Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Bar Application Rule Changes Approved

The way prospective attorneys apply to practice law in Ohio has been streamlined, and admission for early professionals and out-of-state attorneys has been expanded.

The amendments are within the Rules for Government of the Bar of Ohio. The rule changes approved by the Supreme Court of Ohio go into effect Apr. 1.

The first amendment removes the requirement that applicants submit fingerprints as part of the Ohio bar examination process. Currently, applicants are required to have their fingerprints taken by a law enforcement agency and submitted as part of the exam registration. Examinees then give a sample fingerprint at the testing location to ensure they are the same person who applied. Starting with the July 2024 bar exam, examinees will instead be required to submit a copy of a state-issued ID or passport-style photo during the initial registration process that will be verified at the exam.

Another rule change expands legal internships. The amendment allows limited practice by law students who have completed one-third of their legal education and recent law school graduates. The change provides people who want to become lawyers practical experience while filling a need for services in the private sector and public service, including legal aid.

A separate amendment revises the standards for out-of-state attorneys who want to be licensed in Ohio without taking the bar exam. Currently, Ohio rules require an attorney to practice full-time for five of the past ten years to qualify. The rule change will allow part-time attorneys to apply if they’ve practiced for at least 1,000 hours a year for five of the most recent seven years. The rule aligns with most other states’ admission without examination rules and guidance from the American Bar Association.

Attorneys admitted to practice in a U.S. territory, such as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or Guam, are now also eligible to apply for admission without examination under the changes.

An additional rule change pertains to a bar applicant’s character and fitness review by the Court. The time for the applicant’s record to be under seal will be reduced from 60 to 30 days. Applicants can request to keep their record or portions of the record confidential within that time. The window was shortened for the mandatory sealing period to make the review process more efficient.