I made a terrible error in judgment a few months ago, and I need to know whether my mistake will potentially affect my application to law school or pose larger issues down the line if/when I start practicing.
I'll keep this brief. Last fall, I applied for an internship at a national security agency. One of the requirements for applying was that I could not have used marijuana in the past [x] years. The first stupid thing I did was apply even though I had used weed the summer before. I was drunk at the time, took literally one huff, then realized my mistake and stopped. (Yes, I'm aware that doesn't excuse what I did). The second stupid thing I did was not withdraw my application the moment I was told they were going to administer a polygraph. I failed the polygraph. The third stupid thing I did was provide an accompanying written statement about why I didn't pass—0L FTL—so there's no chance of explaining this away as a false positive.
An aside: there's no need to make fun of me, as much as I deserve it. It was the most humiliating moment of my life, and I quickly sobered/matured up and learned my lesson. I consider myself lucky that I was not charged with a crime.
Unfortunately, my failed polygraph is not going to go away. From what I've researched, this is my understanding of what the broad implications are.
- Although I was subjected to a background check when I applied, my failed polygraph does not mean I failed that background check. It simply meant I was considered "unsuitable" for the position and had my conditional employment offer revoked. So the background check is likely just "incomplete" or something similar.
- The failed polygraph is not publicly accessible; I am the only one who can access it via FOIA. So private employers can't independently discover it.
- However, I can't apply for ANY federal employment—not even as a janitor or cafeteria worker—without the polygraph being disclosed to the agency's HR department. I'm also under the impression that state and local government attorney positions require background checks, but I honestly don't know if they would be able to access the polygraph (although it's likely they would ask if I had taken one before). So I functionally cannot do anything related to the public sector.
- I'm also pretty much out of the running for any sort of position requiring federal security clearances, regardless of whether the government is the employer or not.
Please correct me if I'm wrong about any of this.
So two sets of questions:
1. Would my failed polygraph be something I would be forced to disclose on my law school apps? If no, would it be something I should voluntarily disclose in my application anyway? Would any disclosure, whether required or voluntary, significantly hurt my admissions prospects? Would I get kicked out of law school if the administration caught wind of it?
2. After I graduate law school, how likely is it that the polygraph would present a career obstacle? Obviously, it's a huge personal conduct red flag on my record and precludes government employment, which really narrows my job prospects. But would it have any ramifications on, say, applying for/maintaining membership in the bar? Would biglaw or other private sector employers be likely to ask me about these things, or have the means of surreptitiously checking? Is there any likely scenario—whether it's working as a private sector defense attorney, becoming a firm partner, anything—where I could be forced to disclose, with negative implications on my ability to practice law?
Please be as honest as possible, even if it means telling me that I should explore other career options. FWIW, I have a 3.98 GPA at a top-10 public state school and plan on taking the LSAT in October. It's T-14 or bust for me. But I don't want to commit to a career only to find myself out of a job down the line. I'd much rather jump into teaching or stay in academia, even ITE employment prospects considered.
I know this is not your typical TLS post, but I'd really appreciate any feedback you might have, especially from practicing attorneys who are familiar with job applications, background checks, and such.