My past, an insurmountable obstacle?

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My past, an insurmountable obstacle?

Postby ColoradoGuy » Tue Dec 30, 2014 11:27 am

To make a long story short, I had a challenging childhood. I was raised by a single mother of four after my father abandoned us and skipped town. We were impoverished. (living in subsidized housing, foodstamps, the whole nine yards) My mother was in school full time, working full time, and doing her best to raise us at the same time. I responded to these challenges by acting out. I developed a deep resentment for authority and an extremely negative attitude. I got in a fair amount of trouble with the law, neglected my financial responsibilities, and generally didn't care about anything. My late teens and early twenties were marked by consistent irresponsibility. This is evidenced by my criminal record. From the time I was 18 until I turned 21, I was cited for underage consumption of alcohol 5 times. At age 21 I was cited for possession of marijuana and paraphernalia for having a small amount of marijuana and a pipe. In 2008, at the age of 23, this reckless path of delinquency culminated in a DUI arrest and an additional marijuana/pipe citation. The DUI arrest was a turning point in my life. It woke me up to the fact that I was heading down a dismal road of failure and mediocrity. So I decided to turn my life around.
Since my 2008 DUI arrest, I haven't had so much as a parking ticket. It took a lot of self-reflection, time and discipline to transform myself from the angry, irresponsible young man I was to the man I am today. I'm currently enrolled in the University of Colorado at Denver. I'll be starting the last semester of my junior year in a couple weeks, and I have a 4.0 GPA. My question is this; does my criminal history disqualify me from law school/bar admission, assuming I disclose everything openly and completely? Additionally, if I maintain my GPA through graduation and score exceptionally well on the LSAT, will my criminal record have a negative impact on my scholarship eligibility? I'm familiar with the character and fitness aspect of the application process, and this is my main concern.

To summarize:
5 underage consumptions from 2004 - 2006
2 marijuana citations, one in 2006 and one in 2008
1 DUI arrest/conviction, 2008

Since then, nothing. I have made a genuine, sincere effort to turn my life around and make something of myself.

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Re: My past, an insurmountable obstacle?

Postby rwhyAn » Tue Dec 30, 2014 12:00 pm

It won't be insurmountable from the admissions aspect. Law schools have let in convicted murderers and sex offenders before. It may be a cause for concern during the character and fitness part of the bar exam, but honestly, I think you'll be fine if you keep your nose clean from now on. If you enroll in 2015 and graduate in 2018, it will have been 10 years since your last run in with the law, and these aren't felony convictions or anything. This is merely my speculation and nothing more, so take it for what it's worth. Just make sure do disclose everything on your law school applications and during the bar. Good luck.

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Re: My past, an insurmountable obstacle?

Postby twenty » Tue Dec 30, 2014 12:04 pm

My question is this; does my criminal history disqualify me from law school/bar admission, assuming I disclose everything openly and completely?

We can't give you legal advice on this board, but it's definitely in your best interest to be completely honest and disclose everything. Include in your application an explanation of how the last arrest was a turning point in your life, and you decided to go to college and stay clean, etc.

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Re: My past, an insurmountable obstacle?

Postby MarkfromWI » Tue Dec 30, 2014 12:13 pm

I can't say definitively one way or the other, but the more time you put between yourself and your negative history will only help. Also, since you've still got plenty of time left in UG, start volunteering. It shows that you are making an affirmative effort to turn things around that goes above and beyond simply staying out of trouble.

Again I'm not an expert on C&F issues by any means, but I can't imagine any of that stuff will prevent you from being admitted to LS/the bar. Spin it the right way in your personal statement and disclose everything and you should be OK.

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Re: My past, an insurmountable obstacle?

Postby Username123 » Tue Dec 30, 2014 12:42 pm

You should definitely contact an attorney who specializes in C&F. S/he would be the person to ask. I don't think admission to law school is the issue here, as schools are desperate to get quality #s; the issue is the bar. Definitely contact an attorney to see what s/he says. Let us know how it goes.

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Re: My past, an insurmountable obstacle?

Postby tuhaybey » Tue Dec 30, 2014 1:06 pm

I think you'll be fine, but, you absolutely must be 100% honest about it all to everybody- the law schools you apply to, employers, internships, and most of all, the C&F committee. Do not try to avoid disclosing any of it to anybody. If any of them ask about your criminal record on an application and it doesn't sound like you need to disclose something, disclose it anyways. Overdisclose. The C&F committee will know everything and if they even detect the faintest wiff of you trying to hide anything from anybody, that will be a much bigger deal than the actual charges.

Also, C&F committees are paranoid about substance abuse. That is by far the biggest ethical headache they encounter and they encounter it a lot. If the evidence of substance abuse issues stops completely in 2008 and you are applying for admission to the bar in 2018, that will be fine, but if there is even one minor indication after now of anything at all related to substances, that will make them see the pre-2008 stuff as an ongoing issue. If you had no record, you could get away, for example, with a drunk and disorderly during law school. With your record, you cannot.

All of that said, people get overly freaked out about the C&F process. What they are really trying to figure out is whether you're going to be an embarrassment to the profession. It certainly doesn't sound like you would be and they will be able to tell that.

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Re: My past, an insurmountable obstacle?

Postby sd5289 » Tue Dec 30, 2014 1:06 pm

Each state is different, but generally the questions that are on a law school application mirror (not 100%) the questions on the application to that state's bar. It's not in a school's best interest to admit applicants who are then denied admission to the bar (certainly doesn't help their employment stats).

I agree with the other posters to contact a C & F attorney in the state you want to practice in.

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