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Everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes involve the law. If one of your mistakes has led to a felony conviction, you may think that you have no hope of a new career in the legal field. Actually, you do. Although becoming a lawyer is more challenging after a felony conviction, it’s not impossible. If you’ve been thinking about a career in law, here is what you need to know.
Yes, But it Depends on the State
Where you wish to practice law will impact the rules you must follow to do so after a felony conviction. Every state has different laws about when a former felon may practice law. In Kansas and Missouri, for instance, you must wait until five years after finishing your sentence to become an attorney. In Oregon, you can become a lawyer after a felony unless convicted of a crime for which a lawyer could be disbarred. As of 2019, only the United States’ territories of Palau and the Northern Mariana Islands absolutely prohibit former felons from becoming lawyers unless granted a full pardon.
Expect Some Difficulties
Although you can practice law after a felony, you will have to overcome certain obstacles. Many states will require you to wait several years after your conviction to get your law license. Others may require that you have your civil rights fully restored before practicing law. Every state requires lawyers to pass a moral character examination and yours may be more rigorous than others. You’ll likely need to provide character references along with evidence that you’re actively working towards improving yourself. This may mean doing volunteer work or proving you’ve been spending some time improving yourself with a therapist or counselor. If your conviction stemmed from substance abuse, the state bar could ask you to present evidence of time spent in rehab.
Law Career Options for Ex-Felons
Where you wish to practice law matters, but so will the area of law you wish to enter. Certain areas of law may be harder to enter for felons with certain convictions. If convicted of fraud or forgery, for instance, you may have a better chance of practicing family law than becoming a bankruptcy or real estate attorney.
People think of becoming a lawyer as a lucrative career path, but the truth is that potential income varies significantly. For example, most personal injury lawyers don’t ask for upfront fees, instead taking a percentage of the settlement amount or jury award. Consider this when mulling over a law career post felony conviction.
You could find yourself working quite hard to gain acceptance as a lawyer only to land in a job that pays less than you were expecting. If a law career is truly where your heart is, however, you can still make it happen with some time and dedication.
Building up a career is an important step in creating a new and successful life. But doing it alone can be a challenge. Be sure to check Nolef Turns for job fairs and other events!