Student, in the summer after his second year of law school, registered for a four-credit externship. He was placed in a law office. To earn the credits, Student had to work a stated number of hours per week, record those hours on time sheets, and then submit the time sheets to his law school’s associate dean, who oversaw the law school’s student externships.
The lawyer supervising Student in the externship soon perceived that Student was doing little work, and had submitted time sheets that exaggerated how many hours he worked. That lawyer reported this to the associate dean, who questioned Student about it. Student admitted that he had falsified his time records, thus violating the school’s honor code.
This gave the associate dean discretion to initiate formal honor code proceedings, leading to possible suspension or expulsion, or to informally impose a lesser punishment. The dean chose the latter option; she sanctioned Student by terminating his academic credit for the externship. Under school policy, an informal disposition was not included in Student’s official record.
Because Student earned no credit for the externship, he was four credits short of the six experiential (practical legal experience) credits required to graduate. Student could have enrolled in other practical skills courses to satisfy this requirement, but he did not realize he needed to, because he had not checked the graduation requirements carefully. Student therefore completed his degree by taking only doctrinal courses (e.g., income tax, labor law, etc.). The registrar inadvertently overlooked the shortfall in experiential credits, and the school awarded a J.D. degree to Student.
Student applied for admission to the state bar. He completed the required character and fitness questionnaire, which he certified as correct by affidavit. The questionnaire asked, among other things, whether the applicant had earned a law degree (a requirement for bar admission) by satisfying all graduation requirements, and whether the applicant had been subject to any discipline for dishonest or improper conduct, either before or during law school. Student answered in the affirmative on the former, but in the negative on the latter, realizing that the associate dean’s informal sanction would not show up on his official school record.
As part of the admission process, the state board of bar examiners sent a letter to the associate dean, asking whether she had any information bearing upon Student’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness to practice law. The associate dean, a member of the state bar, responded that she had no such information. Because Student’s application appeared to be in order, he was admitted to legal practice after passing the bar exam.
Soon after, Student began work as a junior associate at a law firm. One day, about six months later, Student met Friend, a law school classmate, for lunch. As the two reminisced about law school, Student asked Friend whether he could tell her something in the strictest confidence. Friend nodded yes. Student then told Friend that the law school had terminated his externship, because he had falsified his time records. Friend asked Student whether the incident had caused a problem in his bar admission. Student replied, “No. The bar didn’t know about it. It was not on my record, and I was not stupid enough to tell them.” This information greatly disturbed and upset Friend, but she decided that she had to honor her promise to keep the matter confidential.
- Did Student violate any American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct (Rules) in connection with his application for admission to the bar? Explain.
- Did the associate dean or Friend have a duty under the Rules to report to the board of bar examiners what they knew about the externship incident? Explain.