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Florida Bar Investigative Informal Hearing?
Last Post 06/14/2018 11:59 AM by anthony
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09/28/2012 9:33 AM
Author: Ugh [21813]
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I passed the Feb 12 exam, and applied last November. Yesterday I received a letter from the Board requesting an investigative hearing. I have never been arrested or had DUIs or anything, but I have been fired several times for tardiness and attendance (I was just diagnosed narcoleptic last week).

Does anyone have insight into informal hearings? All I see are kind of horror stories online where you are basically tricked into things and your life is on trial. I'd like to hear some first-hand experience if anyone would like to share...

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09/28/2012 2:16 PM
Author: xyz [21813]
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No, but there are attorneys who handle this. I spoke to one last summer because I was going to take the bar (which I just passed the July 2012) and I filed bankruptcy in 2008, so I know they will be calling me in. Google search it, the attorney I spoke with gave me some advice and told me that some ppl hire atty's to represent them in this process.

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09/28/2012 2:54 PM
Author: snark [21813]
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You are fine. Talk about your medical condition and how it affects your major life activities. The investigator can't touch you if you keep your discussion within the confines of ADA. Moreover, a discussion of your disability will appeal to his/her emotions and buy you favor.

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09/29/2012 11:01 PM
Author: Osito Polar [15]
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Are you saying that you applied to take the bar in November 2011, passed the bar in February 2012, and only now is the board of bar examiners getting around to processing your application with respect to character and fitness?

The reason I ask is because I applied in April 2012 to take the July 2012 exam in florida. I passed, and am scheduled to take the MPRE on November 3rd. By your calendar, they might not process my application until sometime late in 2013.

Could you please clarify?

This question also is open to anyone else who might have experience with the time it takes for the florida board of bar examiners to process applications through the stage of review of character and fitness.

Thanks.

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10/01/2012 4:18 PM
Author: awawa [21813]
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The investigation is completed on a case-by-case basis. Some are done in as little as 3 months, some 6 months. The more lawsuits, employers, addresses, etc., the longer the investigation.

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10/01/2012 5:36 PM
Author: Osito Polar [15]
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@ awawa,

Thank you for the clarification. I was beginning to think that it might be late next summer before I might hear anything regarding any next steps that would pertain to the process.

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10/01/2012 10:16 PM
Author: Ugh [21813]
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Yeah, I'm a little older (32) and moved quite a bit with my fiancé for his job. That, plus health issues, plus companies no longer in business due to economy = longer wait time.

Additionally, just FYI, the Board told me themselves they do not meet in August, December, and one other month to review files. I find this strange as I received requests from them during those months.

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10/02/2012 2:27 AM
Author: Osito Polar [15]
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In that case, it will take forever....

I am in my mid-forties. I was first admitted to practice law in the late 1990's, and am licensed in more than one state. While my record contains no criminal problems, no complaints against me as an attorney (either by the bar or by clients), and no bankruptcies or other problematic litigation issues, I have lived in other countries, and have experienced the usual "bumps and bruises" that come with what I consider to be the simple fact of existence.

I have spoken with at least two long-time florida lawyers (one of whom was a prosecutor for over 18 years in that state), and each of them feels my record contains nothing that ultimately should be a problem. However, now I am wondering if the wait-time will be excessively long.

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10/02/2012 7:20 PM
Author: Guest [21813]
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Depends. Did you disclose? If so, it won't be too bad. If not, you need an attorney. Florida tends to be serious when it comes to non-disclosure.

The Florida Bar will hammer you if you put too much emphasis on the ADA issue. You would need to be seeing a Florida bar approved psychiatrist, have a letter written detailing the disorder, and have a letter confirming that you are taking care of the problem.

The actual hearing will vary depending on your panel. Some panels are aggressive and others are very relaxed.

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10/03/2012 2:11 AM
Author: Osito Polar [15]
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@ Guest:

I am not the person who posted the original comment on this thread, and the language of your response appears aimed squarely at that individual.

In any event, I certainly disclosed everything, and also amended my application several times during the months following the filing of the application -- both in response to specific requests from the board, and also (on at least one occasion) my own initiative because I felt that an answer I had given actually needed some further clarification.

The reason it sounds like my application is going to take forever is because, due to the passage of time, my file is thicker than most others. Also, as mentioned in my last post, there are things in the file that, even though nobody in the real world would consider them to be anything requiring a second thought, and even though I have fourteen years of an almost-spotless record as an attorney (fired from one job in 2001, and had one incident in 2005 that did not result in any sanctions being imposed), still are likely to get nitpicked to death.

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10/03/2012 4:31 AM
Author: Guest [21813]
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My application was roughly around 1,000 pages including amendments. I applied when I was 36 years old. I had several jobs. Lived in numerous places. And, unfortunately, had arrests when I was a minor.

Yes, your application will likely take longer. The key - pass the bar. My understanding is that you are placed on a priority list after you pass the bar.

My application took about 1 year, 9 months! Average w/o issues is about 9 months in Florida. However, shortly after I passed the bar, I was notified of the investigative hearing. Approval came about 2 weeks after the hearing date.

My hearing went smooth because I had a competent attorney and had disclosed everything. Therefore, there was nothing the bar could hammer me on.

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10/03/2012 5:29 PM
Author: Ugh [21813]
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@guest: I am the OP. I have disclosed everything mentioned. I don't have a statement officially stating my disability, but I could definitely obtain one from my doctor.

You said you had a competent attorney-do you definitely recommend having one? I spoke to someone today, and he said it would be approximately $3000 plus costs. Does that seem about right?

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10/03/2012 6:55 PM
Author: Guest [21813]
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You will definitely need a statement along with proof that the disability will not impact your ability to practice law. Also, you need to amend your application to disclose the disability. The Florida bar application is extremely vague allowing too many avenues in which an incredibly liberal interpretation of the questions can get you into hot water.

Your work history might create some issues. Depends on the type of job, your age, etc. I am not sure if putting the emphasis on the disorder is the best thing. Unfortunately, too many people try to make excuses.

As far as the attorney, I am not sure. Do you have a job lined up? With what you stated online, I don't think anything will preclude you from being admitted provided you disclosed. Worst case, you might get a formal hearing. Thus, if you have time you can chance it without an attorney. If your in a rush, spend the money and get an attorney.

The benefit of an attorney is that it shows you are taking the process seriously. Also, it might keep the board in check. $3,000 is what I paid. Its about the going rate.

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10/04/2012 8:30 AM
Author: Ugh [21813]
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@guest: I have disclosed everything stated. I can get a letter with my diagnosis, but like you, I think it looks bad to rely on that. In the end, it was my fault and my responsibility and I was stupid and immature. I ignored the problem for years. It is a facet of my work history, but, and I say this honestly, I am deeply embarrassed that I didn't take action earlier. Tons of other people have worse issues than me and make it to work on time, so while the narco helps explain, it does not excuse.

I do have a job lined up at my firm, thank goodness. So I am eager to get that oath ASAP

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10/04/2012 3:44 PM
Author: Guest [21813]
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As far as my experience, and from what my attorney told me, that's the response they are looking for. As long as you stay away from the excuses, your in good shape. You will probably be fine. Again, if you want to be on the safe side, the attorney is that extra bit of insurance.

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10/10/2012 4:24 PM
Author: Cflpasser [21813]
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I have not personally not had to have a hearing, but I have known several people (well) who did, and all spoke with someone on the investigation team...however she is not someone you meet on first go round...by the time you meet her it is really just a courtesy before they tell you no.

But most people I know have not had a lawyer the first go round and have all been fortunate enough to be okay'd after that point.

If I had to go I would probably get an attorney so I could do it once (for sure).

But I agree just be straight forward, don't harp on anyone thing...people get called into those hearins for all kinds of crap (ie excessive speeding tickets, arrest for assault - not convictions, possession of mariajuana, small civil fine - less $100, child support, financial issues)...

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11/11/2012 1:41 PM
Author: Ugh too [21813]
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Posted By on 28 Sep 2012 09:33 AM
I passed the Feb 12 exam, and applied last November. Yesterday I received a letter from the Board requesting an investigative hearing. I have never been arrested or had DUIs or anything, but I have been fired several times for tardiness and attendance (I was just diagnosed narcoleptic last week).

Does anyone have insight into informal hearings? All I see are kind of horror stories online where you are basically tricked into things and your life is on trial. I'd like to hear some first-hand experience if anyone would like to share...


Ugh, I am in your same shoes and am anxious to see if someone on this forum has actually been the subject of an informal hearing. I have financial issues and bankruptcy that is the subject of my hearing.

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11/16/2012 6:09 AM
Author: Ugh [21813]
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Well, my hearing is today, so I'll let you know what it's like...

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11/26/2012 11:37 PM
Author: Speaking From Experience [21813]
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Investigative Bar Hearings are very formal, just like court. In fact, you'll even have a court reporter present. The key thing is to be brutally candid and don't make excuses.

No one is perfect so don't pretend that you are because it is not real! Short and sweet answers starting with an acknowledgment of any wrong doing and ending with how you have grown/learned from the experience is most prudent.

I went to my investigative hearing with an attorney. I recommend that. The going rate is $3,000.00 plus expenses and it is totally worth it. You are most likely being called in for some occurrence or event that is unpleasant or embarrassing. Your attorney will help you with the requirement of being brutally candid [as most people’s first instinct does not include throwing themselves under the bus]. Disclose everything unless you enjoy walking into a firing squad.

I read earlier posts about “chancing” it without an attorney; highly NOT recommended. Whether you are a practicing attorney or just starting out, you want this hearing to go as well as possible. In fact, it could turn out to be one of the most important meetings of your life. Unsuccessful investigative hearings develop into formal hearings and possibly Board sanctions or formal charges being filed. For practicing attorneys, this could trigger a reporting requirement. Again, hire an attorney even if the only benefit is organizational advice. You must deliver a candid and valid explanation in a short time frame. Organization is paramount.

I’m in my mid-thirties and I have had (as stated earlier) several of life’s bumps and bruises along the way, including multiple arrests. However, my hearing was successful and I have been sworn in. Although I worked extremely hard at preparing, my attorney helped me organize for the hearing and he tested me on my preparation. Many times I discovered that I had not prepared as adequately as I had believed. Flash back to law school exams anyone? Seriously, I don’t think I could have received a successful outcome without the help of an attorney - and this is coming from the guy who wanted to take the Florida Bar Exam cold, without a prep course!

In closing, regardless of having representation, the Investigative Hearing letter holds the key to your success. It will tell you exactly what the Board wants to talk about. I had eight items, which is probably much higher than average, and I was prepared to discuss them all. Well, hopefully an insider's perspective has been helpful. Good Luck!

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11/29/2012 12:49 PM
Author: Anonymous [21813]
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Ugh, How did your hearing go? The panel must have issued their opinion by now.

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12/15/2012 7:31 AM
Author: amph2012 [21813]
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Can any of the posters here suggest the name of the attorney they hired for the hearing? I have issues that are about to blow up and I am certain it means a hearing.

Please let me know.

Thx!

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01/26/2013 4:20 PM
Author: I've been through it [21813]
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I used Scott Tozian of Smith, Tozian & Hinkle in Tampa, FL.

He is expensive, but worth every penny

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04/16/2013 10:57 AM
Author: Still Waiting [21813]
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Application submitted early 2012. Passed the July 2012. Still waiting to hear something from the Florida Board of Bar Examiners. For about 8 months I was bombarded with requests, and very timely responded. Then all went silent. I have sent two letters requesting status updates and with each, I am then asked for additional things. Again, I wait. There is some history, afterall I am 48 years old, licensed to practice in NY, which I did for approx 10 years, moved here 3 years ago, and have a prior bankruptcy. I had a very sick daughter, many hospitalizations, so I can fairly easily explain why things went wrong there... but I have no criminal past, no sanctions, no other issues. I have always assumed the bankruptcy could lead to an informal hearing... which I am ready for.... but I am getting silence. What could possibly be taking this long ???

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07/10/2013 11:05 AM
Author: tired of waiting [21813]
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Rule 3-40.2 of the Rules Regarding Admission to the Bar allow applicants to petition the Fl Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus requiring the Board to close the investigation after 9 months following a complete application. My application was filed in Dec 2010 and met the definition of complete in June 2011. I submitted my petition to the FSC a couple of weeks ago with service on the Board. I'm older and have some warts, but nothing that should disqualify. I was expecting a hearing, but all requests for updates were met with silence or assurances that they would act as quickly as possible. I suggest those of you being subjected to the "stall game" file for the writ, too.

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07/10/2013 4:04 PM
Author: Prepping for Bar and Waiting [21813]
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Hi Anonymous, I'm in a position where I have been considering filing that writ. I was wondering if you could lay out how you did it, who you filed it with, etc.

I've been waiting for a response going on 10 months now and mailed a second status request earlier this week, although I expect nothing to come of it.

Any help on the writ would be appreciated. Thanks!

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07/16/2013 6:55 AM
Author: tired of waiting [21813]
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The steps I took were:
1- Research the requirements/elements of writ of mandamus via case law.
2- Read all of the rules of admission (on FBEE website).
3- Read the rules of appellate procedure.
4- Preview sample petitions that have been filed and accepted by FSC.
5- Prepare my writ and appendix (very similarly to the 1L brief with some differences - see rules of appellate procedure).
6- File my writ in FSC with service on FBBE.
7- Await new case number from FSC and answer from FBBE.

I realize this is very generic, but if you don't know how to prepare and file your case, I would strongly suggest hiring an attorney to do it for you. I used the assistance of some attorneys, as well, to both answer legal questions and review my petition and appendix. Because I have not been admitted to the Bar as of yet, I cannot give you any legal advice.

Good luck!!

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08/16/2013 5:48 PM
Author: Guest [21813]
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Does anyone know if the board asks you directly if you've told your employer or firm all issues in your C & F evaluation by the board?

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09/03/2013 7:05 AM
Author: Prepping for Bar and Waiting [21813]
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I posted a few posts up, but wanted to update anyone reading of a response I received from the Florida Bar a couple months ago after I mailed a second status request. I sent a second status request in early July asking for an approximate date when I could expect a decision from the Board on my application. The Board replied in about a week from that mailing that the Board would not meet again until September 2013 and that no applications would be processed until that date. The Board further stated that I would receive a final decision on my application by mid- to late-September 2013.

I know it doesn't provide much info, but hopefully it will give some peace of mind to anyone else here who has been expecting a response in July, August, or early September.

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10/01/2013 8:58 AM
Author: rccs12345@gmail.com [21813]
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Hi,I would appreciate any advice and/or names of Massachusetts Attorneys who handle cases against the Board of Bar Examiners. My situation is this : I lost my license (disbarred) in another jurisdiction 8 years ago, stayed out of law, but relocated to Massachusetts last summer and took, and passed, the July 2012 Mass Bar Exam.
I corresponded with the BBE before applying to take the Bar Exam and told them of my disbarment in another jurisdiction, but they allowed me to take the Bar Exam regardless.
Now I get a letter stating that before they will admit me to practice in Massachusetts I have to get readmitted it the jurisdiction I moved out of.

I believe that this is a gross violation of due process and equal protection since they should have told me in advance of taking the Mass. Bar that even if I passed they still would not admit me.

1. Does anyone have a similar experience?
2. Can anyone recommend a Mass. Attorney who would handle this?

Thanks very much,

rccs12345@gmail.com

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12/12/2013 10:53 AM
Author: Adrian [1]
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Relax, just get a good lawyer (to whoever has a hearing). I had some really bad financial issues and I got off with a letter of guidance. I hired Lars Soreide in Fort Lauderdale. He comes recommended from St. Thomas University School of Law which is where I went. I am in no way related to the firm. It didn't cost that much and I can practice now. floridabarhearing.com is the website it has some info on the process too. I freaked out bad, but once you are prepared you have nothing to worry about. I had a hearing in Coral Gables Florida which went smoothly.

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08/07/2014 6:23 AM
Author: sfla12345 [21813]
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Did you hear from the Board in mid to late September? hearing?

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09/09/2014 3:41 PM
Author: Something [21813]
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I haven't heard anything since July 7, and that was a dean certification...

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09/23/2014 10:19 AM
Author: flahearing [21813]
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Can anyone shed light on recent FL Bar investigative hearings? I have a lawyer, but I am seeking anyone who has attended one lately with issues of financial responsibility. I ahve everything in order, no defaults, and payment plans have been followed to a T for the past 15 + months.

Also, what are the chances of being called for a quicker hearing off the waiting list.?

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05/08/2015 9:29 AM
Author: FinallyCleared [21813]
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I finally got my character and fitness cleared 2 years after filling out my bar application!

I had to go through an investigative hearing and I hired Lars Soreide from Fort Lauderdale. I understand how nerve-wracking and potentially depressing the anticipation for the investigative hearing is. I am very satisfied with the way Lars handled my case and I am not sure if I would have been cleared without his guidance. It is amazing how on-point Lars was with his methodological process of dealing with the FBBE and their investigative hearing process. I highly recommend him.

For anyone reading this, I am sure you have had this nailed in so many times; BE 1000% CANDID. This is really what the Board is looking for at the end of the day. Make sure you can identify your wrongs, explain why such actions were wrong, and be able to articulate why your previous wrong should not be of concern to the Board in the future.

If you made a misrepresentation on your Bar Application or Law School Application, AMEND IT AND SHOW THE BOARD THAT YOU ARE A CANDID INDIVIDUAL. Your failure to do so and having the Board discover these misrepresentations will not only be a loss of an opportunity for you to demonstrate your attribute of candor, but it will also place you behind the eight-ball and perhaps raise a strong presumption of dishonesty which will be severely detrimental to your application.

Another thing, contrary to many , THE BOARD IS NOT OUT THERE TO GET YOU! If you are prepared and have a good lawyer on your side, the investigative hearing will be fine, BUT BE HONEST AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY !


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05/18/2015 4:36 PM
Author: m [21813]
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I am required to file a Brief following my investigative hearing, does anyone have suggestions on the format of the brief?

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06/10/2015 12:03 PM
Author: anonymous coward [21813]
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Can taxes hold up the C&F process? I just met with a CPA to do my 2013 and 2014 taxes. tl;dr former CPA filed some stuff - 941s, Social security etc - related to former business and then disappeared and took my files with him; but he didn't actually file any returns. I can't fix it or file returns until the IRS shows me and current CPA what was filed.

The Board has never asked for tax-related information, and their last communication only said they were waiting for MPRE results which they now have. Would it be worth proactively disclosing/explaining to them or is it just asking for trouble?

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07/21/2015 11:28 AM
Author: tfred300 [21813]
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Mr. Soreide represented me July 10th in an informal hearing before the board. Everything went great and I was sworn in a week later. I highly recommend hiring Mr. Soreide. Preparation is key and he makes you prepared for the hearing.
- Forrest
Jacksonville Florida

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10/17/2015 9:23 AM
Author: Question2015 [21813]
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Who sits in this panel before which the hearing is conducted? Is it permanent Fl Bar Bd Members? Is it practicing attorneys that do it pro bono?

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12/20/2015 6:39 PM
Author: Tn fan [21813]
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This blog is a POS.

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02/10/2017 10:20 AM
Author: drews [21813]
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I passed the bar in 2009 and was called in for a formal hearing in 2012, and was admitted 3 months later. Yes, it took 3 years for the hearing and many overnight letters sent to the Bar.

No arrests, just debt and many lawsuits (I sued and was sued over many different business dealings).

I hired a lawyer and I picked someone who sat on the Character and Fitness committee many years ago. Needless to say, the Bar's examination of me was brutal. There were 4 attorneys asking me questions that they had on their ipads. When one asked a question, another would follow-up with another questions.

The examination took 4 hours. I am glad I had an attorney there, although he didn't say anything until the end when he made his "closing" statement. I thought it made it appear to the Bar that I was serious about becoming a member (which I truly was, it was life and death for me).

It is no joke, and do not treat it as such and you will be ok.

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03/04/2018 4:39 PM
Author: UPSET [21813]
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I did not remember a few lawsuits, some were over 20 year old. all civil. I sued mostly and the ones I was sued on we related to clients cases (all dismissed). nothing that I forgot is bad. the worst thing I did is forget to list them. what will they do???

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03/04/2018 6:39 PM
Author: memory [21813]
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Posted By Anonymous on 03/04/2018 4:39 PM
I did not remember a few lawsuits, some were over 20 year old. all civil. I sued mostly and the ones I was sued on we related to clients cases (all dismissed). nothing that I forgot is bad. the worst thing I did is forget to list them. what will they do???

How do you know you forgot?
Did they find out? Did they call you out on it? Did they schedule a hearing date?

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04/22/2018 8:43 PM
Author: Anonymous [21813]
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Posted By Anonymous on 03/04/2018 4:39 PM
I did not remember a few lawsuits, some were over 20 year old. all civil. I sued mostly and the ones I was sued on we related to clients cases (all dismissed). nothing that I forgot is bad. the worst thing I did is forget to list them. what will they do???


I had a situation with a "we found this" letter, I sent the amendment, was honest with them about forgetting it and got my approval the same day they received my response.

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06/14/2018 11:59 AM
Author: anthony [21813]
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Lars is one of the best and most competent lawyers I have ever had the experience of being represented by. He made my experience bearable and achieved the right results for me. His experience and knowledge in matters such as the ones I needed representation for is profound and was usefully expended during my legal representation process. I would definitely hire him again!

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