Colorado Supreme Court

Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel

Promoting Professionalism. Protecting the Public.

10 Reasons to Care About the New Admissions Rules

They may affect you even if you’re not an applicant.


Fall 2014

New rules governing admission and character and fitness became effective September 1. The first significant changes in decades cover many aspects of how lawyers are admitted to practice in Colorado.

If you plan to hire an applicant awaiting exam results, a lawyer eligible for on-motion admission, or an applicant who took the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) in a different state, you should know about the changes as well. Suppose you want to transfer an associate from one of your firm’s offices in another state? Can they practice while they await their exam results?

The new rules will answer your questions.

Changes to the Admissions Rules

Admission On Motion:

Rather than the old requirement of “active and substantial law practice for 5 out of 7 years,” the new requirement is active practice at least 3 out of the last 5 years. Admission and good standing in a reciprocal jurisdiction are still required, but qualifying law practice may be performed in a non-reciprocal jurisdiction where the applicant is admitted. {C.R.C.P. 203.2}

Certifications and Limited Admissions:

Foreign Legal Consultants {Rule 204.2}, JAG {204.3}, Military spouses {Rule 204.4}, Pro Bono {Rule 204.6}, and Practice Pending Admission {205.6} are all covered in the new rules.

Foreign Law School Grads:

Graduates of non-U.S. law schools must have practiced 3 out of the last 5 years rather than the old requirement of 5 out of 7 years. {Rule 203.4}

Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) Score Transfers:

Colorado is one of 14 UBE states. The number of UBE states will continue to grow providing wider applicability of this new rule. The basic purpose of the UBE is the portability of a passing UBE score to other UBE jurisdictions. A passing UBE score is now considered valid for admissions purposes for a period of 3 years rather than the old limit of 2 years. Additionally UBE scores older than 3 years but less than 5 years may be valid if the applicant practiced law in another jurisdiction for at least two years. {Rule 203.3}

Exam Filing Deadlines:

Beginning in 2015, filing deadlines will be April 1 (first deadline) to May 1 (late deadline) for the July 2015 examination, and November 1 (first deadline) to December 1 (late deadline) for the February 2016 examination. {Rule 203.4 } Note that the deadlines are one month earlier than they were under the old rule.

Changes to the Character and Fitness Rules

Burden of Proof:

The applicant still has the burden of proving that he or she has the necessary character and fitness to practice law in Colorado. Although the applicant previously had the burden, the requirement that the Supreme Court Character and Fitness Committee find probable cause to deny admission was eliminated. {Rule 208.1(2)}

Additionally, the burden of proof the applicant must meet at a formal hearing is now clear and convincing evidence versus a preponderance of the evidence under the old rules. {Rule 209.4(6)}

Character and Fitness Responsibilities and Requirements:

The guidelines for admissions previously used by the Supreme Court’s Character and Fitness Committee are incorporated into new Rule 208.1. The incorporation of the guidelines into the rule provides transparency and notice to applicants.

The “probable cause for denial” under former Rule 201.9 has been eliminated. This former rule set forth specific circumstances or behavior that established probable cause to deny admission based on character and fitness. New Rule 208.1 eliminates the list of circumstances that established probable cause to deny admission. Rather, new Rule 208.1 provides a list of traits, responsibilities, requirements and relevant conduct considered by the Committee to determine if the applicant meets his or her burden of proving the requisite character and fitness to practice law in Colorado. Furthermore, the new rule directs the Committee to determine relevant “considerations” and “rehabilitation” in deciding whether the applicant has met his or her burden.

Formal Hearing:

Rule 209.1 brings significant change to the formal hearing process.

If, after the character and fitness investigation provided by the rules, the Office of Attorney Admissions decides that an Inquiry Panel should determine if the applicant met their burden, a panel is convened and the applicant is invited to appear for an interview. If, after the interview, the Inquiry Panel determines that the applicant did not establish that he or she possesses the character and fitness for admission, the applicant may seek a formal hearing. {Rule 208.5}

The applicant must request a hearing within twenty-eight days after service of Inquiry Panel decision. {This is a new time deadline. Rule 209.1(b)}

Consistent with the Supreme Court establishing a Presiding Disciplinary Judge (PDJ) position to preside over disciplinary matters under C.R.C.P. 251.16, the PDJ will now preside over formal admission hearings. {Rule 209} As in disciplinary matters, where two members of a hearing panel join the PDJ at the time of the hearing, similarly two members of the Character and Fitness Committee will join the PDJ at a formal admissions hearing. The PDJ rules on all motions, objections and other matters during the course of the proceeding. {Rule 209.2 (1), (2)}

Revocation of License:

New Rule 210 allows the Supreme Court to revoke a Colorado license to practice law if the license was obtained under false pretenses. New Rule 210.2 establishes rules for the revocation proceedings.

Now, because lawyers and soon-to-be lawyers are reading this article, I know you counted the reasons. I know, there are only nine and I told you 10. So, sue me. The good news is you made it to end.

Melissa Petrucelli is the Director of Character & Fitness in the Office of Attorney Admissions.