Law Student Dismissals

To do well enough on the LSAT to get into law school, law students must generally prove that they are smart, analytical, determined, persevering, organized, attentive, and engaged. Studies of law students confirm their preference for order, organization, accuracy, and detail. Report indicates that those who advise law students find them intellectually curious, passionate about law, tenacious, ethical, and capable of leadership. These characteristics enable law students to thrive in an enormously challenging educational program, one that expects students to acquire and actively deploy a vast quantity of social knowledge across the widest of context fields.

Despite their remarkable capacities and commitment, law students do sometimes fail to persist in their programs. Law school isn't meant to be easy. One study shows that between five and seven percent of law students leave school in the make-or-break first year. The reasons for leaving are split between the uber-challenging academics, the cause of well more than half of first-year attrition, and other personal reasons, whether injury, illness, finances, fatigue, or disillusionment. Academic dismissals are the biggest culprit, but dismissals on other grounds also occur in substantial percentages and numbers. With everything that law students invest in their education, dismissals are a huge issue.

Law School Authority to Dismiss

One cannot seriously question a law school's authority to dismiss a student who does not meet the school's academic, behavioral, or professionalism standards. Law schools routinely promulgate codes and policies, the violation of which gives the law school dismissal authority. They also routinely incorporate college or university codes granting the same dismissal authority. Because law schools are preparing students to enter law practice, requiring a professional license, they also routinely refer to and incorporate the American Bar Association's Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which are the pattern for most state association rules. Maurer School of Law at Indiana University is a typical example, having its own code, incorporating the university's code, and incorporating the ABA's Model Rules.

Challenging a law school's general authority to dismiss is thus not a reasonable option. However, with the expert representation of national academic attorney Joseph D. Lento, law students can, in many cases, prevent dismissal by showing that dismissal as the law school pursues or proposes in their specific case:

  • exceeds the school's lawful authority;
  • frustrates the school's institutional interests;
  • fails to account for mitigating circumstances in its causes;
  • is not based on justifiable grounds within school policy; or
  • is based on erroneous attributions of misconduct to the student.

Legal Limits on Law School Dismissal

Law schools that are part of a public college or university, like the prestigious schools at the University of California--Berkley and the University of Michigan, owe their students constitutional due process in dismissal proceedings. Dismissal policies at private law schools, like the top-ranked Ivy League schools at Yale, Harvard, and Columbia, generally accept the same obligations not to dismiss arbitrarily or capriciously and to provide clear notice and a fair hearing. Law school policies promising or implying dismissal only with good cause can also be contractual limits to dismissal. Title IX administrative regulations place other limits around dismissal based on sexual misconduct. And tort law protections against defamation, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress also constrain law schools when pursuing student dismissal. National academic attorney Joseph D. Lento helps students nationwide invoke these protections to challenge, prevent, and reverse dismissals.

Institutional Constraints on Law School Dismissal

While law schools have obligations to police student academics and conduct, and law schools do dismiss students in significant numbers and percentages, dismissal is not necessarily in the law school's interest. Dismissal reduces enrollment, impacting finances and programs. Academic dismissals can also reveal teaching and academic support weaknesses, affecting individual professors and school reputations. Dismissals also burden or destroy relationships with the students, professors, family members, and alumni who support the dismissed student. And law school officials responsible for imposing and executing dismissal aren't always heartless. They appreciate the moral imperative not only to treat students fairly but to give students every reasonable chance. National academic attorney Joseph D. Lento knows how to bring these interests to the law school's attention when advocating that the school give his client student that chance.

When a Law Student Causes Dismissal

Law schools can treat dismissal differently when the cause for dismissal arises from within the law student's control. Sometimes, the student is alone responsible, or primarily responsible, for the grounds for dismissal, such as when a student commits sexual misconduct, abuses alcohol or drugs demonstrating unfitness, or engages in other behavioral misconduct like viewing and sharing pornography on school computers or committing theft or vandalism. Academic dismissals based on incomplete assignments and courses, and below-minimum grades, also fall in this blame-the-student class of dismissal causes.

One might assume that a law school will judge a student more harshly when the school can blame the student for the impending dismissal. But harsh judgment is not necessarily the case. The good thing about dismissal causes within the student's control is that they allow national academic attorney Joseph D. Lento to help the student present a convincing, achievable case for remedial action. A student can address behavioral issues with counseling, site restrictions, and activity restrictions, for instance. Students with academic deficiencies can adopt new practices, devote additional time, and employ additional resources. Don't assume that law schools want to blame and dismiss. Attorney Lento's strategic approach can turn that dynamic around into a positive opportunity.

When Outside Factors Cause Dismissal

Sometimes, though, the things that cause a law student's dismissal arise from outside the student's control. An auto accident head injury can cause mental fatigue and impairment. A physical illness can cause immobility, missed classes and assignments, and isolation from academic study groups and library resources. A job layoff or other income loss can cause financial issues and defaults. Outside events and uncontrollable conditions like these ones can cause a student to fail to meet the law school's minimum standards for courses taken, attended, and completed, assignments submitted, grades earned, fees paid, and other requirements, setting the course toward dismissal. National academic attorney Joseph D. Lento helps students demonstrate to their law school that these events and conditions explain and mitigate the student's failures. When attorney Lento shows the school that the student can meet and exceed minimum standards after resolving and removing outside impediments, the school has grounds to delay and avoid dismissal or reinstate the dismissed student.

When a Law School Unfairly Dismisses the Student

Sometimes, though, a law school threatens to dismiss a student when no cause or grounds, or only inadequate grounds, exist. Law school administrators, while more likely to have legal and procedural knowledge and training than administrators at other professional, graduate, and undergraduate schools, are not perfect. Law professors make mistakes scoring, grading, and posting grades. Administrators make mistakes processing grades, calculating minimums, and applying minimum academic standards. Misconduct officials also jump to conclusions, misconstrue evidence, and even entertain biases and prejudices attributing bad motives and wrong actions to students who did not exhibit them. Many years of experience representing students nationwide in dismissal proceedings have given national academic attorney Joseph D. Lento the academic insight and administrative skills to identify, advocate against, and reverse law school dismissal errors.

Grounds for Law School Dismissal

Law, policy, and institutional interest generally require law schools to have good grounds to dismiss a student. Law schools give three different classes of grounds for student dismissals: (1) academic grounds; (2) behavioral grounds; and (3) professionalism grounds. National academic attorney Joseph D. Lento helps students develop and implement different strategic approaches to prevent dismissal, depending on the grounds. The strategic approaches for academic grounds focus on reordering student priorities and remediating academic deficiencies. Academic grounds for a law student's dismissal tend to include:

  • repeated failures to complete readings and prepare for courses;
  • repeated failures to complete and submit required coursework;
  • grade point average falling and remaining below required minimum;
  • failing to timely and satisfactorily complete probation requirements;
  • repeated failures to take, complete, and pass required courses and exams;
  • repeated withdrawals from attempted courses;
  • failing to enroll for minimum required credits in consecutive terms;
  • failing to make satisfactory academic progress toward graduation; and
  • failing to complete clinical hours within the term.

Attorney Lento's strategic approach to behavioral grounds for dismissal tends to include establishing and clarifying behavior boundaries while committing to behavioral counseling and education and acts of contrition, including service and restitution. Behavioral grounds on which a law student could suffer dismissal include:

  • impairment or misconduct associated with addictions involving alcohol, drugs, gambling, or sex, exacerbated by law school stress;
  • Title IX sexual misconduct including sexual violence, harassment, or quid pro quo favors;
  • non-Title IX sexual misconduct including voyeurism, exposure, and prostitution; and
  • non-sexual threats and violence, including stalking, assault, battery, and fighting;
  • property loss or damage from burglary, robbery, other theft, conversion, and vandalism;
  • misuse of school property, including trespass and misuse of school computers such as in hacking or with pornography or cyber-bullying.

Attorney Lento's strategic approach to professionalism grounds for dismissal tends to include remedial education, acts of contrition, and service or restitution. Professionalism grounds on which law students could suffer dismissal include:

  • false statements on the law school application;
  • incomplete law school application;
  • crimes of dishonesty or violence outside the school;
  • public drunkenness, resisting arrest, or disorderly conduct;
  • bad checks, substantial debt in default, or other financial irresponsibility;
  • drunk driving convictions or other indications of disrespect for the law;
  • false or misleading statements in a professional capacity;
  • business or consumer fraud or other misuse of funds; and
  • breach of client confidentiality or other clinic misconduct.

The Impact of Law School Dismissal

Law school dismissal has broad impacts beyond the delay in completing one's legal education. Obviously enough, dismissal bars the student from enrolling in coursework toward earning a law degree at the dismissal school. But transferring to another law school to complete the degree based on credits earned at the dismissal school is generally not an option unless the student can show special circumstances that the dismissal's cause was peculiar to the dismissal school. The general rule is that dismissal at one law school means, at best, starting over. And the prospects for starting over may also be limited, depending on the dismissal grounds. If those grounds involved behavioral misconduct, then to gain admission again, the student must demonstrate that the misbehavior's cured. If the grounds were academic, then the student must demonstrate academic improvement, such as completing remedial coursework after dismissal.

Law school dismissal can also mean loss of college or university housing, transportation, healthcare, and scholarships or other aid, along with the acceleration of educational debt. For international students, dismissal can mean the loss of a visa and legal residency. Dismissal also means no opportunity to pursue a law license and law practice, resulting loss of law jobs and careers. Collateral impacts include loss of family support and negative impacts on family, social, and mentor relationships. With so much on the line, law students facing dismissal need the expert representation of national academic attorney Joseph D. Lento whose skill and experience have helped hundreds of students nationwide avoid dismissal.

Avoiding Law School Dismissal

Avoiding law school dismissal can take any of several approaches, depending on the school and circumstances. Students who retain attorney Lento before dismissal have the opportunity to employ school procedures to contest the dismissal's fairness and grounds. When the school's asserted grounds are false, involving errors in applying policies or unreliable witnesses, attorney Lento helps students by marshaling and presenting sound evidence applied in sound interpretations of applicable law and school policies. When the school's grounds are true, but the dismissal overreaches the just application of law and policy, attorney Lento helps students present compelling arguments for mitigating the proposed dismissal due to other circumstances and in the student's and school's best interests. The key to avoiding dismissal is, in other words, retaining attorney Lento's expert representation.

Options After Law School Dismissal

Whether relying on their own procedures or the procedures of the college or university to which they are attached, law schools routinely offer an appeal of some type for a dismissed student. National academic attorney Joseph D. Lento represents students nationwide in appeals of academic, behavioral, and professionalism dismissals. Some law schools permit emergency reinstatement after an academic dismissal, if the student can, with the help of attorney Lento's skilled representation, demonstrate compelling grounds. The enormous advantage to reinstatement is that it preserves the credits the dismissed student has already earned. The reinstated student need not start over. Other law schools permit readmission and restart after an academic dismissal and a wait of semesters or years. Those schools, though, make readmission discretionary with the school. The student must ordinarily demonstrate improved academics. And readmission involves starting over at the program's beginning.

Retain Preeminent Representation

Dismissal is an unnerving prospect for any law student, especially with the type-A, over-achieving character that law students typically exhibit. Dismissal can also involve a thicket of academic customs, laws, policies, and procedures with which a law student is largely or entirely unfamiliar. As skilled and accomplished as they can be, law students still need expert representation. The adage that the lawyer who represents himself or herself has a fool for a client applies equally to law students. Get expert help when facing law school dismissal. Attorney Lento's expert representation has helped hundreds of law students nationwide avoid, reverse, or overcome school dismissal. Retain the expert team at the Lento Law Firm today by calling 888.535.3686 or going online.

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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 our offices today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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