Admission as a Lawyer: The Fearful Spectre of Academic Misconduct

  • Mark Thomas Senior Lecturer, School of Law, Queensland University of Technology, Barrister of the Supreme Court of Queensland.

Abstract

Notwithstanding a cultural critique of the concepts that underpin the values of academic integrity, both the university, as a community of scholarship, and the legal profession, as a vocation self-defined by integrity, retain traditional values. Despite the lack of direct relevance of plagiarism to legal practice, courts now demonstrate little tolerance for applicants for admission against whom findings of academic misconduct have been made. Yet this lack of tolerance is neither fatal nor absolute, with the most egregious forms of academic misconduct, coupled with less than complete candour, resulting in no more than a deferral of an application for admission for six months.

Where allegations are of a less serious nature, law schools deal with allegations in a less formal or punitive fashion, regarding it as an educative function of the university, assisting students to understand the cultural practices of scholarship. For law students seeking admission to practice, applicants are under an obligation of complete candour in disclosing any matters that bear on their suitability, including any finding of academic misconduct.

Individual legal academics, naturally adhering to standards of academic integrity, often have only a general understanding of the admissions process. Applying appropriate standards of academic integrity, legal academics can create difficulties for students seeking admission by not recognising a pastoral obligation to ensure that students have a clear understanding of the impact adverse findings will have on admission. Failure to fulfil this obligation deprives students of the opportunity to take prompt remedial action as well as presenting practical problems for the practitioner who moves their admission.