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Introduction

It’s crucial a student in law school understands the severe consequences of academic misconduct after graduation; in particular where later the student seeks admission to practice. The Legal Practise Board grants permission to practice law; a student’s conduct can have a significant impact on this process. Academic misconduct is an unfair advantage in studies achieved by dishonest means. The implications can be so high that universities in an attempt to reduce academic dishonesty incorporate detailed policies – for example, Murdoch University promotes academic integrity through their ‘Student Discipline Regulations.’ This memo will discuss how academic misconduct can affect an individual's admission to practice.

Requirements of law student’s behaviour in respect to future admission

‘Suitability matters’ are of high importance in the admission process. The Legal Profession Act outlines this to guarantee all future lawyers are suitable to practice. These matters are to ensure the applicant is of ‘good fame and character’ and if a finding of guilt has occurred in another profession or occupation. One of these matters can include past academic misconduct. A student’s behaviour in law school is required to reflect one of a ‘fit and proper person.’ To maintain these qualities, a student must uphold candour in their assignments. Academic dishonesty during studies can cause implications in determining an applicant’s suitability. The legal profession thrives on frankness, placing importance on honesty in most aspects of the applicant’s life. Admission can be refused if a student commits any acts of academic misconduct.

Acts considered as academic misconduct

There are several forms of academic misconduct found in law students to this day. All types can be found in the Academic Misconduct Rule. For this essay, only ‘plagiarism’ and ‘collusion’ will be discussed. Plagiarism has many meanings, but it commonly involves using someone else’s words or ideas without giving credit to the original author. There are two categories of plagiarism, the first being ‘negligent plagiarism’ which involves plagiarising ‘carelessly or recklessly.’ Re Onyeledo was an applicant who committed this misconduct. She claimed it was due to ignorance and lack of knowledge on legal citation. The court ruled although the act was unintentional, referencing is of importance in law – it is unacceptable not to do so correctly. This applicant was not admitted on this ground. The other is ‘dishonest plagiarism’, to plagiarise ‘intentionally and dishonestly.’ The applicant of Re Liveri committed three acts of misconduct, claiming it was due to the pressures of law school. The court ruled the applicant unsuitable, refusing admission. Collusion is the other common form. It occurs when two or more students work jointly on the same task and present it, in whole or in part, as their own. Re Humzy Hancock collaborated ideas for an assignment with other students, each submitting substantially similar work. The applicant although exhibited misconduct was still admitted as he disclosed this matter. As can be seen, academic misconduct can cause consequences in the future for endeavouring lawyers. However, through disclosure, admittance can still be possible.

Requirements regarding disclosure of conduct

An applicant is obliged to disclose matters that can have an issue on their suitability. This includes convictions that ‘must and may not need to be disclosed’; criminal conduct, insolvency, tax offence infringements, academic misconduct, general misconduct, social security offences and many others. The administration of justice depends highly on the applicant’s sincerity to disclose past conduct that may affect admission. To disclose matters shows the suitability of an applicant as it’s irrespective of their embarrassment and own interests; rather a duty to the court. Failure to disclose may result in a refused admission or struck off the roll entirely. For example, Re liveri did not disclose academic dishonesty as discussed above. As disclosure helps determine an applicant’s fitness, the board deemed Re liveri unfit and refused admission on this ground. However, one may still be admitted despite a suitability matter; this depends on the circumstances. Re Humzy Hancock committed and disclosed collusion of a school assignment. He claimed he was unaware he was committing an act of academic misconduct. The court granted admission due to disclosure and the circumstances surrounding it.

Discussion of scenario

The Legal Practice Board expects standards of being ‘fit and proper’ and of ‘good fame and character’ in applicants. Academic misconduct and its circumstances can hinder the board’s decision on whether to grant admission. In respect to the given scenario, lying for an extension of the assessment deadline fits the description of academic misconduct. This act can pose a risk in admission. Although, if the applicant understands the seriousness of this misconduct, doesn’t commit other offences and discloses this, it may not create an issue. For example, Re Humzy Hancock disclosed his similarly one-off incident of collusion and was still admitted with good standing. Re AJG however, although factually different demonstrates that disclosure in matters cannot always guarantee admission. The applicant who had disclosed was found guilty of copying another student’s work yet refused admission. This displays the impact of one single finding of academic misconduct. The cases discussed above illustrate admission is unlikely in this scenario due to the Legal Practice Board’s heavy emphasis on being a ‘fit and proper person.’ Suitability matters such as academic misconduct is taken very seriously as seen in Re AJG.

Conclusion

As discussed, a student’s conduct can have a significant impact on their admission to practice. Students in higher education should be aware of their behavioural requirements preparatory for applying. It is essential that law schools communicate to their students about this issue in an early stage in their academic careers.

This essay was donated by a student on 2.10.2018 in exchange for a free plagiarism scan.