Applying w/disciplinary history (Splitter)

(Applications Advice, Letters of Recommendation . . . )
Post Reply
fizzywater

New
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Jun 16, 2020 3:03 pm

Applying w/disciplinary history (Splitter)

Post by fizzywater » Tue Jun 16, 2020 9:15 pm

Hi everyone,

New poster to this forum and would appreciate any advice. I’m a couple years out of undergrad and planning to apply to law schools in the next year or two. However, I have an academic dishonesty charge (plagiarism, 2 terms of suspension) from my undergraduate college that makes me anxious about my chances at getting admitted to law school and passing the C&F.

Some background: During freshman year, I plagiarized a paper in a writing class. (Think: Upcoming deadline/stress/copy-paste from online sources without citations.) Yeah, it was pretty bad and just thinking about it makes me cringe. I was called before the disciplinary board without an opportunity to discuss it with my professor. The outcome was two terms of suspension, which is my school’s standard for the offense. I’m 100% owning what I did, no excuses.

I have a 3.63 GPA from a top 5 undergrad, 175 LSAT with 4-5 years of work experience by the time I start school. I genuinely have a very compelling narrative about how I learned from the experience, as well as more recent examples of leadership/character.

I will absolutely disclose the incident, explain it, and apply as early as possible to a wide range of schools. What are my chances at a mid/lower T7? T14? Would I be able to pass the C&F? Would the offense prohibitively exclude me from job offers with the DOJ/Clerkships/Top law firms? Would my offense be less of a factor if I were to apply to non-law grad schools (i.e. MPPs, MBA, MA programs?)

Thanks in advance for any advice.

The Lsat Airbender

Silver
Posts: 1076
Joined: Wed Jan 30, 2019 7:34 pm

Re: Applying w/disciplinary history (Splitter)

Post by The Lsat Airbender » Wed Jun 17, 2020 1:38 pm

This is a red flag, yes, but people have overcome much worse and still been accepted to law school/the bar. Work experience will help ameliorate the impact of your GPA and of the plagiarism in particular (it sounds like all of 6-7 years have now passed since that happened?). Non-law grad schools would not care as much, and AFAIK don't even ask. The confessional-booth thing in law-school apps results from their grads needing to get barred.

If you're not sure about law, then doing something else would be wise for that reason alone. But you should have perfectly good legal outcomes if you can avoid any new dishonesty-adjacent offenses.

fizzywater

New
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Jun 16, 2020 3:03 pm

Re: Applying w/disciplinary history (Splitter)

Post by fizzywater » Thu Jun 18, 2020 5:17 pm

The Lsat Airbender wrote:
Wed Jun 17, 2020 1:38 pm
This is a red flag, yes, but people have overcome much worse and still been accepted to law school/the bar. Work experience will help ameliorate the impact of your GPA and of the plagiarism in particular (it sounds like all of 6-7 years have now passed since that happened?). Non-law grad schools would not care as much, and AFAIK don't even ask. The confessional-booth thing in law-school apps results from their grads needing to get barred.

If you're not sure about law, then doing something else would be wise for that reason alone. But you should have perfectly good legal outcomes if you can avoid any new dishonesty-adjacent offenses.
Hi Lsat Airbender, thanks for your input.

Correct, the incident happened 6-7 years ago, so it would be 10yrs+ by the time I graduate law school and apply for the bar. Squeaky clean since then.

I guess I'm less worried about getting into a law school and passing the bar than the potentially damaging effects the incident would have on my admissions results and job prospects. This is making me consider whether other grad school options would be a better path for my future career goals, although my dream job is to become a US Attorney.

Not taking the incident into account, my stats are currently competitive for Columbia and NYU in the T7, as well as others in the T14. I know law school rankings are important factors for clerkships and AUSO hiring - in this instance, would it make sense for someone like me to apply ED?

Would the incident follow me around even if I were to pass the bar, or disqualify me from certain PI jobs or clerkships? If so, that would essentially defeat the purpose of going to law school for me.

The Lsat Airbender

Silver
Posts: 1076
Joined: Wed Jan 30, 2019 7:34 pm

Re: Applying w/disciplinary history (Splitter)

Post by The Lsat Airbender » Fri Jun 19, 2020 8:27 am

fizzywater wrote:
Thu Jun 18, 2020 5:17 pm
The Lsat Airbender wrote:
Wed Jun 17, 2020 1:38 pm
This is a red flag, yes, but people have overcome much worse and still been accepted to law school/the bar. Work experience will help ameliorate the impact of your GPA and of the plagiarism in particular (it sounds like all of 6-7 years have now passed since that happened?). Non-law grad schools would not care as much, and AFAIK don't even ask. The confessional-booth thing in law-school apps results from their grads needing to get barred.

If you're not sure about law, then doing something else would be wise for that reason alone. But you should have perfectly good legal outcomes if you can avoid any new dishonesty-adjacent offenses.
Hi Lsat Airbender, thanks for your input.

Correct, the incident happened 6-7 years ago, so it would be 10yrs+ by the time I graduate law school and apply for the bar. Squeaky clean since then.

I guess I'm less worried about getting into a law school and passing the bar than the potentially damaging effects the incident would have on my admissions results and job prospects. This is making me consider whether other grad school options would be a better path for my future career goals, although my dream job is to become a US Attorney.

Not taking the incident into account, my stats are currently competitive for Columbia and NYU in the T7, as well as others in the T14. I know law school rankings are important factors for clerkships and AUSO hiring - in this instance, would it make sense for someone like me to apply ED?

Would the incident follow me around even if I were to pass the bar, or disqualify me from certain PI jobs or clerkships? If so, that would essentially defeat the purpose of going to law school for me.
1) Personally I doubt you'll seriously underperform your numbers, and moreover you'll have great outcomes in the T14 even if you do underperfom a tad. UVA might care about this because of their whole honor-code thing. Some random admissions person having a bad day and ding you because the incident of cheating calls your LSAT into question. But the only way to find out is to apply. Your numbers are appealing for everyone besides Yale and Stanford, and that's 90% of the game.

2) Definitely don't apply ED, which won't increase your chances at Columbia or whatever (it just adds yield certainty, it doesn't address the plagiarism issue, so even on the theory where you need to band-aid that problem it wouldn't help) but would obliterate your chances at a big T14 scholarship and/or Harvard.

3) You need to complete a SF-86 background check to become an AUSA. It's probably the most stringent standard of past conduct for anything not requiring a security clearance, and I'm pretty sure college disciplinary incidents aren't responsive to it. As for clerkships, some judges ask for undergrad transcripts, so I can't tell you that nobody will ever find out, but it's pretty unlikely to come up in that process and even less likely that anyone will care.

You're clearly stressed out about this so I'd consider talking to a C&F attorney; they deal with these issues often and might be able to give you some peace of mind (or, if I'm wrong and this is actually a huge deal, then they'll tell you how bad it really is).

I would also add that, if you're so set on clerking/AUSA that missing out would make you feel like the whole endeavor was a waste, you might indeed want to reconsider. Neither outcome is guaranteed even if you go to HYS. You shouldn't go to law school if you wouldn't be okay with a relatively vanilla legal career like biglaw or being a state-level prosecutor, because you'll have to do either for at least a little while and maybe a long while.

nixy

Gold
Posts: 2702
Joined: Fri Feb 16, 2018 8:58 am

Re: Applying w/disciplinary history (Splitter)

Post by nixy » Fri Jun 19, 2020 8:55 am

Yeah, you can go look up the SF-86 online, and it doesn't ask about any academic discipline. Federal clerkship apps don't ask, either. As someone noted, some judges will ask for undergrad academic transcripts, so it may come up in that context, but what impact it will have will depend entirely on the individual judge - some might care, some might not. Clerkship hiring is pretty idiosyncratic so it can be very hard to predict anyway, but where you go to school and how you do there will carry the most weight (along with making connections!).

Your state bar probably will ask about academic discipline (mine did), but the big thing about the bar is that it wants you to disclose everything, but having stuff to disclose is much less of a problem than not disclosing it (not saying you were planning to not disclose, just commenting on their priorities). They want applicants to be open and honest about any issues in their past, but if something is in the past and you can show it's not currently a problem, most things are surmountable. The state bars are very big on confession and absolution.

And I don't think this would be a bar to admission. Most law schools C&F are loosely based on what they understand the local bar requirements to be (for instance my understanding is that Harvard doesn't ask about past arrests [?maybe - some element of criminal history] because the MA bar doesn't require disclosing them, but other schools will ask because their state bars do require disclosing). So schools are primarily worried about whether people will be able to pass the bar, not imposing some completely independent ethical standard. Point being, because I don't think this would be an issue for the bar, it shouldn't be an issue for schools, either.

Being removed in time from the incident should help a lot, because you can show a track record of having learned from your mistake and never doing it again. I think schools/bar associations are concerned with your whole history, and if you had repeat incidents of dishonesty, or this had happened last year and so they have no way of knowing whether it's a one-off or the beginning of a trend, it would be a much bigger deal. I think perhaps a surprising number of people have some kind of mistake like this somewhere in their past, and get into schools/pass the bar without issue.

Though I agree that talking to a C&F attorney would probably give some peace of mind (or possibly a good admissions consultant would have some idea).

(Also, becoming a US Attorney is a bit like becoming a federal judge - there are so many things that have to happen after graduating law school for that to happen, many of which you will have no control over, that making law school plans based on that goal is kind of impracticable. It's fine to have it in the back of your mind, but you will have a lot more immediate issues to address that aren't going to boil down neatly to "will/won't get me to USA." Anything involving a political appointment is very hard to plan for.)

Want to continue reading?

Register now to search topics and post comments!

Absolutely FREE!


Post Reply

Return to “Law School Admissions Forum”