Critique My Law School Application Essay

Another vote for complete rewrite. This is a so-so essay that does nothing to sell you to the school and actually works against you because of the slacker message. I would add that it seems to me you really have no idea of why you want to go to law school or what you want to do with a law degree, which is fine–you just don’t want that to come through in the essay. If you don’t really know why you want to go to law school, then I strongly urge you to reconsider law school altogether. Between the expense and work, it’s a tough road if you’re ambivalent about why you’re there.

1L checking in, so I just recently went through this. Rewrite the whole essay.

Things to focus on:

  1. Your story about being a slacker through H.S. and College has to go. Law School is no cake walk. The number one thing the admissions department will be thinking about is whether you are disciplined enough to do the work. You pretty much answered their question when you wrote that you slacked off when you were left to work by yourself.

  2. You need to talk about what motivated you to go to law school. What you write has to be better than “I just fell into legal work and I like it.” Why do you like the work? What experiences in your life made you enjoy legal work? Do you want to study law simply because you like the work, or is there something that you can do as a lawyer that inspires you? If you want a good essay you are going to have to figure out your motivation for applying to law school. It might be really personal, and you might feel more comfortable talking about slacking off, but a personal statement is all about getting to know you better. Your statement will become more genuine and honest the more personal you make it.

  3. It’s called a *personal *statement, make it personal.

  4. Talk about diversity. Law School’s like diversity. So mention your overseas schooling.

  5. Keep the paralegal stuff. It shows that you’ve done legal work and you find it interesting.

  6. Make it interesting. If you have an interesting story that somehow ties into your interest for law, then use it. When I thought about why I wanted to go to law school my first answer was because it was interesting and I could make a lot of money doing it. What I ended up writing about was my visit to an oppressed country (where I was born) and how that inspired me to study law.

  7. Keep it as short as possible. One page should be enough.

  8. When you’re applying to Law School, the personal statement is not the most important thing you have to worry about. What is important is the timing of your application, your GPA, and your LSAT score. If your LSAT and GPA is above the average for the school you’re pretty much guaranteed admission. It’s when both scores are within the average that your statement will come in. If you are applying for fall 2009 admissions then you are pretty late, but a low tier school might still accept you.

  9. Consider not going to a low tier school. I would even wait another year if you can.

  10. Overall, your writing is pretty good, so all you need is a good idea. Write about what motivates you to go to law school. Make it short, interesting, and mention diversity. Keep in mind that what admissions want to know most is whether you can hack it in law school. Don’t give them any reason to doubt you.

Not an option. I have a mortgage and there’s only one school in town.

Plus, my good LSAT scores are one thing, but my not-good grades are another. I finished college with a 2.5 GPA.

Keep the advice coming, guys. At this point, I’d prefer general law school advice. I think I’ve heard enough about the essay. :smiley:

How about holding off for a year or two to do something with your life that would perk up your resume (save the world sort of thing), and ace some university courses?

Consider applying to better schools just to leverage your admission there against the local school–especially if you can get fee waivers with your LSAT score. You can often squeeze some financial aid out of them with an acceptance letter in hand from a better school.

Find out exactly what kind of job offers recent graduates have received. If people below the top 10% aren’t getting jobs you want, rethink your plans. You should be able to get this information from the career services website, or with some other sleuthing.

The only relevant GPA is the one that led to your first undergraduate degree.

Different strokes for different folks.

I treated it like any other job by putting in a decent day’s work every day. I also kept it in perspective, by not letting it impinge on my life outside of law school. A lot of folks in law school get way too wrapped up in law school, but often this is not the way to do as well as possible. Balance, grasshopper.

Does that apply to mature students? When I went through as a mature student, yes, the undergrad GPA and LSAT were the primary considerations, but in addition to them, everything was considered, including grad degree.

The phrase “only relevant” was too strong. It is all considered. But by all accounts, so-called soft factors (i.e. everything other than LSAT and undergrad GPA) enter into the picture after you’re in the hard factor range and then mostly as tie-breakers. The picture schools paint of “holistic admissions” is somewhat undermined by the actual data that there are clear numbers-based cutoffs below which the school does not accept, and above which you are nearly automatically accepted.

RNATB, if you’re applying to the school I think you are, then it looks like about 25% of the graduating class is either unemployed, under-employed, or not reporting employment. And that’s 2007 data, when times were good. That would scare me.

If you do go to a lower tier school, you can probably still do ok but you’re going to have to work your ass off. Various classes will have prizes for the top student in each year, and you want to get your hands on as many of those as possible. You want to join the law students association and participate in extra-cirricular stuff like moots, etc. You’ll have to try to get into summer clerkships at good firms. You also want to, over time, become close to the senior faculty. No, not that close [put your pants back on!] but close enough that they know you and like you. To do this, after you’ve read their materials for the week, find them in their office and ask if you can go over some of the points with them. They will be great references and contacts for you down the line.

Is your employer willing to keep you on part-time while you are at law school?

Is your employer willing to subsidize your law degree and hire you on for articles and then as a junior once you have finished law school?

Full time. The school has a night program, and I’m trying to avoid as much debt as possible, even if it means an extra year of school.

No, yes.

That sounds like a very good plan, regardless of the school not being top of the block. Good luck!

It’s been a couple years since I wrote my own, but a couple things off the top of my head…

First, don’t worry about the essay all that much. As Richard Parker points out, your GPA and LSAT scores are pretty much all that matters (usually it’s 1/3 GPA and 2/3 LSAT, but some schools weigh them differently). The essay is basically a tiebreaker.

Second, and this is a bit more on the cynical side, but the word “diversity” in the essay is basically a give-away that it’s the “tell us about how you’re dark-skinned/poor/not the same as all the other white liberal-arts majors who got worthless degrees and decided on law school” essay. If you fall into that group, great, the essay can help a lot in the affirmative action category; if not, you just want to avoid it hurting you. So take out all the negative stuff about you being a slacker (since you can’t seem to really work it into “but now I have a great work ethic”). Either comment on your career as a paralegal (which helps set you apart from other applicants going straight out of college) or even your culture shock when you moved over here at 14.

Third, and this isn’t my personal advice, but I’ve been told to NOT use the essay as an “explanation” for bad grades or the like. Either it’s better to attach an explanation as its own separate document (in the case of something really bad) or just ignore it and avoid trying to draw attention to it (which your 2.5 GPA probably falls into). Just another reason to cut out all the slacker stuff. Basically (this is the less-cynical interpretation of the essay requirement) the idea is to use the essay to explain/show off something that won’t be apparent from the rest of your application.

Well, I’m Indian, so I’m dark skinned, but already overrepresented in postgraduate education.

It still helps. My New York school considers having students from California as diversity.

Most people don’t understand it, but law schools absolutely love claiming that they have a diverse student body. Read any school brochure and that claim won’t be too hard to find.

Yeah, it definitely helps not hurts. Just look at the UC system, which is something like 25% asian at its best schools despite California having something like a 9% asian population. If you can be classified as a minority, they’ll love ya. A bit cynical, but hey… when you’re trying to get into the school you want, you gotta take every little advantadge you can get.


For various reasons, I wound up not going last year. However, I did apply this year (rewrote the whole thing more along the lines magnusblitz suggested) and I was accepted into the 2010 incoming class last month.

Thanks, guys!

Don’t go to law school. Not worth it.

Thanks. Nothing better than a happy send-off.