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Cheating in Law School. Is it that Rare?

In 2022, a practicing lawyer shared a post on Reddit that was then shared on TikTok. The post was written by someone claiming to have cheated on the Illinois Bar Exam. This individual went on further to explain that they also cheated during their three years studying at UIC John Marshall School of Law. His question for Reddit users was if he would get caught, which, at this point, he will be caught. The attorney on TikTok, Julian, was shocked that this person not only cheated throughout law school and the bar exam but that he would also admit it. It got me thinking, is cheating in law school that rare?

As I am in my third year of law school, I may [or may not] have heard rumors about people who may [or may not] have cheated and the strategies they may [or may not] have used. Thankfully, I have not personally witnessed any cheating and have not been told directly, “I cheated on this exam.” So is it just rumors, or are there actually students at MC Law cheating throughout their education? If people cheat at MC Law, is that common at other law schools? 

I am not the first to ask the above questions about cheating in school. Here are some statistics to consider about cheaters and non-cheaters (and whether there are any roaming our hallways) 
  • The average GPA for cheaters is 3.41, while the average for non-cheaters is 2.84 (undergraduate)

  • 60% of cheaters earn 80% higher grades than non-cheaters

  • 95% of cheaters do not get caught 

  • About 45% of law students have cheated 

  • Only 12% of students claim ethics keeps them from cheating 

Some people have said that cheating is just part of the system. For example, in one professor's blog post, a person commented, "Being that you're a lawyer, you use the system to make your living…It doesn't matter if lawyers cheat or not….being a lawyer is dishonorable." Unfortunately, this is how many people view the legal profession. When my grandfather asked why I wanted to be a lawyer, I explained that I value honesty and integrity, and his reaction…laughing at me. My grandfather went on to explain that lawyers are nothing but liars.

The public interpretation of lawyers is highly disappointing to me as I consider the legal profession to have high ethical values. However, law schools are not the only academic area that sees cheating. While earning my Masters in Communication, I was shocked when a fellow student asked me to assist in writing his research paper and then offered to pay me.

Other graduate school statistics include:
  • 5% of medical students admit to cheating.

  • 12% of pharmacy students admit to cheating.

  • 56% of MBA students admit to cheating.

  • 47% of graduates in other disciplines admit to cheating. 

So, is cheating just part of the world of academia? Is cheating how we all survive, and if you don't cheat, you do worse than everyone else? I believe if you cheat in school, that behavior and thinking will follow you into your career. It's like the saying, "The more you lie, the easier it gets." The more you participate in unethical behavior, the easier it gets. 

Maybe cheating in school is why we are seeing an increase in imposter syndrome in the workplace. Imposter syndrome affects about 65% of people in the workplace. For those who do not know what imposter syndrome is, Harvard Business Reviews explains it: "Imposter Syndrome is loosely defined as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud. It disproportionately affects high-achieving people, who find it difficult to accept their accomplishments." It’s possible high achievers’ accomplishments might be hard to accept because of the methods used to obtain them. 

This is not to say all high achievers cheat. There are plenty of people who cheat unsuccessfully, just like there are many who are high achieving on their own. People have different definitions of what cheating is and what it is not. This adds to the confusion and potential uncertainty in the statistics. What I define cheating, someone else may define as assistance. One person thinks it’s ok to have help with specific assignments, while others may not. Finally, there is always the good, old-fashioned thinking of “everyone does it.” 

So, if you aren't a cheater, what are your options? At the end of the day, you have to figure out what behavior allows you to sleep at night. You cannot control other people. You can only control yourself. You can take actions that you think are ethically correct. For all of the [potential] cheaters out there, remind yourself of everything you're risking to cheat. If caught, you could fail the class, be unable to take the bar exam, and not be licensed to practice the law. If the lack of ethics and high risks are all ok with you, by all means, I wish you the best of luck and hope you're smart enough not to post about it on Reddit. 


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