I have a black mark in my past. Do I have to disclose it on my
If the application asks you for information,
you have to give it. Usually the applications will ask you to report
incidents of cheating, academic fraud, arrests, convictions, etc.
You must not hide this information. You need to present it
accurately. Usually a paragraph or two will do, typed up separately
and submitted with your application materials. If the incident was
major (for example, I had a student arrested for possession of a
handgun on the Berkeley campus—he’s now a successful attorney), you
might wish to devote your personal statement to it. See the section
on "Personal Statements" for details on when this option might be
Try not to worry about this "black mark." Law
schools do not expect you to be perfect. A minor incident or two
should not affect you too severely (depending on the circumstances,
of course). A high percentage of applicants have some sort of
alcohol or traffic violation on their records. Law schools tend to
overlook minor infractions. However, if you have multiple
infractions, ones that show a pattern of bad behavior, you may have
a lot of explaining to do. Also, you will need to pass a moral
character review before you are admitted to practice law. If you
have questions regarding your eligibility, many states will do a
"pre-screening" for you. Serious offenses such as felonies or those
involving academic integrity (plagiarism, cheating, and the like)
are, of course, taken seriously by law schools. If you feel you have
a serious black mark against you, talk to your pre-law advisor or to
the law schools themselves.
Finally, you need to know that if you are
caught lying on a law school application, you will not be admitted.
If you are caught later on during law school, you are likely to be
expelled. If you are caught after law school, you can have your
degree—and hence your career—taken away. "Lying," by the way,
includes the failure to disclose requested information. Given that,
you should err on the side of full disclosure.