Promoting academic integrity in legal education: 'Unanswered questions' on disclosure

Colin James, Saadia Mahmud

Abstract


Law students are a special case in academic integrity. If a law student breaches academic integrity policy, such as by plagiarism or collusion during their legal education, it may have long-term consequences for their reputation and their future in the legal profession. Graduating law students applying for admission to practise as a lawyer are advised to disclose mere investigations, whether or not they were found to have breached the rules, as failure to disclose may lead to their admission being refused or delayed. This paper analyses the views of 28 academic integrity stakeholders across six Australian universities, interviewed by the Academic Integrity Standards Project, with a specific focus on the 12 interviewees that were associated with legal education in their own institution. While the broader understanding of academic integrity among participants associated with legal education was similar to that of the overall participants interviewed in the study, legal academics raised the issue of disclosure requirements for a breach of academic integrity policy by students, given the significant professional consequences for a law student. Based on our findings, we propose a need for clarity and uniformity in the rules of disclosure as part of the emerging national legal profession. We also propose an approach that promotes academic integrity as an emergent professional integrity among law students, rather than focusing resources on identification and punishing students who breach academic integrity policy.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21913/IJEI.v10i2.1003