Case Studies: Generating Resolution Options

Undergraduate Student Resolves Misconduct Charges After Attorney Advisor Proposes Mentor Program

A business program for undergraduate students at a community college in a Southern border state charged our client with academic misconduct relating to alleged unauthorized collaboration and plagiarism. Our client was a first-generation college student whose English was his second language. Our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team when his informal conference with the college's disciplinary official resulted in a recommendation of dismissal. Our team confirmed from the charges, our client's academic materials, and our interview of the client that the charges were the result of our client's unfamiliarity with college academic norms and expectations and our client's lack of confidence and confusion. Our team further discerned that the college's disciplinary procedures permitted an appeal of the dismissal recommendation to the college's director of student affairs. We helped our client arrange an informal conference with the student affairs director before the formal appeal, at which we helped our client explain her academic challenges and propose that she participate in the college's academic mentoring program for ESL students. The director accepted our client's proposal, setting aside the dismissal recommendation pending our client's match with an alumni mentor. After meeting with our client several times and successfully guiding our client through the rest of her current semester of courses, the mentor recommended to the director that the college dismiss the charges. Our client continued her community college education without further disciplinary challenges. The key to our winning representation was our ability to identify the mentor program as an attractive creative win-win option to the losing proposition of discipline and dismissal.

Nursing Student Preserves Degree Program After Attorney Advisor Negotiates Clinic Reassignment

A popular nursing program at a public university in the Northwestern United States charged our client, a senior in her last semester in the program, with falsifying clinical course hours. Our client was halfway through the clinical assignment. The clinical program director had been communicating with the site supervisor over details and documentation of our client's hours after the supervisor had failed to timely submit our client's mid-term evaluation. Their communications led to the charge that our client had reported substantially more hours than she had actually worked in the clinic. The program director was sympathetic to our client's claim but felt bound to accept the supervisor's contrary assertions. When an informal conference with the disciplinary official pointed the proceeding toward a formal hearing, suspension, and possible dismissal, our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team. Our investigation confirmed that a contested hearing could well end against our client insofar as neither side had corroborating evidence and a contested resolution depended on a credibility judgment, with the site supervisor having significantly greater standing and influence than our client. We, therefore, negotiated with the disciplinary office and nursing program dean, proposing clinic reassignment and additional training the program director could accept as makeup clinical hours. All parties accepted our proposed resolution. Our client gladly accepted additional training that other clinic students hadn't received and even more gladly accepted her new clinic assignment and supervision. Our client suffered no discipline, and the disciplinary official purged our client's school file of all charges. The key to negotiated resolution was our team's creative proposal producing an outcome satisfying all parties.

Undergraduate Student Facing Title IX Charges Avoids Discipline With Research Assignment

Disciplinary officials at a large public university in the Southeastern United States charged our client, an undergraduate student enrolled in the university's education program, with Title IX sexual misconduct charges. The charges arose out of a classroom debate our client had with other students completing a discussion-based assignment, the topic of which involved sexual values. Other students complained after the debate that our client's statements during and after the debate created a hostile sexual environment for students holding different values than the ones our client had advocated. The course instructor supported the complaining students and urged disciplinary officials to issue the Title IX charge. The disciplinary official confided to our client that the official disagreed with the charge, given that the alleged misconduct occurred in the context of an assigned debate. But the official privately indicated that her hands were bound to advance the charges to a formal hearing. When our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team, we advocated with the disciplinary official and program dean that the charges were not only unfair but violated our client's First Amendment rights. We simultaneously proposed that our client complete a research paper on the topic that our client had already expressed his interest in pursuing. The program dean got the involved instructor to accept our client's paper as a compromise resolution, enabling the disciplinary official to dismiss the charges without institutional pushback. Our client had no record of discipline and continued his education without further challenge.

Graduate Student Avoids Suspension Over Fighting Charges After Completing Counseling and Evaluation

The director of a graduate social work program at a prominent private college in the Northeast charged our client with fighting, endangerment, and unfitness for continuing the program, after an incident in which our client bloodied the nose of another student. Disciplinary officials initially suspended our client on an emergency basis without hearing, notifying our client of his potential dismissal. Our client promptly retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to gain reinstatement and avoid dismissal. While investigating the matter and communicating with school officials over coursework, assignments, and the upcoming hearing, our team helped our client obtain psychological evaluation and anger-management counseling for struggles our client had been having. The evaluation report supported that our client had been overcoming incredible stresses and managing well until this one incident when our client reasonably misconstrued the other student's conduct as an allegation of unfitness and threat to destroy our client's reputation. We were able to use our client's counseling, evaluation report, and apology to negotiate reinstatement with an assurance that our client would continue counseling and submit to repeat psychological evaluations. Our client's parents had been urging our client to follow this plan even before the incident. The university dismissed the charges and removed any record of discipline, although reluctant to do so until our last offer of repeat evaluations. The key to our winning approach was advising early action on our client's own to create negotiating options for an outcome that ensured the university could meet its safety and security obligations.

Undergraduate Student Gains Desired Transfer After Negotiating Dismissal of Disciplinary Charges

Our client, a sophomore undergraduate at a prominent Midwestern public university, preferred to transfer to an equally prominent private university near his East Coast home. Our client had not gained admission to his home university until his home university accepted his transfer application after he earned outstanding student honors at his current Midwestern university. But before completing the semester and making the transfer over that coming summer, our client faced disciplinary charges relating to allegations of theft, cheating, and making false disciplinary reports. The charges arose out of a long-running dispute our client had with his dormitory roommates. Our client had initiated theft and cheating charges against his roommates, who had demanded countercharges against our client, including the charge for making false reports. Disciplinary officials had been unable to bring the roommates together so that the disciplinary proceeding hung over and blocked our client's pending transfer. We helped the disciplinary officials arrange an off-campus mediation, the goal of which was to show the disputing students that our client's transfer was the best resolution option. We further prepared our student to exchange certain concessions, including withdrawing charges and conceding disputed property, to ensure the dismissal of the charges blocking his transfer. We also negotiated that the mediation occurred before a professional our team had used to good effect in similar cases. The matter was resolved at the mediation, with the disciplinary official glad to dismiss all charges with the parties' consent. The key to resolution was our off-campus mediation proposal breaking a stalemate in negotiations.

Graduate Research Assistant Avoids Discipline Over Attribution Dispute with Coauthorship Credit

A school of social work at a major public university in a Southern border state charged our client with plagiarism and conversion charges over a dispute our client had with the professor for whom she was serving as a research assistant. Our client, who already held other graduate degrees in literature, was an outstanding student whose research and writing ability exceeded that of many of the school's faculty members. Our client had submitted an excellent research paper in one of her graduate courses, the subject of which related to her research assistant work. Learning of her paper's perfect marks and prominence, the professor retaining her as research assistant claimed that some of the paper's research was his, not our client's. The claim led to the plagiarism and conversion charges. Disciplinary officials were unable to resolve the charges until our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team. While our investigation showed that our client had based her paper on her own original work, its close relationship to her professor's work provided a basis for an offer for our client to rewrite and modify the paper into a published article crediting her professor with co-authorship. In exchange for that proposal, our client requested that her professor offer her junior co-authorship on a paper related to her research assistant work. Both sides accepted the proposals, enabling the disciplinary officials to dismiss the charges and expunge the dispute from our client's school records. The key to our creative resolution was identifying an interest, research, and publication credit, that both sides shared and then generating options to advance that common interest.

Medical Resident Avoids Non-Renewal of Residency Placement After Accepting Professional Mentor

Our client was a medical resident placed in a premier urban hospital in a desirable Rocky Mountain location. Our client had sought that residency match as her highest-ranking location. Our client's outstanding academic record and professional demeanor contributed to the match and to her success through most of the first year of her residency. Yet before her first year concluded, a prominent physician at the hospital, one who had given her the most challenging assignments and least guidance and support, gave her unfairly low clinical evaluations. The evaluation was so low that our client's residency advisor told her that the hospital's residency review panel was sure to recommend her non-renewal for the second year and that she should prepare to seek a new residency. Our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to attempt to discern positive, proactive options to save her residency. Our team discerned from interviews and document reviews that the physician was likely jealous and did not want our client remaining at the hospital in roles that reduced his own prominence. We proposed to our client and her residency advisor that our client request that the prominent physician mentor her through the remainder of her first year of residency. Our client and her advisor put together a mentoring plan that included networking and professional association events at which the prominent physician could introduce our client as his protege. The physician graciously accepted our client's request and became her advocate for the renewal of her second year of residency. The key to resolution was our ability to generate an option that drew on our client's unusually adept interpersonal skills, strong emotional intelligence, and extraordinary competence.

Single-Parent MBA Student Avoids Academic Progress Dismissal With Alternative Family and Business Arrangements

Our client was a single parent with sole physical custody of two elementary school-age children. Our client also owned and operated a very successful but also very demanding contract-services business with only one employee partner. Our client's substantial home and work obligations, and periodic shifting demands in both roles, led our client to withdraw from several courses and leave other coursework incomplete in his online MBA program. When the online university notified our client of his dismissal for unsatisfactory academic progress, our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to help him generate options. Our client's goal was not to lose his investment of time and energy pursuing his MBA degree, although our client had no timetable for graduation and held his family and business obligations as much higher priorities. Our team first confirmed that our client had grounds for an SAP appeal under his online university's SAP policy and procedures. Our team then helped our client study his family and business commitments to form a plan to continue to prioritize both commitments but adjust those commitments to free time for MBA studies. That plan, necessary for a successful SAP appeal, included getting his elderly parents' help with child transportation and events, which his parents welcomed. The plan also included reassigning duties with his business partner, which his partner also welcomed. Our team was then able to complete our client's SAP appeal showing how our client was adjusting other obligations in clear ways that would enable him to complete coursework and regain his good academic standing under the university's SAP policy. The university granted our client's appeal and reinstated the client. The key to a successful resolution was helping our client generate options within his own control that he could then use to prove a change in his circumstances satisfying the university's standards.

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