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Author Topic: Exaggerations on Law School Application  (Read 1925 times)

JohnnyStarks

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Exaggerations on Law School Application
« on: January 08, 2013, 09:44:20 PM »
I am a 1L at a Top 14 law school.

On my application to law school, I exaggerated my involvement in campus activities.  Specifically:
1. I volunteered as a volleyball coach for the Special Olympics twice a week, and I listed myself as "Head Volleyball Coach". 
2. (this is more of a gross exaggeration)- I pledged a fraternity (and de-pledged), lived there, and was fairly active/friends with the members.  I listed myself as a member of this fraterntiy, AND as VP for a term.

I really regret doing this, as I dont think any of these exaggerations would have impacted anything.  I think at the time I thought of this as harmless "puffing", but now I see it as "lying" (particularly the VP thing).   

Is this something I should be concerned about?  Obviously, it didnt come up in admissions.  I dont think that the bar character and fitness people would be looking at college social involvement (unless they had a reason to), so I guess its water under the bridge.   Is it worth trying to amend my application (not sure how that works)?  worst case scenario, what would happen if the bar discovered this exaggerating/lying on extracurricular activities?  Obviously, its a matter of degree.   If you lie about having attended another college previously or having a criminal conviction, you are screwed.  If you lie about being an RA for three years instaed of two, no one will care.   But this seems to be in a middle ground.  Grateful for any advice.

Thank you.

Groundhog

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Re: Exaggerations on Law School Application
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2013, 11:54:44 PM »
There's a difference between exaggeration and lying. Sometimes the two can be confused. Neither is great.

That being said, "mere puffery" to use the contracts parlance, is usually not sufficient to constitute fraud. I'd analogize something similarly to here. Did you outright lie? For #2, the answer seems yes.

The most ethical and legal thing to do would be to admit that you did this to your law school and they probably wouldn't care other than putting a note in your file. Of course, your file, including your law school application, will be sent to the state's moral character and fitness committee. The likelihood of someone from either your law school or the state bar committee finding out you made a minor lie is extremely remote.

That being said, I think you would be foolish for turning yourself. I am not advocating dishonesty, but you have already committed the error and at least for now, you've gotten away with it. Unless you're worried about getting caught, I don't see any upside to confessing other than doing the "right thing."

Maintain FL 350

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Re: Exaggerations on Law School Application
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2013, 11:35:55 AM »
On my application to law school, I exaggerated my involvement in campus activities. 

Let's be clear: you didn't exaggerate, you flat out lied. However, the lies were fairly minor and involved a non-critical aspect of your application (as opposed to GPA/LSAT/criminal activity, etc.).

In my opinion, it is ALWAYS better to disclose the issue than to sit around nervously hoping that no one discovers the lie. Admittedly, it is unlikely that this particular lie would be discovered, but why take the chance? Starting now you are expected to act in conformity with the bar's rules. In these situations the bar almost always views the cover up as worse than the lie. The only thing that can likely hurt you here is not disclosing.

I don't know what state you're in, but it's not inconceivable that the bar application will ask about organizational membership (especially officer positions). They will have your law school application, and may compare the two.

Lastly, no one on this site is a representative of your state bar. The opinions you get here are just that, opinions. Follow your state bar's rules and don't count on anonymous advice from me or anyone else.   

JohnnyStarks

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Re: Exaggerations on Law School Application
« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2013, 07:25:22 PM »
Thank you both for the thoughtful replies.

Maintain FL 350, I think the "flat out lied" is a little harsh as a general matter, with the exception of the VP fact (the rest just seems like tolerable "puffery").  Agreed that there is no beating around the bush there (of course, that may have been what you are referring to).

This does bother me and I am very regretful, but I am inclined at this point to leave it alone.  It seems, literally, impossible that this would come up unless I volunteer the informaton, so nothing is gained from amending my law school app (and it seems like a weird thing to do).   Maintan FL 350 states that its not inconceivable that they would ask about extracurricular college actvities on a bar application, but think that it is.  They don't ask, for sure, in any of the states I am interested in. And its not really the type of thing a state bar is interested in.  They'd look at your law school applicaton, but they are not going to verify every trivial biographical fact.  I think that there is literally zero possibility of it being an issue.

The general advice re always disclose is well taken (and my bar applicaton will certainly be 100 pct truthful), but I think there is no benefit here to amending my law school app and tend to agree with "Groundhog."  Live and learn.  If it's keeping me up at night or something, then I'll amend it just to get it off my chest, but for now I'm satisfied that its water under the bridge.

Thanks again.

Maintain FL 350

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Re: Exaggerations on Law School Application
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2013, 12:22:13 AM »
Maintain FL 350, I think the "flat out lied" is a little harsh as a general matter

It is a little harsh, and I apologize. I wasn't trying to be snarky.

Maintan FL 350 states that its not inconceivable that they would ask about extracurricular college actvities on a bar application, but think that it is.

Not exactly. I said that it's not inconceivable that the bar might ask about organizational membership (fraternities would be included), and officer's positions held therein (VP is an officer's position).

They most certainly will have a copy of your law school application, and likely will conduct at least some comparison with your bar app. That's how people get caught lying about things like criminal records, for example. Let's say someone initially fails to disclose a criminal conviction on their law school application. Law schools don't really do background checks, so they get away with it. Later, they disclose the conviction on their bar application. The bar investigator compares applications, notices the discrepancy, and they have some 'splaining to do.

Look, it's not a huge deal and the chances of you getting caught are very low indeed. My opinion is simply that it's better to be completely open and to avoid any potential problems with the bar, even if remote. After three years of law school the last thing you want is for your bar app to take an extra few months to process because you have to answer a bunch of new questions or appear for an interview with the Character and Fitness Committee. In my state (CA) this wouldn't be a problem if you disclosed it, but might be an issue if you get caught trying to hide it. Your state may be different, and you can check your bar's rules to confirm.

Groundhog

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Re: Exaggerations on Law School Application
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2013, 10:03:03 AM »
In CA, the character and fitness questionnaire doesn't ask about your extracurricular activities unless they affect your ability to practice law. I'm not sure how OP's extracurricular activities would come up in this context unless someone that OP listed as a reference mentions he lied on his law school apps instead of just checking the boxes that OP is fit to practice law.

Obviously even JohnnyStarks, the OP, knows he made a mistake. Lesson here is: don't lie! Maintain is right that you never know if it could bite you in the butt.

FWIW, I had a minor issue with C&F, reported it to my law school and the bar C&F committee, and I never heard a thing about it again except a month before the bar exam I got a letter saying I'd passed C&F. This is in CA.