Reginald Betts knows all too well: criminal records follow people for the rest of their lives. Felons face collateral consequences. However, a felony conviction does not necessarily preclude admission to the state bar or obtaining a license to practice law. In fact, Betts who is a convicted felon, an award-winning author, and a Yale Law School graduate defied the odds.
Despite a carjacking conviction at the age of 16; Reginald Betts turned his life around. After serving eight years in prison, he graduated from the University of Maryland. Betts accepted a fellowship from Harvard University before earning a Yale law degree.
However, after passing the bar exam and applying for a license to practice in Connecticut, his application was flagged. You could only imagine the emotions he felt. Because of three felony convictions for carjacking which he committed as a teen; Betts faced the possibility of not being able to practice law.
Per the Associated Press, Normally, “such an applicant must prove clear and convincing evidence, of good moral character and/or fitness to practice law.”
In essence, Betts’ story is remarkable. “The Connecticut Bar Examining Committee recommended Reginald Dwayne Betts, 36, for admission to the state bar, a move that cleared him to become an attorney pending a swearing-in ceremony.”
Along the way, he wrote two poetry books which include a poem titled, For you: anthopilous, lover of flowers. Additionally, a third book, a memoir about his plight titled, “A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age” earned him a 2010 NAACP Image Award.
Information: How to Become an Attorney After a Felony Conviction
Generally, before granting admission to its bar, each state will evaluate an applicant’s character and fitness to practice law, according to Lisa Kramer.
- Consult the Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements to find out specific rules for admission to the state bar.
- Apply to Law School: Disclose all criminal records.
- Be sure to attend an accredited law school and earn a juris doctor degree.
- Apply for admission to state bar association; be sure to fill out a character and fitness application and provide background information. Be truthful!
- If possible provide evidence of pardon.
- Provide the bar with evidence that proves that you are of good moral character and have been rehabilitated. Include support letters and all accomplishments.
- Wait for approval.
- Register for bar exam and pass the bar exam with flying colors!
In case you are wondering, Betts’ future is bright. He plans to become a law professor and is currently working on his doctorate degree.