means nothing.  Mr. Bowman is deemed to not have sufficient “character” to be a lawyer.

Let’s not mince words here.  Mr. Bowman is being denied the right to be a lawyer because he is not rich.  If Mr. Bowman had a rich uncle or a trust fund, or  no one would question his character or general fitness to practice law.   He’s not asking for a handout or for a cushy job.  He just wants to be a lawyer.

Is it little wonder that people hate lawyers when the profession can’t even understand the meaning of “character”?

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2 thoughts on “Money = character in New York

  1. Bowman’s case isn’t the only one involving disbarment or denial of admission for indebtedness. See the link (“The state-bar establishment: Pro bono for the banks”)for commentary.

    To rethink the legal profession, don’t forget to rethink the state-bar apparatus: its structure, conduct, and so-called ethics.

  2. Agreed. There are many aspects of the legal profession that need to be subjected to a serious “rethink” and, more importantly, followed by substantive change. My blogging will continue, and hopefully will be a catalyst for a long overdue housecleaning of the entire legal industry.

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