Law School Misconduct Affects Job Prospects

Law School's Point. For many law students, law school is a great experience, while for many others, not so much. Challenging studies can weary or sometimes even bore third-year law students. For most law students, though, school is not the main point. The career that follows, its door opened wide by a juris doctor or other law degree, is the main point.

Employers of Lawyers. Those who earn a law degree find employment in many fields, forums, and directions. Most law graduates enter some form of law practice, most of those working for private law firms. Surprisingly to some, most law practitioners ply their profession solo or in small firms. A minority of law graduates join large firms, although those large-firm opportunities can prove to be some of the higher-compensation, higher-resource, and higher-reputation opportunities. But many other law graduates join government service or pursue opportunities in the business or nonprofit sectors or the academy.

Character's Important Role. A common denominator to obtaining any of those attractive positions, though, is the good character and fitness, indeed the highest character and fitness, generally expected of lawyers. Indeed, whether their work is in law practice, business, nonprofit, education, or government service, licensed lawyers must conform their conduct to their professional-conduct rules. And because employers expect the best behavior from their lawyers, law firms and other employers of lawyers tend to recruit only those law students and graduates who show sound character and fitness.

Taking Misconduct Charges Seriously. The interest of employers in recruiting only lawyers of sound character is why any law student should take misconduct charges seriously. Law students facing misconduct charges should be seeking the advice and representation of national academic attorney Joseph D. Lento whose nationwide practice is dedicated to saving the future careers of students from misconduct charges. Attorney Joseph Lento knows about how misconduct charges can have long-term, often unanticipated effects, and what, with his skilled representation, you can do to protect your interests.

A Large Candidate Pool

The American Bar Association's Council on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar accredits approximately two-hundred U.S. law schools from which approximately thirty-four-thousand students graduate annually. Considering that the U.S. has about 1.33 million lawyers, the current annual number of law graduates is not that large, just enough to keep the number of lawyers relatively stable over the past few years. Yet the annual number of law graduates is plenty large to give the largest law firms and other premier recruiters of law students their pick of the best candidates. They have no need to read a student's materials any farther than the first sign of questionable character.

The selectivity of premier employers doesn't mean that any small blemish keeps a law student from getting a job after graduation. On the contrary, lawyers who made mistakes in law school, even serious mistakes like plagiarism and other forms of academic misconduct, recover and go on to pursue outstanding careers. The current U.S. president, who admitted to plagiarism in his first year of law school, is the preeminent example. The misconduct contributed to some degree to his 1988 withdrawal from the presidential campaign but hardly left an echo in his successful 2020 effort. Still, all things being equal, employers tend to choose the candidate without law school blemishes.

Avoiding Negative Weight

Don't underestimate the high standards to which premier employers of lawyers hold their law student candidates. As this webpage for federal judicial clerks illustrates, candidates for any federal position face a thorough FBI background check. Premier firms tend to require prestigious federal clerkships, or nearly as prestigious state appellate clerkships, of their law student candidates. Thus, even the stepping stones to the most-desired law firm positions can require the best student record.

What role does a record of misconduct play in premier placements? One leading attorney-search firm that helps law firms locate and evaluate the best candidates writes of the candidate bucket. Noting that lawyer placement is notoriously competitive, the search firm describes candidates as floating to the top or sinking to the bottom of the candidate bucket. Premier law firms, the search firm concludes, "ultimately choose the candidate who has the least amount of 'negative weight' and the most positive … buoyancy factors that help a candidate rise to the top of the bucket...." The message? Keep your law school record clean of negative weight so that your accomplishments can float you to the top of the candidate bucket.

Examples of Recruitment Profiles

Here, then, are a few examples of what major law firms say about the outstanding law students and lawyers whom they recruit for hiring:

  • the global firm Paul Hastings, with offices across the Americas, Europe, and Asia, says it seeks "students who exemplify the hallmarks of our successful associates: innovative, strong communication skills, achievement drive, interpersonal savvy, dedication to client service excellence, and the ability to work effectively as a team member";
  • the mega-firm Holland & Knight, with two-hundred practice areas, says it considers law students having "knowledge, skills, drive and dedication [as] key attributes…. But just as important to us is how your values mesh with ours.";
  • the world's largest law firm Baker McKenzie, with nearly five-thousand lawyers, says it seeks "individuals who can combine an impressive academic track record with excellent technical skills. But personal qualities are also important to us, so we're only interested in people who can bring clarity to complex situations, are committed to excellence, and are good problem solvers."; and
  • another one of the largest law firms, Kirkland & Ellis, with well over two-thousand lawyers, wants "talented and diverse individuals whose ideas drive the firm forward."

Why Law Student Misconduct Discourages Employers

Law students may still have the misimpression that hard work, strong skills, or high intelligence are all that matter to law firms and other employers of lawyers, even when the candidate has a misconduct record. A misconduct record, though, creates at least two daunting risks for employers.

One risk is that if the candidate repeats anything like the law school misconduct while working for the employer, the misconduct may lead to substantial harm to the employer's clients or other employer interests. For example, the law student who cheats in violation of school rules harms only the law student. But the lawyer who deliberately violates court rules or conduct rules seeking similar undue advantage for the employer or employer's client can cost the employer or client the entire matter. Sure, the lawyer may suffer serious sanction, but the employer or client may well lose, too.

A second risk of hiring a candidate with a misconduct record is that the employer may lose its substantial investment in the candidate if the candidate repeats anything like the law school misconduct while working for the employer. Law firms and other employers of lawyers may take months or even years to realize the full value of their training of a new lawyer. Employers generally dislike, even loathe, employee turnover because of its substantial costs. Law school misconduct can raise a red flag that the employer risks losing the candidate after having invested heavily in their hiring, training, and development. Read more here about the high cost and potential collateral consequences of school misconduct charges.

What to Do When You Face a Misconduct Investigation

Employers thus have good reasons to look for law student candidates with good conduct records. The best thing, then, is to avoid misconduct charges. One obvious way to do so is to avoid misconduct. Yet few students deliberately court misconduct charges. More often, suspicions of misconduct arise spontaneously, without the student suspect planning, expecting, or anticipating them.

A law student learning of a misconduct investigation can still take prompt and thoughtful action that may lead to a favorable resolution short of formal charges. Law school misconduct procedures, like this prominent example, typically begin with an administrative investigation to determine whether the school should bring formal charges before a hearing board. Investigation procedures permit, and indeed encourage, the student suspect to cooperate with the investigating official, suggesting that cooperation could contribute to exoneration.

A student suspect meeting repeatedly with the investigating official may well be unwise, especially if the student does not understand the charges, their potential sanctions, the investigator's prosecutorial role, and the available protective procedures. Students facing investigation of serious misconduct should instead have expert attorney representation to guide them through the investigation process. National academic attorney Joseph Lento frequently represents students through the investigation process, providing these and other services toward a favorable resolution short of formal charges:

  • communication with the investigator and other law school officials;
  • confirmation and clarification of the actual potential charges;
  • identification and evaluation of any evidence of wrongdoing;
  • discrediting of false or exaggerated evidence of wrongdoing;
  • identification and presentation of exonerating evidence;
  • advocacy of affirmative defenses to potential charges;
  • presentation and documentation of mitigating factors;
  • development and presentation of alternatives to formal charges; and
  • negotiation and documentation of favorable resolution.

What to Do When You Face Misconduct Charges

Just because an investigation results in formal charges does not mean that a law student will suffer a loss of job prospects. With skilled attorney advocacy, law students may successfully employ a law school's misconduct procedures to defend and defeat formal charges. Law schools typically maintain elaborate procedures for resolving misconduct charges, like this prominent example. Those procedures allow national academic attorney Joseph D. Lento to attack and discredit false or exaggerated evidence of misconduct and to present compelling evidence supporting defenses and mitigating factors.

Those procedures typically begin with the accused student's right to a formal hearing before an independent official or board. The procedures may further allow the student to retain and rely on the skilled representation of an attorney advisor, again as this prominent example permits. Hearings typically permit the student to present witnesses and other evidence challenging the school's witnesses and evidence while raising defenses and proving mitigating factors. Again, some law schools like this prominent example allow the student's attorney representative to present that evidence. Skilled cross-examination of the law school's witnesses by the attorney representative may further undermine the charges and bolster defenses and mitigating factors. Some law schools also permit closing arguments by the student's attorney representative.

Schools often state that misconduct hearings are administrative rather than judicial in nature. Yet, the offered procedures can be so trial-like in their form and effect as to ensure that law students are able to overcome incriminating evidence that lacks credibility and raise and prove defenses and mitigating factors to reduce or eliminate sanctions. Law school misconduct procedures are typically sufficiently thorough and elaborate for skilled attorney representation to make the critical difference.

Retain a Premier National Academic Attorney

Preserving your job prospects and future career is well worth retaining national law student attorney Joseph D. Lento if you face misconduct charges. Retaining the best available counsel is key to a successful outcome. Law is procedural to allow for just outcomes. But a law student facing misconduct charges must take full advantage of those procedures. And to do so requires skilled and experienced counsel.

If you need to preserve job prospects against looming law school misconduct charges, then retaining national law student attorney Joseph D. Lento's premier representation gains you the full advantage of a trial lawyer's skill and a trusted attorney's wisdom. Attorney Lento's sensitive strategies and aggressive stance provide the most effective representation against serious misconduct charges. Attorney Lento's unparalleled experience representing students nationwide on all kinds of misconduct charges has shown him how law school officials approach misconduct proceedings and what evidence can convince them of an accused student's innocence.

Don't let misconduct proceedings take you by surprise, unprepared to present evidence of your innocence. Preparation is a lawyer's stock in trade. And for a law student facing serious misconduct charges, preparation means retaining national student misconduct attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm. You can trust attorney Joseph Lento to help you successfully defend misconduct charges, just as thousands of other students nationwide have done. Call 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation, or use the Lento Law Firm's online service.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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