Disciplinary and criminal records

Be honest about your disciplinary or criminal record on your law school applications. Failure to disclose is far more serious than almost all underlying violations or crimes.

When you apply to law school, you will discover that all applications have a “Character and Fitness” section, which asks you about your undergraduate disciplinary record and your criminal record. These questions generally mirror the questions that will be asked of you when you seek admission to the bar, and therefore vary a little from one state to another.

The questions are sometimes very open-ended: those about your disciplinary record might ask for information about any time you have been disciplined either for academic or non-academic reasons. The questions about your criminal record may specifically ask you to describe any incident involving law enforcement, even if you were not convicted, were a juvenile, or the record was expunged or sealed.

In addition, a handful of schools still require an independent report on your college disciplinary record, called a “Dean’s Letter” or “Dean’s Certification,” which will be compared against your answers. (These certifications are usually required at the time of admission, not application, although some schools require them for all students who respond affirmatively to questions about university discipline.)

The first thing you need to know in answering these questions is that minor violations or convictions will not keep you out of law school. On the other hand, misrepresenting your disciplinary record or arrest record will be taken very seriously both by law schools and by the bar admission authority of the state in which you eventually seek to get licensed. Therefore, the guiding principle you should keep in mind as you respond to these questions is that you be completely forthcoming and honest. Any misrepresentation will hurt you far more than the underlying offense.

University Discipline/Conduct

Law school applications ask about both academic and non-academic sanctions. These questions are generally open-ended enough to include everything from a suspension for failure to maintain a minimum grade point average to a minor housing violation. All can end up on your disciplinary record and/or your transcript. You should...read more »

Criminal records

All law school applications ask about your criminal record. The primary purpose of these questions is to fulfill the schools’ mandate to ensure that applicants for the Bar are of “good moral character”. In most states, your application materials will eventually be forwarded to the bar admission officials when you...read more »

Dean’s Certification or Letter

A handful of law schools still require a “Dean’s Certification” or “Dean’s Letter” as part of the application process. This is a letter from the undergraduate institution that details the applicant’s student conduct (sometimes referred to as “disciplinary”) record (if any) and, in some cases, confirms the...read more »