ADMISSION TO PRACTICE LAW
(a) Board of Law Examiners.
(1) Members. The Board of Law Examiners shall consist of members of the South Carolina Bar who are actively engaged in the practice of law in South Carolina and who have been members of the South Carolina Bar for at least seven (7) years. Members of the bar who are inactive members, judicial members, military members, administrative law judge members, retired members or limited members shall not be appointed to the Board. The Board members shall be appointed by the Supreme Court for three (3) year terms and shall be eligible for reappointment. At least one member shall be appointed from each Congressional District. In case of a vacancy on the Board, the Supreme Court shall appoint a member of the South Carolina Bar to serve the remainder of the unexpired term.
(2) Chair; Secretary. The Supreme Court shall appoint a chair from among the members of the Board. The Clerk of the Supreme Court shall serve as secretary of the Board ex officio.
(3) Duties. The Board of Law Examiners shall determine whether applicants for admission to the practice of law in South Carolina possess the necessary legal knowledge for admission. The members of the Board are authorized to make rules and regulations for conducting the Examination, including a list of the subjects upon which applicants may be tested and regulations providing for the accommodation of disabled applicants. These rules and regulations shall not become effective until at least ninety (90) days after they are approved by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court shall designate six (6) members of the Board who shall each have primary responsibility for preparing and grading a section of the essay Examination (including the preparation of model answers). For each Examination, the Chair shall assign one of these members to each essay section. The Board shall assign the remaining members to assist with the preparation and grading of the essay sections of the Examination.
(b) Committee on Character and Fitness.
(1) Members. The Committee on Character and Fitness shall consist of twelve (12) members of the South Carolina Bar who shall be appointed by the Supreme Court for five (5) year terms. Members of the bar who are inactive members, judicial members, military members, administrative law judge members, retired members or limited members shall not be appointed to the Committee. In case of a vacancy on the Committee, the Supreme Court shall appoint a member of the Bar to serve the remainder of the unexpired term.
(2) Chair; Secretary. The Supreme Court shall appoint a chair and a secretary of the Committee from among the Committee's membership.
(3) Panels and Meetings. The members shall be divided by the chair into panels composed of three (3) members. The chair may rotate membership on the panels, and may substitute members between panels. Panels shall meet when scheduled by the chair or the Committee, and the full Committee may meet to consider administrative matters. Meetings of the Committee other than periodic meetings may be called by the chair upon the chair's own motion and shall be called by the chair upon the written request of three members of the Committee.
(4) Quorum. A quorum for a meeting of the full Committee shall be seven (7) members, and a quorum for a panel shall be three (3) members.
(5) Duties. The Committee on Character and Fitness shall investigate and determine whether an applicant for admission to the Bar possesses the qualifications prescribed by this Rule as to age, legal education, and character. The applicant must establish to the reasonable satisfaction of a majority of a panel that the applicant is qualified. In conducting investigations, a panel may take and hear testimony, compel by subpoena the attendance of witnesses, and require the applicant to appear for a hearing before a panel or for a personal interview before a single member of the Committee. An applicant will not be denied admission by the Committee without being afforded the opportunity for a hearing before a panel. Any member of the Committee may administer oaths and issue subpoenas. The Committee may adopt rules that shall become effective upon approval by the Supreme Court. In addition, the Committee shall perform the duties specified by Rule 33 of the Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement contained in Rule 413, SCACR, and any other duties as directed by the Supreme Court.
(c) Qualifications for Admission. No person shall be admitted to the practice of law in South Carolina unless the person:
(1) is at least twenty-one (21) years of age;
(2) is of good moral character;
(3) has received a JD or LLB degree from a law school which was approved by the Council of Legal Education of the American Bar Association at the time the degree was conferred. An approved law school includes a school that is provisionally approved by the Council. An applicant who has not provided proof of graduation by July 10th for the July Bar Examination or February 10th for the February Bar Examination shall not be allowed to sit for the examination. An applicant, however, who has not graduated may sit for the examination if the law school certifies in writing that the applicant has completed all requirements for graduation by July 10th for the July Bar Examination or February 10th for the February Bar Examination; the applicant must provide proof of graduation by April 1 following the February Bar Examination or October 1 following the July Bar Examination;
(4) has been found qualified by a panel of the Committee on Character and Fitness;
(5) has passed the Bar Examination given by the Board of Law Examiners;
(6) has received a scaled score of at least seventy-seven (77) on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) administered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. If the score was obtained prior to the filing of the application, the MPRE must have been taken within four (4) years of the date on which the application is filed. While an application can be filed without proof of completion of this requirement, applicants are warned that failure to timely submit proof of completion of this requirement can significantly delay admission as provided by subsection (k) of this rule;
(7) is not disbarred, suspended from the practice of law, or the subject of any pending disciplinary proceeding in another jurisdiction;
(8) has successfully completed the Bridge the Gap Program sponsored by the South Carolina Bar. While an application can be filed without proof of completion of this requirement, applicants are warned that failure to timely submit proof of completion of this requirement can significantly delay admission as provided by subsection (k) of this rule; and
(9) has paid the fees and taken the oath or affirmation specified by this rule.
(d) Application to Take the Bar Examination.
(1) Filing Application; Fees. Any person desiring to take the Bar Examination shall file an application, in duplicate, with the Clerk of the Supreme Court. The application form shall be approved by the Committee on Character and Fitness. Applications shall be accepted from December 1 to January 31 for the July Examination and from August 1 to September 30 for the February Examination. The non-refundable application fee shall be:
(i) $700 for applications filed from December 1 to January 10 or from August 1 to August 31.
(ii) $1,050 for applications filed during the remainder of the application periods.
If the applicant has been admitted to practice law for more than one (1) year in another state, the District of Columbia, or another country at the time the application is filed, the applicant shall file one (1) additional copy of the application along with an additional fee of $800. A portion of this fee will be used to obtain a character report from the National Conference of Bar Examiners.
An application will not be considered filed until both the fully completed application and fee(s) are received by the Clerk of the Supreme Court. The application fee(s) shall be made payable to the Clerk of the Supreme Court of South Carolina, and the application and fee(s) shall be sent to the Clerk, Supreme Court of South Carolina, Post Office Box 11330, Columbia, South Carolina 29211. An applicant who withdraws or fails to sit for an Examination shall not be entitled to a refund of the application fee(s) or to have the application fee(s) credited to a later Examination. An applicant who has failed the Examination must comply with the requirements of section (i) below.
For the purpose of this rule, filing means: (1) delivering the document to the Clerk of the Supreme Court; or (2) depositing the document in the U.S. mail, properly addressed to the Clerk of the Supreme Court, with sufficient first class postage attached. The date of filing shall be the date of delivery or the date of mailing.
Petitions seeking permission to file a late application are strongly discouraged, and only petitions documenting extraordinary circumstances justifying the late filing will be granted. If a petition for late filing is submitted, the petition must comply with the provisions of Rule 240, SCACR, must contain facts showing that extraordinary circumstances exist, and must be accompanied by a fully completed bar application, along with all required original attachments. Under no circumstances will petitions be accepted for filing after March 15 for the July Bar Examination or November 15 for the February Bar Examination. Unless otherwise directed by the Court, the filing fee for a late application will be $1,500, plus an additional $800 fee if the applicant has been admitted to practice law for more than one (1) year in another state, the District of Columbia, or another country at the time the application is filed. The filing fee is non-refundable and may not be credited to a later examination.
(2) Duty to Keep Application Current. Until they have been admitted, applicants are under a continuing obligation to keep their applications current and must update responses whenever there is an addition to or a change to information previously filed with the Clerk. These updates must be made in writing and must include all relevant documentation.
(3) Special Accommodations for Disabled Applicants. An applicant needing special accommodations for the Bar Examination due to a disability shall submit a written request for such accommodations to the Board of Law Examiners. The procedure and forms to be used in making a written request shall be specified in the Rules of the Board of Law Examiners. Unless the chair of the Board determines there is good cause to allow a late request, written requests for special accommodations must be submitted by November 1 for the February Examination and April 1 for the July Examination.
(e) Determination by Committee On Character and Fitness. The Committee on Character and Fitness shall consider the application and any further information it deems relevant to determine if the applicant has the requisite qualifications and character to be admitted to practice law in this state. The Committee shall notify the Clerk of the Supreme Court whether it finds the applicant qualified or unqualified and, if found to be unqualified, the Clerk shall send the applicant a letter notifying the applicant of this finding. An applicant found to be unqualified shall not be allowed to sit for the Examination. If the Committee has not made a determination of the applicant's qualification by July 1 for the July Examination or February 1 for the February Examination, the applicant shall be allowed to sit for the Examination, and the Committee shall make its determination after the Examination is administered.
(f) Determination of Fitness of Certain Law Students. A student enrolled in a law school approved or provisionally approved by the Council of Legal Education of the American Bar Association who has a character problem that might disqualify the student from being admitted to practice law may have the matter resolved by filing a provisional application. The application shall be made on a form approved by the Committee on Character and Fitness and shall be filed in duplicate with the Clerk of the Supreme Court. Each request must be accompanied by a non-refundable fee of $100. The Committee may begin an immediate investigation of the individual's character and shall promptly notify the individual of its determination. No adverse inference concerning an applicant's character and fitness shall be drawn because the applicant filed a provisional application, nor does the filing of a provisional application relieve an applicant from fully complying with the normal application process.
(g) Review by Supreme Court of Fitness Determination; Re-application. Any applicant dissatisfied with the determination of the Committee on Character and Fitness may petition the Supreme Court for review within fifteen (15) days of the date of the letter notifying the applicant of the Committee's determination. The petition shall comply with the requirements of Rule 240, SCACR, to include the filing fee required by that rule. An applicant who is found not to be qualified by the Committee or whose petition for review of the Committee's determination has been denied may not reapply for admission until two (2) years after the date of the letter notifying the applicant of the Committee's determination.
(h) False and Misleading Information by Applicants. An applicant who knowingly provides false or misleading information in an application (to include any attachments to the application), document, or statement submitted or made to the Committee on Character and Fitness, the Board of Law Examiners, or the staff of the Court shall be guilty of contempt of the Supreme Court of South Carolina and may be punished accordingly. In addition, if it is determined that an applicant has knowingly submitted false or misleading information, the Court may bar the applicant from reapplying for up to five years. Further, if the applicant has already been admitted, the Court may vacate the admission or discipline the lawyer under Rule 413, SCACR. For the purpose of this rule, false or misleading information shall also include the knowing omission of material information by an applicant in the application (to include any attachments to the application) or in response to an inquiry by the Committee, Board or staff of the Court.
(i) Bar Examination.
(1) When Given. The Bar Examination shall be conducted twice each year on the last consecutive Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in February and July.
(2) Content; Grading; Passing. The Bar Examination shall consist of seven (7) sections. Six (6) of these sections shall be composed of essay questions prepared by the Board of Law Examiners. The Multistate Bar Examination shall be the seventh (7th) section. To pass the Multistate portion of the Examination, an applicant must attain a scaled score of at least 125. To pass an essay section, the applicant must obtain a score of seventy (70). Once an applicant reaches seventy (70) points on an essay section, that section will receive a passing grade and will not be graded further. An applicant must pass six (6) of the seven (7) sections to pass the Bar Examination; provided, however, that an applicant who receives a scaled score of 110 or less on the Multistate Bar Examination shall fail the Bar Examination without any grading of the essay questions. The Board shall notify the Clerk of the Supreme Court of the results of the essay sections.
(3) Anonymous Grading; Prohibited Comments in Answer Sheets and Booklets. Applicants taking the Bar Examination shall be assigned an identification number that shall be used for the purposes of taking and grading the Examination. Except for the identification number and any other information the applicant may be directed to provide by those administering the Examination, answer sheets or booklets for the Examination shall contain no other information revealing the identity of the applicant. Any reference to the applicant's economic status, social standing, employment, personal hardship or other extraneous information in the answer sheets or booklets is prohibited.
(4) Notification of Results. The Clerk of the Supreme Court shall send a letter to each applicant advising the applicant whether the applicant passed or failed the Bar Examination. Additionally, the names of those passing the Examination and the identification numbers of those failing the Examination shall be posted on the South Carolina Judicial Department Website.
(5) Access to Examination Answers; Re-grading or Other Review. No applicant shall be given access to the answers the applicant submitted during the examination. The results reported by the Board of Law Examiners are final, and no applicant shall be allowed to seek re-grading or any other review of the results of the examination.
(6) Request for Verification of Multistate Bar Examination. While no review or inspection of the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) will be permitted, an applicant may request a hand grading of the MBE. Any such request must be filed with the Clerk of the Supreme Court along with the applicable fee within fifteen days of the date of the letter of notification in (4) above1.
(7) Prohibited Contacts. An applicant shall not, either directly or through an agent, contact any member of the Board of Law Examiners or any member of the Supreme Court regarding the questions on any section of the Bar Examination, grading procedures, or an applicant's answers. This provision does not prohibit an applicant from seeking verification of the MBE score as permitted by (6) above.
(8) Cheating on the Bar Examination. An applicant who cheats, aids or assists another applicant in cheating on the Bar Examination, or attempts to cheat or aid or assist another in cheating, shall be guilty of contempt of the Supreme Court of South Carolina and may be punished accordingly. In addition, if it is determined that an applicant has cheated or aided or assisted another in cheating, the applicant shall fail the examination and the Court may prohibit the applicant from reapplying for up to five years. Further, if the applicant has already been admitted, the Court may vacate the admission or discipline the lawyer under Rule 413, SCACR.
(1) Application and Filing Fees. Any applicant who has failed to pass the Bar Examination may apply to be re-examined. The application shall be made on a form approved by the Committee on Character and Fitness. The filing periods and filing fee(s) applicable to initial applications shall be applicable to applications for re-examination. Any request for special accommodations on the Examination must be submitted in the manner provided by section (d)(3) above.
(2) Special Requirements for Applicants Who Have Failed the Bar Examination Three or More Times. An applicant who has failed the Examination three or four times shall not be eligible to sit for a Bar Examination until at least one year following the administration of the last failed Examination. An applicant who has failed the Examination five or more times shall not be eligible to sit for the Bar Examination until at least two years following the administration of the last failed Bar Examination. Further, any applicant who has failed the Bar Examination three or more times must complete a course of study before being eligible to retake the Bar Examination. A new course of study must be completed after each subsequent failure. The course of study shall consist of one of the following:
(i) at least twelve (12) semester hours, or its equivalent, of classes at a law school approved or provisionally approved by the Council of Legal Education of the American Bar Association. The courses must be related to the subjects that are tested on the Bar Examination, and the applicant must complete all course requirements that would be required of a law student including a passing grade for the course. The supplemental application shall include certification from the law school that the applicant has completed the required number of hours, or if the course of study has not been completed at the time the supplemental application is filed, certification from the law school that the applicant is currently enrolled in courses which will give the applicant sufficient hours to complete the course of study before the Examination. The law school must provide certification that the required number of hours has been completed before the applicant will be re-examined.
(ii) study under the direct supervision of an attorney for at least twenty (20) hours per week for at least six months immediately preceding the Examination. The supervising attorney must be a regular member of the South Carolina Bar who has been admitted to practice for at least five (5) years and is engaged in the active practice of law in South Carolina. The proposed course of study must specify the topics to be covered, the books and materials to be used, and the dates and locations of study, and must be submitted by the supervising attorney to the Board of Law Examiners for its approval. For the July Examination, the proposed course of study must be submitted not later than December 15. For the February Examination, the proposed course of study must be submitted not later than July 15. The Board of Law Examiners may approve, disapprove or modify the proposed course of study to include increasing the number of hours required. The supplemental application shall include certification from the supervising attorney that the applicant is current on the approved course of study. The supervising lawyer must provide certification that the applicant has completed the course of study before the applicant will be re-examined.
(1) Admission Ceremonies. Admission ceremonies shall be conducted by the Supreme Court in February, May, September and November. Applicants must have submitted proof of completion of all requirements for admission (see subsection (c) of this rule) at least ten (10) days prior to the scheduled date of the ceremony to participate in that ceremony. Applicants who take the February Bar Examination are expected to have all requirements for admission completed for the May ceremony following the examination, and applicants who take the July Bar Examination are expected to have all requirements for admission completed for the November ceremony following the examination. Applicants will be notified of the date and time of the admission ceremony.
(2) Special Admission Ceremonies. On petition, the Court may schedule applicants for admission on other dates based on compelling circumstances such as illness or irreconcilable conflicts that prevent the applicant from appearing at one of the ceremonies established in (1) above. Applicants who are ineligible to participate in one of the admission ceremonies established in (1) above due to their failure to timely submit proof of completion of Bridge the Gap or the MPRE are not eligible to be admitted at a special admission ceremony.
(3) Fee and Oath. To be admitted, the applicant must pay a fee of $50 and take and subscribe the following oath or affirmation:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that:
I am duly qualified, according to the Constitution of this State, to exercise the duties of the office to which I have been appointed, and that I will, to the best of my ability, discharge those duties and will preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of this State and of the United States;
I will maintain the respect and courtesy due to courts of justice, judicial officers, and those who assist them;
To my clients, I pledge faithfulness, competence, diligence, good judgment and prompt communication;
To opposing parties and their counsel, I pledge fairness, integrity, and civility, not only in court, but also in all written and oral communications;
I will not pursue or maintain any suit or proceeding which appears to me to be unjust nor maintain any defenses except those I believe to be honestly debatable under the law of the land, but this obligation shall not prevent me from defending a person charged with a crime;
I will employ for the purpose of maintaining the causes confided to me only such means as are consistent with trust and honor and the principles of professionalism, and will never seek to mislead an opposing party, the judge or jury by a false statement of fact or law;
I will respect and preserve inviolate the confidences of my clients, and will accept no compensation in connection with a client's business except from the client or with the client's knowledge and approval;
I will maintain the dignity of the legal system and advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or witness, unless required by the justice of the cause with which I am charged;
I will assist the defenseless or oppressed by ensuring that justice is available to all citizens and will not delay any person's cause for profit or malice;
[So help me God.]
The oath or affirmation shall be administered in open Court and all persons admitted to the Bar shall sign their names in a book, kept for that purpose, in the office of the Clerk of the Supreme Court.
(l) Failure to be Admitted.
(1) More than One (1) Year. An applicant who is not admitted within one (1) year of the date of the letter advising the applicant that the applicant has passed the Bar Examination must file a supplemental application with the Clerk of the Supreme Court. The supplemental application shall be on a form prescribed by the Committee on Character and Fitness, and the applicant may not be admitted to the South Carolina Bar unless the Committee makes a re-determination that the applicant is qualified. The filing shall be accompanied by a fee of $100.
(2) More than Two (2) Years. An applicant who is not admitted within two (2) years of the date of the letter advising the applicant that the applicant has passed the Bar Examination may not be admitted without retaking the Bar Examination. The applicant must file a new application and pay the application fee(s) specified in section (d) above. On motion based on extraordinary circumstances, the Court may allow the applicant to be admitted without retaking the Bar Examination. The motion shall comply with the requirements of Rule 240, SCACR, to include the filing fee specified by that rule. If the applicant is granted permission to be admitted without retaking the Examination, the applicant shall pay a fee of $100.
(m) Admission of Certain Law Professors. A person serving as the Dean or as a tenured professor of the University of South Carolina School of Law or the Charleston School of Law may be admitted to practice law in this State without taking the Bar Examination (section (c)(5) above), the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (section (c)(6) above), or the Bridge the Gap Program (section (c)(8) above) if the Dean or professor:
(1) has been admitted to practice law in the highest court of another state or the District of Columbia for at least five (5) years;
(2) has been a full-time and continuous member of the faculty of the Law School with the rank of assistant professor of law or higher for the previous three (3) or more complete academic years; and
(3) has been recommended for admission by the Dean of the Law School, or in the case of the Dean, by the President of the University of South Carolina or the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Charleston School of Law.
The application for admission shall be made on a form prescribed by the Committee on Character and Fitness, and shall be filed in triplicate with the Clerk of the Supreme Court. The application shall be accompanied by a non-refundable application fee of $400. A portion of this fee will be used to obtain a character report from the National Conference of Bar Examiners. The Dean or professor must comply with all other requirements of section (c) above. If found qualified by the Committee on Character and Fitness, the Dean or professor shall be admitted upon taking the oath and paying the fee specified by section (k) above.
(1) The files and records maintained by the Board of Law Examiners, the Committee on Character and Fitness, and the Clerk of the Supreme Court relating to Bar applications, Examinations, and admissions shall be confidential, and shall not be disclosed except as necessary for the Board, the Committee or the Clerk to carry out their responsibilities. The Board of Law Examiners, the Committee on Character and Fitness, and the Clerk may disclose information to the National Conference of Bar Examiners and to the bar admission authorities in other jurisdictions, and may disclose the names of those persons who have passed the Bar Examination or those who are or will be admitted and the date of their admission. The Supreme Court may authorize the release of confidential information to other persons or agencies.
(2) Notwithstanding the above, beginning with the results of the February 2011 Bar Examination, the Clerk may release the following information to law schools regarding applicants taking the South Carolina Bar Examination who are graduates of that law school: the names of the applicants who took the Examination and whether they passed or failed the Examination, the number of times each applicant has taken the South Carolina Bar Examination, the Law School Admission Council number for each applicant, and the overall pass rate of the applicants on each section of the Bar Examination. Any information released to law schools pursuant to this rule shall be kept confidential by the law school, shall only be used for statistical analysis, and shall only be released for purposes of reporting aggregated information to accrediting bodies. Each law school requesting the release of the above information shall, on a form approved by the Supreme Court, agree to comply with the confidentiality and use restrictions placed on this information.
(1) The Board of Law Examiners, the Committee on Character and Fitness, and the members, employees, and agents of the Board or Committee, are absolutely immune from all civil liability for conduct and communications occurring in the performance of their official duties relating to the Examination, character and fitness qualification, and licensing of persons seeking to be admitted, readmitted or reinstated to the practice of law.
(2) Records, statements of opinion, testimony and other information regarding an applicant for admission, readmission or reinstatement to the Bar communicated by any entity, including any person, firm, or institution, to the Board of Law Examiners, the Committee on Character and Fitness, or to the members, employees or agents of the Board or Committee, are absolutely privileged, and civil suits predicated thereon may not be instituted.
Last amended by Order dated January 29, 2013, effective immediately.