I was charged with a felony as a HS student. Is writing my PS on this experience a terrible idea?

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
User avatar
rpupkin

Platinum
Posts: 5659
Joined: Mon Dec 09, 2013 10:32 pm

Re: I was charged with a felony as a HS student. Is writing my PS on this experience a terrible idea?

Postby rpupkin » Wed Mar 23, 2016 8:30 pm

catch20two wrote:
A "presumption of innocence" still allows for the possibility that you committed the crime; simply being no-billed isn't going to make *anyone* in the legal profession think "Oh, then there's no way he could have been involved in any wrongdoing!!"


And I have delusions about this. I understand that a mere accusation elicits suspicion. I guess I just assumed that lawyers and those working within the legal system would feel that while I may very well be factually guilty (although I'm not), the fact that I was never proven to be guilty in a legal sense means that the accusation should be used to hinder me. Admittedly, that was probably a bit naive and idealistic.

It's worse than mere idealism: it belies a fundamental misunderstanding about burdens of proof in our legal system. The fact that a grand jury (or a prosecutor) did not believe there was probable cause to indict someone for a crime, or the fact that a jury did not find someone guilty of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, does not mean that--in a civil context--a fact-finding body can't determine that the person did something wrong.

User avatar
Mullens

Silver
Posts: 1089
Joined: Wed Dec 18, 2013 1:34 am

Re: I was charged with a felony as a HS student. Is writing my PS on this experience a terrible idea?

Postby Mullens » Wed Mar 23, 2016 8:33 pm

I think this could work. It really all depends on how you present it though, so write it and let people tell you if it works or not.

Big Red

Gold
Posts: 3275
Joined: Thu Nov 13, 2014 1:29 pm

Re: I was charged with a felony as a HS student. Is writing my PS on this experience a terrible idea?

Postby Big Red » Wed Mar 23, 2016 8:36 pm

I don't think it's a terrible idea, I just think there are too many landmines to try to spin this in however many words. You will look much better if your C&F reads something like: arrested, acquitted, other person convicted.

catch20two

New
Posts: 17
Joined: Wed Mar 23, 2016 6:12 pm

Re: I was charged with a felony as a HS student. Is writing my PS on this experience a terrible idea?

Postby catch20two » Wed Mar 23, 2016 8:40 pm

The fact that a grand jury (or a prosecutor) did not believe there was probable cause to indict someone for a crime, or the fact that a jury did not find someone guilty of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, does not mean that--in a civil context--a fact-finding body can't determine that the person did something wrong.


Yes, but these bodies don't use a mere accusation as the basis for their determination (notice that I said that the accusation shouldn't be used to hinder me). Saying that an individual has been deemed guilty due to x, y, and z in spite of the fact that he was found not guilty in a criminal proceeding is markedly different from saying "the fact that he was never found guilty doesn't strictly preclude the possibility that he is factually guilty so we're going to operate under the assumption that he did it". There also seems to be a fair distinction between civil proceedings and other bona fide processes for determining culpability, and a group of people unequipped to engage in this sort of in-depth fact finding so they default to a presumption of guilt (like a group of law school administrators reading applications).

EDIT: And to be clear, I'm not so much arguing with you at this point as I am just enjoying the discussion. No hard feelings on my side, I assure you.
Last edited by catch20two on Wed Mar 23, 2016 8:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Tls2016

Silver
Posts: 714
Joined: Sun Jan 17, 2016 9:58 am

Re: I was charged with a felony as a HS student. Is writing my PS on this experience a terrible idea?

Postby Tls2016 » Wed Mar 23, 2016 8:44 pm

deleted
Last edited by Tls2016 on Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
rpupkin

Platinum
Posts: 5659
Joined: Mon Dec 09, 2013 10:32 pm

Re: I was charged with a felony as a HS student. Is writing my PS on this experience a terrible idea?

Postby rpupkin » Wed Mar 23, 2016 8:46 pm

catch20two wrote:
The fact that a grand jury (or a prosecutor) did not believe there was probable cause to indict someone for a crime, or the fact that a jury did not find someone guilty of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, does not mean that--in a civil context--a fact-finding body can't determine that the person did something wrong.


Yes, but these bodies don't use a mere accusation as the basis for their determination. Saying that an individual has been deemed guilty due to x, y, and z in spite of the fact that he was found not guilty in a criminal proceeding is markedly different from saying "the fact that he was never found guilty doesn't strictly preclude the possibility that he is factually guilty so we're going to operate under the assumption that he did it". There also seems to be a fair distinction between civil proceedings and other bona fide processes for determining culpability, and a group of people unequipped to engage in this sort of in-depth fact finding that default to a presumption of guilt (like a group of law school administrators reading applications).

EDIT: And to be clear, I'm not so much arguing with you at this point as I am just enjoying the discussion. No hard feelings on my side, I assure you.

No hard feelings here, either. As for the substance of your post, you are right, of course, that a C&F board would not use a mere accusation as the basis for a determination. But C&F Examiners may conduct independent investigations. And they interview applicants with red flags. That's why it matters whether there was any actual wrongdoing here.

catch20two

New
Posts: 17
Joined: Wed Mar 23, 2016 6:12 pm

Re: I was charged with a felony as a HS student. Is writing my PS on this experience a terrible idea?

Postby catch20two » Wed Mar 23, 2016 8:47 pm

You're wrong and you should pick a topic that shows an awesome side of yourself- not this sketch job that almost landed you in prison with a feliny conviction.


I think this does show an awesome side of me. I think the fact that I have passion for something that was borne out of hardship and struggle is awesome, and refreshingly honest. That said, I understand that you disagree, and I appreciate you taking the time to share your so abrasively conveyed opinion.

catch20two

New
Posts: 17
Joined: Wed Mar 23, 2016 6:12 pm

Re: I was charged with a felony as a HS student. Is writing my PS on this experience a terrible idea?

Postby catch20two » Wed Mar 23, 2016 8:50 pm

you are right, of course, that a C&F board would not use a mere accusation as the basis for a determination. But C&F Examiners may conduct independent investigations. And they interview applicants with red flags. That's why it matters whether there was any actual wrongdoing here.


And this is really the crux of what I've been saying. The mere fact that I was accused wouldn't—or at least shouldn't—be what gets me, it would be actual evidence of guilt, of which there is none. So, if I'm innocent, as I am, I see no harm in writing about the situation.

Tls2016

Silver
Posts: 714
Joined: Sun Jan 17, 2016 9:58 am

Re: I was charged with a felony as a HS student. Is writing my PS on this experience a terrible idea?

Postby Tls2016 » Wed Mar 23, 2016 9:03 pm

[Deleted info about OP]
You could ask in the Mike Spivey thread, see what former admissions deans think of this idea if you don't want to write it yet.
I've made it clear I think it would be a mistake.
Last edited by Tls2016 on Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:40 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Alive97

Bronze
Posts: 339
Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2015 5:26 pm

Re: I was charged with a felony as a HS student. Is writing my PS on this experience a terrible idea?

Postby Alive97 » Wed Mar 23, 2016 9:32 pm

Personally I don't see anything inherently wrong with arguing with those you solicited advice from. In the process of writing this PS the OP is explaining the situation in the same way he would explain it in an addendum or to a C&F committee - he's just going a step further and connecting it to his desire to go to law school, which is his genuine motivation. The OP is not sticking his neck out by explaining why he didn't do anything wrong and going into a greater level of analysis. If anything, he has already given the full explanation he would have to give to C&F. In the event OP was only doing an addendum, the school isn't going to care about the event as long as he disclosed. I don't see it morphing into something it's not as a result of being discussed out in the open, especially given the grand jury's standard of evidence was not met and related evidence proved beyond a reasonable doubt who DID commit the crime.

For the record, not all LS applications ask about arrests rather than only convictions, and it depends on the state in which the LS is located (for C&F purposes). So you may want to look at your intended school's application.

Don't be overly risk averse, OP. It's your genuine motivation for LS - tell it with conviction.

NUDad

New
Posts: 81
Joined: Thu Dec 17, 2015 3:33 pm

Re: I was charged with a felony as a HS student. Is writing my PS on this experience a terrible idea?

Postby NUDad » Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:03 pm

No, I wouldn't do that. Talk about that incident as little as possible and keep everything factual. Write about something inspiring, and something that puts you in the best light possible.

User avatar
ms9

Gold
Posts: 2999
Joined: Sun May 03, 2009 4:28 pm

Re: I was charged with a felony as a HS student. Is writing my PS on this experience a terrible idea?

Postby ms9 » Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:15 pm

I've only skimmed this but I think you are looking at this entirely the wrong way. Unless I am mistaken from the brief skim reading you were charged with but not convicted of embezzling over 100k as a 17 year old, and you want to write your PS about it? Let's look at the two different kind of applications you will face.

1. Those that ask if you have ever been charged with a crime outside of minor traffic etc etc. In which case you will have to write about it in a C&F addendum, and I REALLY would not ALSO have that as your PS.

2. Schools where you only have to write a C&F for which you were convicted of a crime. In which case, why would you write about being charged with a felony crime when you do not have to say a word?

So again, unless I am missing some critical part of the story (and apologies if I am), I would not only say this would be exceptionally risky to write about, I would also encourage you to delete everything you have said in this thread, if possible, and ask others to do so.

Tls2016

Silver
Posts: 714
Joined: Sun Jan 17, 2016 9:58 am

Re: I was charged with a felony as a HS student. Is writing my PS on this experience a terrible idea?

Postby Tls2016 » Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:28 pm

deleted quote contains info about OP.

The OP owes you a great deal of thanks. I'm going to delete my posts in accordance with your advice.
Last edited by Tls2016 on Wed Mar 23, 2016 11:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

catch20two

New
Posts: 17
Joined: Wed Mar 23, 2016 6:12 pm

Re: I was charged with a felony as a HS student. Is writing my PS on this experience a terrible idea?

Postby catch20two » Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:34 pm

you were charged with but not convicted of embezzling over 100k as a 17 year old,


Basically, but it's worth noting that the individual that was actually involved in criminal activity was tried and convicted.

Those that ask if you have ever been charged with a crime outside of minor traffic etc etc. In which case you will have to write about it in a C&F addendum, and I REALLY would not ALSO have that as your PS.


Why? What realistic outcome am I risking? Genuinely asking.

2. Schools where you only have to write a C&F for which you were convicted of a crime. In which case, why would you write about being charged with a felony crime when you do not have to say a word?


I have thought of this, but my logic was that if I'm going to have to ultimately reveal all of this to the bar, why worry about it keeping me out of law school? If a law school rejects me because of it I would think the bar definitely would, but I don't know.

So again, unless I am missing some critical part of the story (and apologies if I am)


The only thing I can think you may have missed is that I was factually completely innocent. So, the no-bill suggests that I am innocent, and any digging into the facts of the matter will reveal that there is no evidence to suggest that I did anything.

That said, I really appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts!

Tls2016

Silver
Posts: 714
Joined: Sun Jan 17, 2016 9:58 am

Re: I was charged with a felony as a HS student. Is writing my PS on this experience a terrible idea?

Postby Tls2016 » Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:39 pm

Lol.

User avatar
A. Nony Mouse

Diamond
Posts: 29304
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:51 am

Re: I was charged with a felony as a HS student. Is writing my PS on this experience a terrible idea?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:59 pm

Let me reiterate again that to lawyers, a no-bill is not going to suggest you're innocent. The most it will suggest is that the government had a crappy case.

Also Mike Spivey is a former adcomm/current admissions consultant. That doesn't mean you have to kowtow to his opinion, of course, but it's a pretty informed one.

TLSDookie

New
Posts: 80
Joined: Mon Mar 21, 2016 3:48 pm

Re: I was charged with a felony as a HS student. Is writing my PS on this experience a terrible idea?

Postby TLSDookie » Wed Mar 23, 2016 11:02 pm

Obviously you have to address the issue extensively on every app, or risk issues with bar accreditation down the road. It doesn't sound to me like it'd be a make or break issue for an admissions committee, especially if you can attach court/legal docs verifying your story.

That said, I wouldn't make it the focus of your personal statement. It's alright to refer to it in your PS, but you don't just want to reiterate your C&F addenda in narrative form or it will seem like you're wasting an opportunity to tell something new about yourself.

jrass

Bronze
Posts: 343
Joined: Fri Dec 18, 2015 9:28 pm

Re: I was charged with a felony as a HS student. Is writing my PS on this experience a terrible idea?

Postby jrass » Wed Mar 23, 2016 11:03 pm

I think it's a good idea. This is the worst possible crime you can have insofar as character and fitness is concerned, because the majority of complaints filed against attorneys relate to mishandling client funds. It's not as huge of a deal from a school's perspective, and you're showcasing a specific interest in a niche area of law that happens to comprise a significant percentage of litigation practice. If you're focused on one particular school I wouldn't do it because it carries risk. That risk is that even if you were cleared of everything, the very accusation will concern many people. This is exactly why employers can't ask about crimes you were found not guilty on. Over 10-15 schools it's likely this will work in your favor at, at least one.

User avatar
A. Nony Mouse

Diamond
Posts: 29304
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:51 am

Re: I was charged with a felony as a HS student. Is writing my PS on this experience a terrible idea?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed Mar 23, 2016 11:12 pm

TLSDookie wrote:Obviously you have to address the issue extensively on every app, or risk issues with bar accreditation down the road.

This isn't strictly true. You have to answer whatever a school asks of you, truthfully. If a school doesn't ask about a particular category, you don't have to bring it up just because the state where you end up taking the bar might ask. The bar will check for inconsistencies between your bar app and your LS app. Not telling your LS about something that they didn't ask about isn't an inconsistency - it's just the bar asking for more information.

User avatar
rpupkin

Platinum
Posts: 5659
Joined: Mon Dec 09, 2013 10:32 pm

Re: I was charged with a felony as a HS student. Is writing my PS on this experience a terrible idea?

Postby rpupkin » Thu Mar 24, 2016 3:35 am

catch20two wrote:
Those that ask if you have ever been charged with a crime outside of minor traffic etc etc. In which case you will have to write about it in a C&F addendum, and I REALLY would not ALSO have that as your PS.


Why? What realistic outcome am I risking? Genuinely asking.

Spivey can probably give you a better answer than I can, but here's my take:

Most personal statements aren't very good. They're often poorly written, confusing, and cliche-filled. Now, a few imprecise and confusing sentences aren't a big deal if you're writing about your grandmother's diabetes or your summer in Denmark. But if you're writing about the time you were accused of felony embezzlement, any imprecision could be quite costly.

Just by way of example, I'm not really sure--after reading your description of what happened--why you were suspected of embezzlement in the first place. Were you framed by the "funding individual" guy? Were you framed by the police? You write that things turned around for you because "it became clear during the Grand Jury hearing that the funding individual was just trying to recoup costs that were over what he intended to spend opening the store." I don't know what that means.

I'm not saying you're being dishonest or misleading. But unless you're super careful, your personal statement might read like you're mischaracterizing or obfuscating the truth. Given the subject matter, that's a huge, huge risk.

By the way, I think you're putting too much weight on the exonerating effect of the conviction of someone else. Given that you were working for that person, it's quite possible that you played a role in the criminal activity but the grand jury didn't indict you because the evidence against you wasn't as strong or because they felt sorry for a teenager facing serious consequences. I'm not saying that's what happened. But you're more confident in the "they got the real bad guy, so I'm obviously innocent" narrative than you should be.

In short, writing about this subject is high risk. I get why you want to do it--and you may well have a great story to tell--but you've got to be really, really careful if you proceed down this path.

Good luck.

User avatar
Clearly

Gold
Posts: 4189
Joined: Sat Feb 11, 2012 4:09 pm

Re: I was charged with a felony as a HS student. Is writing my PS on this experience a terrible idea?

Postby Clearly » Thu Mar 24, 2016 4:27 am

You're either disclosing something you don't have to disclose which is truly idiotic, or you're being redundant because your cf will have much of the same information. You'd be a fool to assume that coloring your app with c and f issues that you didn't have to disclose won't matter because you'll have to disclose them to the bar anyway. You're looking at two independent battles here, with different standards of review, adcomms are taking a chance by admitting people with a c and f issue, perhaps they use your likelihood of bar passage as a metric, perhaps not, maybe they just don't wanna admit an embezzlement tinged app when they have 6000 other apps to pick. Perhaps they aren't skilled at predicting bar passage and would just not take the chance.

Or, you're c and f and your personal statement are redundant with each other and you wasted a chance to shine.

The issues rpupkin raises are legit too...your app word for word in its entirety are sent to the bar for review later, the more words you write now, the greater the chance you misrepresent something important that presents a huge risk later of appearing that you manipulated or deceived your school.

Seriously this is a lose lose lose scenario.

User avatar
zhenders

Silver
Posts: 942
Joined: Tue Dec 17, 2013 10:21 pm

Re: I was charged with a felony as a HS student. Is writing my PS on this experience a terrible idea?

Postby zhenders » Thu Mar 24, 2016 7:53 am

This is a bad idea. To do this passably, you'd need to be a truly phenomenal writer -- and even then, it would be a poor decision.

Alive97

Bronze
Posts: 339
Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2015 5:26 pm

Re: I was charged with a felony as a HS student. Is writing my PS on this experience a terrible idea?

Postby Alive97 » Thu Mar 24, 2016 11:02 am

All I know is that if I was falsely accused and was innocent, and the ordeal caused me to have a passion for law school, I would write about it with unmistakable conviction.

User avatar
A. Nony Mouse

Diamond
Posts: 29304
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:51 am

Re: I was charged with a felony as a HS student. Is writing my PS on this experience a terrible idea?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Mar 24, 2016 11:17 am

Alive97 wrote:All I know is that if I was falsely accused and was innocent, and the ordeal caused me to have a passion for law school, I would write about it with unmistakable conviction.

I'm not sure conviction was the word you really wanted here... In any case, I'm sure that's true, but it doesn't mean it will end up a good PS.

User avatar
ms9

Gold
Posts: 2999
Joined: Sun May 03, 2009 4:28 pm

Re: I was charged with a felony as a HS student. Is writing my PS on this experience a terrible idea?

Postby ms9 » Thu Mar 24, 2016 11:20 am

There's a large number of problems with using this as a topic. But let me first say I clearly understand why the OP would want to use it. It was a deeply formative experience that lead the author to the realization that there are inequities in the justice system, and toward a passion for and career in the law. These are all wonderful reason to write a PS. I've read hundreds, if not thousands of this ilk, often involving a family member being wronged and misrepresented. Even more, neuroscience tells us that issues that are emotionally important to us are the ones we retain and recall the most vividly. A vivid, personal essay is compelling. And most statements are not compelling at all.

But, again, this would be a huge mistake by my estimation. I'm not saying I am "right" in a vacuum -- it could potentially be pulled off and there may be a file reader who could relate. But I have read tens of thousands of applications, and I do talk to law school admissions deans every week, and we talk about things like this. So please know I am giving you a mindful answer to the best of my ability and experience.

I also don't have time to go into all the reasons I wouldn't use it -- and many are well covered. Let me just illuminate one big error in thinking; that you believe you will be perceived as innocent because you were found to be innocent. That is far from the truth. In fact, just writing about it means there will be suspicions that would not possibly be there if you do not, for the schools that ask only about convictions. By the very fact you choose this topic you are opening up suspicion. Why would you do that? Moreover, when I read this thread (again, admittedly quickly), I get MORE suspicious. I have never once heard the OP say "this was a totally false charge, I was vindicated in the court of law from a grievous slander, and it was the fact that I could be so falsely accused that has me interested in law." I just see a lot of doubling down on "the judicial system found me to be innocent thus I must be innocent." So, while while you indeed may have been all of that, the more you write, the more suspicious I get. Do you see why that would be devastating as a PS topic for that reason alone?

I could go on. But I really think this thread needs to die. OP has asked for opinions and received numerous. I think there are cogent responses on each side and ultimately I would not write about it if this were my experience + given my 17 years in this industry. I hope this helps!



Return to “Law School Personal Statements?

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.