Would you hire George Zimmerman as your attorney? George Zimmerman has apparently settled on a career goal. He says he wants to become an attorney so that he can be a guardian to prevent “miscarriages of justice” like the one he claims he endured. For some in the legal community, however, they see it as George Zimmerman lowering the bar.
George Zimmerman, of course, is the hyper controversial figure that stood trial recently for allegedly murdering Sanford, Florida teenager Trayvon Martin in February of 2012. The case sparked national, even international attention because of its racial overtones and Florida’s contentious stand your ground law. Folks were riveted to every detail of the press coverage and were captivated by the trial.
A jury acquitted Zimmerman. Since the trial, Zimmerman has been a haunted figure engaging in several brushes with the law over speeding and domestic violence. Just recently reports surfaced that Zimmerman was homeless and was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.
Further, Zimmerman asserts he is more than $2 million in debt from legal fees and is in constant fear for his life. He maintains that he wears a bullet proof vest and follows extreme safety precautions whenever he goes out. He also disclosed that he has no health insurance and no job. Recently, he fled Miami after an alleged death threat and a report that there was a bounty on his head.
Seemingly, Zimmerman has figured out the “job” part. What will it take, however, for Zimmerman to become an attorney?
Well, if Zimmerman desires to be a Florida attorney, he will be joining the third largest bar association in the United States with nearly 100,000 members. As with other states, Zimmerman will have to take a several day bar exam that features tough essay exams and multiple choice questions. On top of that he will have to endure a thorough screening of his moral character and ethics. The requirements are similar in other states if Zimmerman decides to emigrate elsewhere to practice law.
First things first, however. Prior to ever taking the Florida Bar Exam, Zimmerman needs to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and apply to a law school in Florida.
According to US News and World Report, Florida is home to four of the top law schools in the country, the University of Florida Frederic G. Levin College of Law, the University of Miami School of Law, Stetson University, and Florida State University. Some other choices include Florida A&M University College of Law and Florida Coastal School of Law. All have rigid academic requirements to gain admission.
Zimmerman will also have to come up with the cost of law school, saddling him with ever more debt. For example, the University of Miami School of Law runs about $42,000 a year in tuition. Living on campus brings the tab to more than $200,000 over several years.
Assuming Zimmerman is admitted to law school, he will also have to decide if wants to enter a day program or an evening program. The former usually requires three years while the latter takes four years. It’s not clear if Zimmerman plans on wearing a Kevlar vest to class.
Assuming he graduates from law school, Zimmerman will have to go through the process of taking the Florida Bar Exam, which tacks on more time to the entire process. From start to finish, if Zimmerman entered law school this coming September, it would be about 2018-19 before he could join a law firm or else hang out a shingle.
It’s not likely that his notoriety will have vanished by then. Americans have a long memory and his image and story are forever burned in the public consciousness. On the other hand, criminal defendants may, in fact, be intrigued by the notion that the George Zimmerman is their legal counsel. His critics contend, however, that just by announcing his law school intentions, George Zimmerman is lowering the bar.
The other challenge that Zimmerman will have to face is the glut of attorneys nationwide. The job market for recent graduates of law schools has soured significantly due to the weak economy and the basic fact that American law schools are simply graduating more lawyers than there are jobs.
It’s estimated that there are typically twice as many law school graduates than there are attorney job openings nationwide. As a result, law school admissions have been down at major law schools around the country during the past few years as many college graduates are opting for other professions. Of course, depending on the economy and other factors, circumstances could change by 2020.
Zimmerman’s personal history may not hinder his ability to become a member of the bar on ethical and moral grounds. Being acquitted of a felony or getting a speeding ticket does not make one ineligible to practice law. However, if Zimmerman’s personal behavior deteriorates, his law school plans may decline as well. Even if it doesn’t come to that, his critics will continue to say that just by announcing his attentions of going to law school, George Zimmerman is lowing the bar.
By Jim McCullaugh