OT - Do I have to disclose this to be admitted to the bar?

Submitted by Blue_Bull_Run on January 31st, 2010 at 7:07 PM

For any lawyers out there: I was accused of copying on a quiz in high school. As a result, I served a detention.

Is that the type of thing that will require disclosure for the bar application, and, more importantly, how serious of an infraction is that? Enough to jeopardize my admission?



January 31st, 2010 at 7:13 PM ^

but something in which there was no academic consequences and no substantial proof the 'crime' occurred...? it seems a bit much. it'd be like disclosing the fact your mom grounded you for hitting your brother. further, a detention wouldn't be recorded in the permanent record.

you know, now i kinda changed my mind. disclose it. i know of people in michigan and beyond who have gotten admitted by the state bar with DUIs, domestic assault charges... meh.


January 31st, 2010 at 9:49 PM ^

on Mgoblog lately debating about the use of the word "Ironic". Well I think this topic is "Ironic."

"Car salespeople, advertising professionals and lawyers were joined by members of Congress, business executives and reporters as the professions rated lowest in honesty and ethical standards in a recent Gallup Poll."

You would probably be better off dropping the H.S. test story and steal the story below about the guy banging the chick on the 50 yard line. That would probably get you more ahead in the lawyer world then being honest about this test incident...lol..


January 31st, 2010 at 7:10 PM ^

first off, you don't HAVE to disclose anything. you WANT to disclose everything.

as for the detention, i don't know how serious you are being but that's not substantive enough. you likely received the detention as a result of suspicion and not full-on declared cheating. had you failed the class because of it - yes. a he-said she-said that ended with a detention - no.


January 31st, 2010 at 7:16 PM ^

I admitted to doing it because it was a ten point quiz and the teacher was it would be much less severe if I admitted to it.

Like I said, the result was a detention.

I am pretty sure there's no official record of it.

I'm just struggling with this issue for a number of reasons. First, because I don't think there is any record of it, I'm tempted to ignore it. Second, I feel like it's minor enough to ignore. On the flip side, it does go toward academic integrity, which is obviously huge.

OMG Shirtless

January 31st, 2010 at 7:53 PM ^

I'm not so sure he's required to add Blue_Bull_Run to his bar application, so there probably won't be a connection. But this did make me think about a story I read where Florida was contemplating making people add a representative of the Bar Admissions Office as a friend on Facebook, so they could check on your social activities. I'm fairly certain they decided against it, except for certain situations.



January 31st, 2010 at 7:16 PM ^

Err in favor of disclosure.

Let the admissions committees determine whether it's bad enough to keep you out.

If they find out later, and they determine it IS bad enough, you'll be in big trouble.

Undefeated dre…

January 31st, 2010 at 7:29 PM ^

Where are you going with this? If it's the ethical thing to do, put it in. You sound more worried about getting caught for not putting it in than for doing the right thing.

And yes, by the same logic if you killed a drifter and there was no record of it anywhere and nothing could link you to the crime, the ethical thing would be to admit it. Now that may actually damage your bar application...


January 31st, 2010 at 7:35 PM ^

it happened five years ago, at least, I think. That's a long time ago, and if it hasn't happened again, well, you should be just fine as an isolated incident.

Disclose it. You owned up to it in high school, you took your medicine, and you learned from it, right (wink?)

I copy the others about more serious things. I had a colleague who had 2 DUIs in law school and got admitted to the bar.

I had a friend who had a DUI in Canada, then snuck into Canada for a law school event and didn't disclose it to immigration authorities, and he made the Bar. You'll be fine.


January 31st, 2010 at 9:17 PM ^

Bar applications are reviewed by a three-lawyer panel who sit on the Character and Fitness Committee. One of my partners who serves recently asked my opinion about an applicant who had a questionable incident in his not distant past, and was very blase' about it. The panel's problem with it wasn't about the 'crime,' but his attitude about it because he saw it as no big deal.

Any criminal offense, even if the subject of a deferred sentence, will show up in public records. That's how the C&F committee finds out when people don't disclose MIPs. Your cheating on a high school test won't show up. It won't keep you from admission to the bar, so disclose it in the interest of candor- and a good night's sleep.

Even if they ask for an explanation, expression of remorse and that you consider it a past failure that won't be repeated will satisfy any question about your fitness for admission. Just leave out the part about seeking advice on mgoblog. :)


January 31st, 2010 at 10:24 PM ^

Depending upon the question, if the infraction, regardless of how minor, should have been disclosed and was not, you could have a potential problem on your hands or even be accused of perjury if your application is filed under oath. I cannot imagine a bar committee would deny admission for the likes of what you did in high school. Should they even ask you about it, and they probably would not, all you have to do is explain how valuable a lesson it was and how this minor infraction pushed you to the study of law. They will eat it right up.

Remember, Watergate was a second rate burglary until the lies, and Clinton was almost impeached, not for Monica, but for not telling the truth under oath. Ditto for Martha Stewart and Marion Jones.

Do not lose a minute of sleep. You will be fine.

In certain medical school aps, they are asking about traffic tickets. To my way of thinking, if you haven't picked up at least one traffic ticket along the way, life has probably been a bit dull.


January 31st, 2010 at 7:19 PM ^

But either way, it wont matter. I know a dude clerking for a federal circuit court judge who had a couple DUIs. Not sure if you have to pass character and fitness to clerk, but seriously, you're all good.

OMG Shirtless

January 31st, 2010 at 7:28 PM ^

Even if you really copied on a quiz in high school and the penalty was a detention, you would probably be admitted to the bar in most states, you can do most anything short of a felony and major cheating. If you copied a term paper and failed the class because of it you may not.

If you don't disclose it right off the bat and they find out about it you could be fucked. If it really is as simple as detention for copying a quiz in high school, you could legitimately get away with saying you forgot about it. There were people in my class, that neglected to disclose MIPs when they first applied to the bar. They got a letter from the Bar Association or whatever it was, and had to write a letter explaining why they didn't disclose it. Most said they legitimately forgot about it, because an MIP is about the same as a traffic ticket where they come from, and the judges in Ann Arbor tell you that the only people that will ever know about it are in the FBI.

The smart thing to do is just disclose everything right away, explain that you were accused of copying, there wasn't any proof and it wasn't worth fighting any more because it was easier just to take the detention.

Edit: I don't even think this was English, oh well.


January 31st, 2010 at 7:37 PM ^

I will side with my esteemed colleges from wherever the heck they are practicing. I'd say better safe than sorry. If you were 100% sure that it isn't on your permanent high school record, you could probably get away with it. I think on the Mich bar app, they just asked about felonies and things that occurred during college/law school. It has been a few years, so I could be wrong.

If they call and ask you, just tell them the truth. You were young and stupid and got better at cheating.... I mean you learned your lesson. I doubt something this minor could keep you from getting admitted to the bar in the vast majority of states. But not disclosing it on your application when you perfectly well remembered about it could call your high standards of morality into question.


January 31st, 2010 at 7:54 PM ^

As others have said, it's always better with these sorts of things to disclose the incident and then deal with it. This is such a minor thing, and it happened when you were in high school, so I can't imagine anything would come of it.


January 31st, 2010 at 8:02 PM ^

You should disclose it. They really won't care, as someone else said I know folks with DUIs and Public Intox and worse who are fine. You disclose it and the bar probably won't ever even bring it up with you.

The one issue it might raise, is if there was somewhere else where you should have disclosed it but did not. For example, Person A got a MIP citation in undergrad that was ultimately dismissed in a first offender program. Person A did not list it as being "convicted of a crime" on his law school application because he didn't think it met the standard of "being convicted". However Person A did disclose the incident to the bar 3 years later because it asked about being "charged" with a misdemeanor. The bar came back and said Person A should've disclosed it on his law school application, and made Person A get a letter from their law school confirming that they would've been accepted in spite of the citation.

Ultimately, law schools and bar examiners deal with this stuff all the time, and it may be a hassle to get cleared up but no one is interested in keeping a graduate with a petty incident from becoming a practicing attorney. Disclose it. Think of it this way, folks have done a lot worse than you and been admitted, your incident isn't that special that they're gonna keep you out.


January 31st, 2010 at 8:04 PM ^

Cheating goes toward honesty, whereas DUIs and Public Intox goes towards -- having a good time, bro!

Thanks for the advice though. Luckily there was no second incident in which I failed to report the first one.


January 31st, 2010 at 8:18 PM ^

your trepidation about disclosing something in a situation where you don't know the impact. I also understand that probably no one would ever know about this.

But if there's a direct question which asks about disclosing issues going to honesty, you might as well. I'm really guessing that the bar really won't care that much, and you'll never hear about it again.

I mean these are just regular people, they live in the real world, they watch football, they post on Michigan sports websites, and they know what's a big deal and what's not. And the only cat I know who had any kind of issue (and by issue I mean had to have a couple talks with his assigned bar examiner) had a DUI when he was underage. And I think most rational folks would view that as a much more serious character issue than copying an answer on a 10-point quiz in junior year of high school, no matter if one issue goes to "honesty" whereas the other one goes to "non-academic related bad judgment".


January 31st, 2010 at 8:37 PM ^

but my experience is, there is someone with the State Bar administration (not a member of the board of bar examiners) who looks at your application, including Character and Fitness. If anything comes up that is an issue, then they contact you and tell you how to proceed with rectifying it. In the case of the kid with the underage DUI, the applicant was put in touch with a member of the Board of Bar Examiners (who was just some partner who was a practicing attorney at one of the big firms) and met with him and explained the situation, and the I think the idea was that the Bar Examiner is supposed to be evaluating his character.

The applicant had to meet with the Bar Examiner a second time because the Examiner was kind of a dick apparently, but basically the applicant just had to kiss the guys ass and make a plea to be allowed in. And he was eventually given the ok by the examiner (though I think the issue wasn't resolved until after the standard swearing in ceremony, but still....no impact, no probation, no black mark on his record).


January 31st, 2010 at 8:03 PM ^

Look at the bar application and see if there are any questions that ask about it. I can promise you there are lawyers that have admitted to far worse than that on bar application and were admitted. Just be prepared with a good-sound, I-learned-my-lesson answer.


January 31st, 2010 at 8:09 PM ^

I don't know anything about this but I think the fact that you're honest enough to disclose something that happened several years ago and there's no record of it shows that you're an honest person. I applaud your honesty.


January 31st, 2010 at 8:18 PM ^

i would disclose that there was an incident in which cheating was alleged by a high school teacher and as a way to get through the issue and make both sides happy, you agreed to serve a detention and receive a zero on the minor quiz.


January 31st, 2010 at 8:25 PM ^

I went through a similar exercise when I applied for the bar, agonizing over a solid 10 years' worth of ridiculous stunts that, while maybe were not all totally illegal, contained at least 15-20 that may have demonstrated questionable judgment before the wrong evaluator.

I dropped the robe on ALL interaction with any type of legitimate authority, and left all fraternity-ish stuff memories in the tank. Being seriously hard-core, this left two to worry about: 1) I got busted the week before the OSU game making out. . .yes, with a girl. . .on the 50 yard line of Michigan Stadium, and 2) I got frog-marched out of the backwoods of Mackinac Island at 5AM and cited for "unlawful camping."

The camping thing was a civil infraction, no big deal. F'n cop was bored, and we were 8 easily-fined 21 year olds.

The 50 yard line? "Unlawful entry." No kidding. Was the talk of the cops' Monday AM recap of the weekend. Showed up on page 2 of the Ann Arbor News under the headline: "Lip-Locked Lovers Caught in the Act." Was a bum rap, there was no "act," and that girl was a virgin both before and after I knew her. UM decided not to pursue charges, so the whole thing went away in legal-space, but I was still nervous.

I disclosed it, and when I was interviewed by the bar examiner, I asked if it was a problem. His response: "we have admitted bank robbers who have served their time. I think you're ok. Good to know she was, too."

good luck, my advice is admit it, and worst case, blame it on an uncomfortable incident with your gym teacher earlier that day.


January 31st, 2010 at 8:53 PM ^

Don't worry about this. It's supposed to be serious, but they're not out to get you.

Hell, I've had to go through three full-field background checks, the last by the FBI. They're all proctology exams to a certain degree. Just be thankful you're only lining up for the index finger--it gets much more uncomfortable.


January 31st, 2010 at 8:41 PM ^

...but the IL bar admissions committee assigns a contact person to law students who will answer questions about how and what to fill out on the application. Check with your state bar to see if they have contact person for you.

Another good measuring stick is to look at your law school application and match anything you had to disclose there.