Law School Discussion

Misdemeanor Criminal Record: address issue in personal statement?


I live in the state of California, where I will be applying for law school this coming fall. Almost 2 years ago, I had a misdemeanor criminal record of domestic violence nature, I am working to get that expunged in time for law school. Due to the sensitive nature of the circumstances, there are few pre-law advisers, professors, or legal professionals who are willing to offer advice based on the details and specifics of my situation. The most advice I had received were of very general recommendations and opinions that law school admissions do not automatically reject applicants with criminal records. I feel a bit lost as I am trying to put together my application packet, there are no stated guidelines that I know of for this sort of issues and concerns.

1. Should I address, include, or base the substance of my personal statement or admission essays on this "experience/incident" of legal encounter? I thought I could use this as the narrative to my journey to law school, how it affected my life, how it changed who I am, and how it affirmed my long-time aspiration to obtain a legal education. What should I focus on in my personal statement with or without the inclusion of this episode of my life?

2. Most law school applications will ask applicants to disclose fully any convictions of crimes, even if it is expunged, and then explain on a separate page attached. In such "explanation" or addendum, what must I include, and what should I avoid? Is it strictly "factual" as according to the court documents/ police reports, or is it my explanation of the situation? Also, must I include all the initial charges that were later dismissed? As well as the charge that I had pled guilty to?

3. Lastly, I would like to know now, if this record will be a road block for me for getting into law schools, and/or eventually being admitted to the CA Bar. There are some general guidelines offered, and from such, I wish to have clarified what they consider to have satisfied sufficient time passage since the misconduct proportional to the severity of the crime. Would 2 years be sufficient to show that I have rehabilitated, reconciled, and undertaken retribution, provided I have supporting material of my volunteer and counseling?

I really do appreciate any advice, comments, suggestions and recommendations. If you know of similar cases of law school applicants, if you have yourself once faced these challenges, or if you had experience advising on such matters, I would greatly value and appreciate your response. It would also be equally helpful if you have a referral to any consultants, advisers, admissions officers, any appropriate authority or personnel I can speak with in regards to my concerns.         


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Re: Misdemeanor Criminal Record: address issue in personal statement?
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2009, 07:19:10 AM »
ok, here's some advice:

1)  address it in a separate addendum.  explain it without excusing it.  show what positive things you have done to correct it (anger management classes, etc).  ONLY disclose convictions, UNLESS the application asks "have you ever been CHARGED".  dont make it like it was the defining moment of your life thus far.

2)  expunging it doesnt matter.  let me say this again:  EXPUNGING IT DOESNT MATTER.  you will still be required to disclose it on your bar application, which is frequently compared to your law school application.  they had better match.  and dont even THINK of trying to hide it from the bar examiners -- that is ground for immediate denial of your application.

3)  however...unless you have had it fully expunged and petitioned for restoration of rights, any domestic violence conviction will bar you from owning or carrying a firearm -- thus, positions with the FBI/CIA or other government agencies will be out.  i would still recommend expunging it, because of rental and other employment check issues.

4)  with all of this said, the law school answer to all of your questions depends.  some adcoms may have been the victims of domestic violence, some may not want any convictions, etc etc etc.  i was admitted to 20 schools in 2006 with drug convictions less than 6 months old.  yeah, i overkilled it because i was afraid i wouldnt get in --  and i'm certain that some schools rejected me because of it -- but over 80% did not.

disclose it, take your lumps, and good luck.


Re: Misdemeanor Criminal Record: address issue in personal statement?
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2009, 07:47:11 AM »
I would contact CA Bar association to see if you would be admitted at the completion of school. I'm sure you don't want to put in all the time, work, and money only to be denied admission to the bar. I understand first-hand lifes serious ups and downs, but you may want to ask yourself honestly, Is two years enough time since the incident? You may want to wait a few years. Just my thoughts. Best of luck.