Law schools maintain rigorous standards that students must obey. Failing to live up to those standards -- such as getting poor grades or missing too many classes -- can result in you being placed on probation. If you continually fail to meet standards, you may be permanently excluded from returning to study. Policies vary by law school: Some allow students to return to good standing after improving their grades, and some require students to petition for readmission or advancement from probation. Few schools allow students to return after being excluded.
Know the Policy
Before you start writing your petition letter, determine what the school policies are, or you risk wasting your time. For example, you don't want to write a letter to the professor whose class you failed if the dean is the only one who makes decisions about lifting academic probation. Review the school's student handbook to learn who reviews these petitions and when they review them. For example, at the John Marshall Law School, students may not apply for readmission for at least one full semester after being placed on probation. Students will not be readmitted until at least one full year after their initial probationary period.
Identify the Issue
Get straight to the point when writing your petition letter. Identify exactly why you were placed on probation, such as by failing to maintain the minimum grade point average. Instead of saying, "I failed to meet the minimum grade point average," say, "I earned a 1.4 GPA in my first semester." Then identify why this happened. Explain that you experienced a death in the family or you were not fully prepared for the academic rigor of law school. Be honest and direct.
Show How You've Grown
The academic committee at your law school won't be swayed by knowing that you are really sorry for falling behind or that you promise not to let it happen again. The committee will want to know that you understand the gravity of the situation and have made real changes that allow you to meet expectations. If you were put on probation for academic performance, you may want to explain that you have worked with a tutor or have taken continuing education courses either online or at a local community college. Be specific and directly address the problem that led to your probation.
Most law schools require that you demonstrate how your situation has changed for the better before readmitting you after probation. For example, the School of Law at Pepperdine University says that after probation for nonattendance, students must show proof that they will meet attendance requirements in the future and have a plan for making up the missed work. Proof could be anything from showing that you now have an automobile to make it to class on time or to presenting a letter from your academic tutor to verify your progress.
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