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Disclosing Disciplinary Issues in Your Applications

When disclosing disciplinary issues in your law school application, experts say it’s better to be transparent rather than call your integrity into question.

In a piece for US News, Gabriel Kuris, founder of Top Law Coach, discusses why the risk of appearing untruthful about your past is almost always worse than shedding light on it.

“It may feel silly to describe a decade-old speeding ticket or citation for disorderly conduct, but it’s best to err on the side of disclosure,” Kuris writes. “Assume that law schools will do a background check that will turn up any incidents on your record. The risk of appearing untruthful about your past is much worse than any embarrassment from oversharing. Don’t risk having your admissions offer revoked if the skeletons in your closet come to light.”

HOW SEVERE IS IT?

It’s important to understand just how severe your past issue is so you can determine whether a law school requires that they be disclosed in your application.

On the one hand, severe infractions can have a negative influence on your chances of admission. Kuris says incidents that reflect poorly on your personal integrity will hurt admission chances the most.

“Examples include fraud, abuse of authority, sexual misconduct, plagiarism or ethical violations,” Kuris writes. “Law school applicants unsure of whether their past troubles may disqualify them from legal practice should consult a lawyer specializing in disciplinary matters.”

On the other hand, minor infractions may have less of an impact

“For minor incidents like traffic tickets, disciplinary infractions or juvenile issues cleared from the record, read application instructions carefully to determine whether they require disclosure. Law schools vary in what applicants need to disclose, and some want to hear about anything more serious than a parking fine.”

Experts say it’s critical to read the fine print in what exactly a law school is asking for when it comes to disciplinary issues. There may be times when you don’t need to disclose it in your application.

“If you were arrested for drinking in public and the case was dismissed when you paid money in court, you were never convicted or sentenced – so you need not disclose that on an application that doesn’t ask about convictions or sentencing,” Anna Ivey, of Anna Ivey Consulting, writes.

ADDRESSING GRAY AREAS

Kuris says not all disciplinary issues are as black and white as bribery or speeding tickets.

For gray areas, she recommends recounting the incident clearly and objectively.

“The basic facts of the case matter more than the surrounding circumstances and your subjective experience,” Kuris writes. “Try to plainly recount the incident, any charges or penalties, how it was resolved and lessons learned.”

Sources: US News, Anna Ivey Consulting