Legal Ethics

Fudging admissions data brings ethics troubles for two former law school officials


Two former law school officials have run into ethics trouble after submitting false admissions data to the ABA and other entities.

Former Villanova law dean Mark Sargent was suspended from law practice for three years in Massachusetts, while former University of Illinois assistant admissions dean Paul Pless was reprimanded in Washington state, according to a comment at Legal Ethics Forum by University of Missouri law professor Ben Trachtenberg. Legal Ethics Forum noted the findings unearthed by Trachtenberg after he wrote a law review article suggesting that lies about grades and LSAT scores could be an ethics violation.

According to a summary (PDF) of Sargent’s suspension order, Sargent knew that LSAT scores and grades for incoming students were inflated between 2002 and 2009. “The effect was to elevate Villanova’s rank among law schools evaluated by U.S. News & World Report,” the summary says. Villanova discovered the misconduct in 2011.

The University of Illinois inflated the grades and LSAT scores of incoming law students for the class of 2008 and the classes of 2011 through 2014, according to a reprimand stipulation (PDF) by the Washington State Bar’s disciplinary board. The school also overstated applications for the classes of 2011 to 2014 to make it appear the law school was more selective than it actually was. According to the stipulation, Pless contributed to some of the inaccurate data, and did not have procedures in place to ensure accuracy of figures accessed by other staff members.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “ABA Raps Villanova re Inaccurate Admission Data, Says Law School Must Post Censure Online”

ABAJournal.com: “U of Illinois Law School Is Publicly Censured by the ABA, Fined for Misreporting Admissions Data”

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