How to Write a Criminal Record Addendum

Are you afraid you might not get into law school because of your criminal record?

It’s okay to be afraid. But don’t let that stop you from applying!

I’ve worked with many law school applicants who had a criminal record. From minor possession to felonies, I’ve seen a lot of unfortunate situations. Still, these records did not keep my students from being admitted to law school.

When it comes to having a criminal record, you should disclose it in an addendum. When in doubt, disclose.

Watch the video above for details on how to write a criminal record addendum for law school. For more tips, check out The No B.S. Guide to the Law School Addendum.

NOTE: If you have a serious criminal record, it’s important that you visit the National Conference of Bar Examiners to view the specific policies for taking the bar exam in the state where you want to practice law. Just because you’re admitted to law school doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to take the bar exam in all states.

How Do I Write an Addendum for Law School?

So, I get this question a lot: how do I write an addendum for law school?

You should write an addendum whenever there is a weakness in your background.

That could mean a low GPA, some low grades (D’s, F’s, grades of 1.5 or lower), a withdrawal for a quarter or semester or longer during college, and/or a LSAT score that is not representative of your potential.

How long is an addendum?

The addendum is about 3 paragraphs. It should fit on one page, and be double-spaced with a 12-point font and 1-inch margins.

How do you write an addendum?

First, you need to title it. For example, it can be titled “Transcript Addendum” if it’s about your grades or “LSAT Addendum” if it’s about your LSAT score.

You’ll start off with giving the specific time that the problem occurred. For instance, let’s say during your freshman year you contracted the flu and it caused you to be out of school for several weeks and also caused fatigue for the rest of the term. You ended up not doing well in your classes.

Name the quarter or semester and the year that it happened. Then explain what happened. Explain the impact that it had on you. Include anything you tried to do to remedy the situation.

Then take responsibility for it. Admit if you didn’t ask for help during that time. Take responsibility for what you didn’t do and then tell us what you learned from that experience.

For example, in the case of the flu, you may have learned that if you get sick again, you should talk to some professionals on campus (academic adviser, campus health center nurse or doctor, professors, TAs, etc.) to get help. Now you know that if you’re absent from class for a week, you will talk to your professors about making up tests and/or essays or possibly withdrawing from the class.

Last but not least, end your addendum on an uplifting note. Perhaps you had some low grades during your freshman year but in the last two years of college, your grades have been a 3.6 or higher. You should write that! Point out the positive that has happened since the issue occurred.

That’s how you write an addendum for law school. It’s not difficult to write once you know what to do. Watch the video above to hear my tips again.

Want more tips for writing the addendum?

Check out the No B.S. Guide to the Law School Addendum. This guide provides detailed advice on writing the law school addendum, as well as nine sample essays.

Should You Write a Law School Addendum?

sad-man-and-rainHave some weaknesses in your law school application?

You’re not alone!

So many people do.

But there’s something you can do about it.


Weaknesses or discrepancies in your law school application can be explained in a short, one-page essay called an addendum.

Addenda can be written for many reasons, including but not limited to:

  1. Low grades
  2. Low LSAT score
  3. Withdrawal from classes
  4. Leave of absence in college
  5. Academic misconduct
  6. Disciplinary action in college
  7. Criminal record

Just because an addendum can be written, should it be written?

In the case of reasons #3-#7, yes, you should write an addendum.

In the case of reasons #1 or #2, not always.

For example, I’ve met many applicants who have transcripts that show two initial years of mediocre grades due to taking premed course requirements, as well as two later years of better grades when they stopped taking premed courses. Law school admissions officers can spot a “failed premed” from a mile away—they don’t necessarily need or want you to explain it in an addendum.

On the other hand, maybe there was something else that contributed to you getting low grades. Perhaps you had to work 40 hours at a job because your father was laid off at work? Or your mother became seriously ill and you missed classes to visit her in the hospital? Or maybe you contracted mono and missed a lot of class?

In the case of unforeseen events causing and/or contributing to low grades or a low LSAT score, you should write an addendum.

Still not sure if you should write one?

If you’re not sure whether your issue should be explained, contact the admissions office at the law schools you want to apply to. If you want to remain anonymous when contacting a law school, call them rather than sending an email. Ask you and you shall receive. It’s the best way to make an informed decision.

Want more tips for writing the addendum?

Check out my No B.S. Guide to the Law School Addendum. This guide provides detailed advice on writing the law school addendum, as well as nine sample essays for the most common situations, including reasons #1-#7 listed above.

Sad man photo by George Hodan.