Law Student Admissions and Ethics − Rethinking Character and Fitness Inquiries

14 Pages Posted: 14 Aug 2009 Last revised: 13 Dec 2012

Susan Saab Fortney

Texas A&M University School of Law

Date Written: October 14, 2004


This article expands on the use and recommended methods of including criminal background inquiries on law school applications. Part I of this article begins with an introduction to the ethics issues arising in connection with the admission of law students. Part II focuses on different purposes served by criminal background questions on the law school admission application, including screening applicants’ fitness to practice law. Part III considers the various ways law schools handle applicants’ nondisclosure and expands on the benefits of a modified amnesty program. Part IV explores how criminal background inquiries differ in depth, spanning from questions asking about criminal convictions to questions covering criminal charges, and how these inquiries may reflect a socio-economic bias. Part V details the advantages lawyers can provide applicants regarding disclosure. The article concludes by recommending measures law schools can take to effectively employ criminal background inquiries while simultaneously limiting any socio-economic bias.

Keywords: law school admissions, criminal background checks

JEL Classification: K19

Suggested Citation

Fortney, Susan Saab, Law Student Admissions and Ethics − Rethinking Character and Fitness Inquiries (October 14, 2004). South Texas Law Review, Vol. 45, No. 4, 2004. Available at SSRN:

Susan Saab Fortney (Contact Author)

Texas A&M University School of Law ( email )

1515 Commerce St.
Fort Worth, TX 76102
United States
817-212-3902 (Phone)

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