Robert Bowman Redux, Times Two, But Ohio’s Nicer Than New York

For several years I chronicled the frustrating travails of aspiring lawyer Robert Bowman. He was the New York law student repeatedly turned down for membership in the bar by  a panel of New York judges, who determined that he did not have the requisite good character to be admitted to the practice of law in New York because he owed nearly a half-million dollars in student loans. Not paying back financial commitments is one of the specific components of “moral turpitude,” which will block anyone from becoming a lawyer, though it will seldom get one kicked out of the profession after one becomes a lawyer. Go figure. The panel kept rejecting Bowman  because they felt his debt was per se proof of  irresponsible and negligent financial management, making him an unacceptable risk for any client.

A New York bar association subcommittee investigated, and  concluded that far from being of dubious character, Bowman was an individual of “exceptional character,” with unusual perseverance, humility and tenacity. It strongly recommended him for admission to the New York Bar, despite the outstanding debts. Ireaclize now that I never told Ethics Alarms readers “the rest of the story”: Bowman is a New York lawyer now. He finally won his appeal, though the news media, which chronicled his failures, decided that his ultimate success wasn’t newsworthy.

How do I know this? Bowman contacted me himself to tell me. He said he was grateful to all the people who had supported his quest, and was telling each of them, individually, in person.

Now comes the story, also with a possible happy ending, of another frustrated lawyer-to-be with similar issues, this time in Ohio, although I must say that her circumstances seem a bit more difficult to excuse. Cynthia Marie Rodgers (above) is a Capital University School of Law graduate whose Ohio character and fitness application was rejected because she has nearly twice as much school loan debt as Bowman, almost $900,000. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Thomas McGregor

"Just paying off my student loans..."

“Just paying off my student loans…”

One of the criteria for admission to the practice of law is proof of good character, and what is considered proof of bad character will keep even a stellar law grad out of the courtroom. Bad character can be inferred from many kinds of conduct—criminal convictions, lies under oath, and failing to meet financial obligations, among others. The latter has occasionally blocked an otherwise qualified young lawyer from entering the profession when unpaid debts get out of hand, and that means that the most prominent unpaid debts in recent headlines, student loans, can sometimes foil a legal career. New York law grad Robert Bowman, last I checked, was still trying to convince the New York Bar that being over $400,000 in debt on his student loans didn’t mean he wasn’t fit to practice law. So far, he hasn’t succeeded.

Maybe he should follow the lead of Thomas McGregor.  Continue reading

Robert Bowman: Aspiring Lawyer, Ethics Martyr

Robert Bowman, according to a panel of New York judges, does not have the requisite good character to be admitted to the practice of law in New York. The reason for the panel’s finding is superficially logical: he owes nearly a half-million dollars in student loans. This is, says the panel, per se proof of irresponsible and negligent financial management, making him an unacceptable risk for any client.  The panel is almost certainly wrong. Continue reading