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When what you don’t know can end your legal career before it starts


Every year around this time, graduating law students are preparing to take the bar exam; and completing the Character & Fitness questionnaires with the hope that the Committee will find they are fit to practice law. Perhaps you know a law student; or you have one working in your office; or you know someone who dreams of attending law school. If so, please share this month’s ethics question with him or her. Consider the following scenario. Scroll all the way down for the answer and explanation.

It’s late, maybe 1 a.m. Alex is in the law library. He is exhausted. His Evidence final is tomorrow, and his Wills and Trusts exam is the day after that. He still doesn’t understand the hearsay rule and trying to unpack double hearsay is making his head hurt.

He’s already had a few cups of coffee and he is feeling anxious about the long night ahead of him. He decides to approach fellow 2L Chris who is studying nearby and asks, “Hey man, know where I can get some Adderall?”

Chris replies, “Ahh…I only have 1 left I was saving for later, but ask Kathy, she always has some since her brother was diagnosed with ADD.”

Alex manages to track Kathy down in the law review office and thanks her for sharing. He takes it and manages to stay awake. In fact, he feels so alert and focused that he goes back to the office and asks Kathy for a few more to take before the Wills & Trusts exam. She gives him two more pills and he puts them in his jacket pocket.

Around 3 a.m, Alex finally leaves the library and drives home. Even though he was being careful, he went through a Stop sign. Seconds later, a police car lights up behind him and pulls him over. The officer requests that he exit the vehicle. He steps out of the car. The two pills fall out of his pocket.

Should Alex be worried about his admission to the bar?

  1. Probably not. As long as Alex pays the ticket and explains that he had been up late studying, he shouldn’t have any problem. Having two pills in his pocket is not a big deal.
  2. Potentially yes. Notwithstanding the traffic violation, Alex has committed a crime.


Ticking Clock




The correct answer is B. Adderall contains amphetamine and dextroamphetamine and it is used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy (uncontrollable desire for sleep or sudden attacks of deep sleep). It is an addictive drug that is increasingly being used by law students (along with other prescription drugs) to study longer and/or be more focused for exams. If you would like to learn more about Adderall, its side effects, and its pervasive use by laws students, here are a few links.

The point of this question is to highlight a problem associated with the use of Adderall that is often overlooked. Law students need to be aware that possession of Adderall without a prescription is a felony. A felony conviction will definitely impact your admission to the bar.

In Illinois, for example, convicted felons must receive a “certification of good moral character and general fitness to practice law” by the Committee on Character and Fitness, before they are allowed to sit for the bar exam. This means that the very thing that Alex thinks will help him get through law school; might be the very thing that keeps him from being admitted to the legal profession.

Make sure you check the criminal statutes and the Character & Fitness rules in your jurisdiction. When in doubt seek legal counsel.

Law students (and lawyers) who need help with drug abuse and addiction can seek help from Lawyers’ Assistance Programs. To find one in your state please go here.To learn more about the services provided by Lawyers’ Assistance Program in Illinois, go to for more information.



Allison Wood Allison Wood previously served as a Hearing Board Chair and as Litigation Counsel with the Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission. Her firm was established to keep good lawyers out of trouble. Her ethics newsletter was created to be a source of legal ethics and malpractice information and to provide suggested practice tips that may reduce your risk of becoming the subject of such claims. It is not intended to provide legal advice for a specific situation or to create an attorney-client relationship.