This week, I've been filling out my "Application to Register as a Candidate for Admission to the Practice of Law" in the State of Key Midwestern Swing State. That is, an application that I have to fill out before I can be permitted to fill out an application to be allowed to take an examination to see if I'm allowed to be a lawyer. Yes, it is an application to be allowed to file another application at some time in the future. Isn't bureaucracy a glorious beast?
Part of this application is a "character questionnaire." See, you cannot be a lawyer in Key Midwestern Swing State unless you have the requisite moral fiber. So one of the things they make you do is fill out a huge (over 30 pages) questionnaire divulging all your deepest, naughtiest secrets. Things you normally wouldn't be required to divulge by anyone under any other circumstances. The questionnaire is then checked against the most invasive background check you can imagine. The check is run by the National College of Bar Examiners (a technically private body), which assembles background data from numerous public and private sources, assisted by mandatory waivers executed by the applicant. That's right. On the demand of the State Supreme Court, I must give this private examining body permission to access all sorts of records: juvenile court records (including expunged or sealed matters, which are never truly expunged or sealed), medical records (including psychiatric records), drug and alcohol treatment records, educational records, everything. And access it they do. It takes so long that the deadline is next month if I want to sit for the bar examination 21 months from now.
Apparently, it's not so important what I disclose, but that I disclose. Convicted murderers are allowed to be admitted to the bar, but if you neglect to tell the NCBEx about a $5,000.00 unpaid debt, you can be barred for life from sitting the bar exam. I think the key is to elicit honesty. But in reality, I think it's just a dominance exercise. The Supreme Court of the State of Key Midwestern Swing State wants to know that when they say "jump," we lawyer-wannabes will not even ask "how high?" They expect us to jump as high as we're able, so they can tell us it wasn't high enough.
There isn't a place on the form asking whether the applicant runs an anonymous blog on the Internets.
So I've spent the past few days tracking down every traffic ticket I've ever had (all three of them), every job I've ever had, every address I've ever had, my old psychologist's records (which may have been destroyed in a flood), old debts (even the paid ones), and so on. I feel violated.
Update: For those who are unaware, The Probulator.