Last week I was sitting in class with a fellow transfer student when he started asking me about the Dec. His previous law school wasn't in Texas and I found out that apparently we're the only ones that have to do it. If you're not studying in Texas, congratulations you just saved yourself a bunch of paperwork. If you're a 1L in Texas, the Texas Board of Law Examiners probably came to you during your orientation to talk about the Dec. Hopefully if this applies to you, you didn't forget about the Dec because it's due this week!
What is the Dec
The Dec is you telling the TxBLE that you'll be taking the Bar soon. You start this process now so that they have two years to do a serious background check on you and then have time to fix any problems before you take the Bar. For example, if you didn't list an arrest when you were applying to law school and though it was okay because the law school didn't find out, the BLE will find out and you'll have time to explain that arrest before you take the Bar. Texas BLE is really big on honesty to make sure they're not licensing any sleezy lawyers.
What goes in the DecWhere you've lived - Start thinking about all the times that you've moved in your life. This includes before and during college. You'll need to already have a list of every city and state that you've lived in since you turned 18.
Where you've worked - Again since you were 18, you'll need to list all of your past employers, not just the last few like what you do on your résumé or a job application. You'll need to remember the names of your bosses and a contact number for them.
When you've got in trouble in school - This is everything from getting caught plagiarizing to flunking out of school and everywhere in between. The BLE is serious about looking in to all of your permanent records so make sure that you don't try to hide anything.
When you've been arrested - Anything worse than a traffic ticket needs to be listed. Even if your charge was settled and there's a non-disclosure with it, you still need to name it. The only thing you don't have to list is anything that's been expunged. You'll need to get copies of police reports and tickets for all of these too, so get on that if you haven't because it could take a while for the police department to mail you the copies. Hopefully you were honest on your law school applications, but if you weren't you'll need to let the BLE know that there's a discrepancy.
Who you know - Lastly, you'll need like 6 references. These aren't like your law school references of old professors that will be like she's a great learner! These are your personal references who will be like oh yeah she definitely won't steal money from her clients! Make sure you find the best number for your contacts because if the BLE can't get a hold of someone, they'll make you have that person get ahold of them.
When you've been sued - This probably won't apply to most of us because we haven't had enough life experience to be in a lawsuit. This includes bankruptcy, landlord/tenant disputes, or personal injury claims. If you were part of a lawsuit and there was a non-disclosure, you probably will have to list it but if you're not sure call the BLE with the specific details.
When you messed up your taxes - If you didn't file your taxes one time, the BLE will find that because seriously they check all of your records. Or if you filed your tax return and it came back that you owe more in taxes, you'll need to let the BLE know if you still owe on that. Because ya know, the BLE doesn't like those hidden Swiss banks accounts.
What you'll need to do for the Dec
Just a fair warning, the Dec takes like hours to fill out all of that paperwork. If you thought your law school application took you forever to fill out, just wait for the fun that is the Dec. If you haven't started yet, really get on that because I promise you can't turn finish this in like 30 minutes. You'll also have to sign up to get fingerprinted (and pay for the fingerprinting). Your school probably will have a time where someone comes to your school and does all of the 1L's fingerprints at one time.
Luckily for y'all, from now on you can fill out the paperwork on time. I definitely had to print out all 20 pages and then go down and pay like $10 to get the most secure mailing option. That was on top of the ridiculous $190 fee that make you pay for filing the Dec. One last thing, make sure you send them a certified copy of your birth certificate because I sent in mine from 1992 and I just found out that it is now permanent property of the BLE :/