Personal Statement

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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3|ink
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Personal Statement

Postby 3|ink » Tue Jun 22, 2010 3:47 pm

Be brutal. I like it.

Upon receiving my undergraduate degree, it became clear to me that what I had worked so hard to achieve for four years was only a preface to other challenges. Though I was pleased with my accomplishment, I had greater reverence for the trials immediately ahead of me: selecting a career path and finding my place in the world. I had previously taken these questions into consideration when selecting my academic focuses in English and Philosophy to improve my writing and reasoning skills. After graduating, however, I remained undecided as to where and how to apply these skills. Through the course of my studies, I had developed an academic appreciation for the philosophy and the general practice of law, but I was not certain that a career in law suited my character. Since law was my strongest interest and because I needed a job nonetheless, I chose to put my curiosity to the test in the real world before applying to law school.

Soon after graduating, I was fortunate to land a full-time paralegal position in the bankruptcy department of a law firm specializing in residential foreclosures for banking clients. As our business swelled with the weakening economy, my colleagues and I were gradually delegated some of the technical tasks of the bankruptcy process previously reserved for attorneys. I was eventually responsible for interpreting facts and applying my knowledge of relevant principles to resolve cases. I was at liberty to construct legal arguments, draft pleadings advise clients and bargain with opposing parties. While every decision I made and was subject to review by an attorney, this experience gave me the opportunity to think, act and write like an attorney with plenty of breathing room for creativity. I found myself thoroughly enjoying the process of developing a case from beginning to end.

The firm’s booming business was accompanied by an increase in allegations of impropriety raised by debtors against our banking clients’ accounting practices. This was problematic because very few of our clients maintained business records that could legibly substantiate the debt challenged by their debtors. In response to the rise in these claims, I worked with a number of our attorneys to develop routine methods for conveying client data into comprehensible evidential format using spreadsheets. These templates accounted for every potential variable, but were nonetheless intelligible for those not familiar with the accounting principles that govern loans. This project was remarkably gratifying for me. I discovered that I had a passion for numbers that had undoubtedly derived from my satisfaction for constructing careful and coherent arguments.

These proficiencies notwithstanding, an insight into the humanity of the legal profession was the most valuable product of my experience working for a foreclosure firm. Beyond my satisfaction for the job were people facing severe realities. Communicating with debtors was a challenge of its own caliber but was sometimes necessary in my position. The loan default process is an understandably difficult topic -- both emotionally and intellectually -- especially for those unfamiliar with banking and finance. In order to communicate effectively with these people, I learned to maintain a sensitive tone of voice so as to appear sympathetic and to refrain from using technical language. I believe this is one of the many manners of speaking that an attorney must master in order to interact with clients and others outside of the sphere of law.

I know that our body of law could do more to look after those who are less familiar with finance and banking. I’m hesitant to say that these people have been taken advantage of, but I believe that the standing laws intended to protect debtors do not show enough consideration for this demographic. For instance, there is currently no legal precedent for what constitutes a clear and explicable loan payment history. As a result, banks frequently issue debtors convoluted payment histories originally designed for internal use by loan technicians. For those struggling to keep track of their finances, a clear payment history would be invaluably helpful. I also believe that those outside of the financial realm would stand to benefit from reforms to the bankruptcy code designed to shift the emphasis from easing the debtors’ financial burdens and distributing the assets equitably among the creditors to helping debtors achieve a better understanding of their finances. I would be very interested in exploring these subjects further in law school.

My experience as a paralegal has led me to believe that a career in finance, bankruptcy or tax law would be fitting to my character. After two full years of working in the legal field, I am confident that my calling to the law is genuine. It is my understanding that ___________ Law School has excellent programs in these disciplines. It would be my privilege to attend your renowned school in pursuit of a legal career in these fields.

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JWicker10
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Re: Personal Statement

Postby JWicker10 » Tue Jun 22, 2010 5:07 pm

I liked it until I was about half way through. I think you get way too detailed/technical in your job descriptions. Also, your second to last paragraph gets preachy and you give your opinions. I'd eliminate that paragraph altogether.

I think you should cut out some of the details of your job description and include more of why this experience was so valuable, and why you now feel that you should become a lawyer/why your experiences in the firm set you apart from everyone else. You only get two pages, and I think you waste some space that could be used more effectively. You want your PS to convey to the reader who you are, how you've grown from your experiences (which I think you did pretty well) and why you'd be a good fit for their law school.

Also, a few missing/misplaced commas, but that's an easy fix.

Overall: Not bad, just needs a little work.

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philosoraptor
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Re: Personal Statement

Postby philosoraptor » Tue Jun 22, 2010 6:11 pm

I like that you have a specific agenda to push -- makes you look like you've really got your shit together. Reforming the bankruptcy code sounds more like a legislator's job than a lawyer's, but you do couch it by saying you want to "explor[e] these subjects further" rather than swoop in and save the day. Well done.

One thing to watch out for would be, for lack of a better term, the "duh" factor. I'm talking mostly about the first paragraph, explaining why you got a job as a paralegal. Obviously you're interested in law; no need to take the reader through that thought process. (And you sort of imply you couldn't think of anything else to do, which I don't think you want to say, regardless of whether it's true.) I'd keep only what you need to show personal growth.

Upon receiving my undergraduate degree, it became clear to me ...
I hope you cut this sentence, but just for future reference, watch out for dangling participles. It doesn't make sense for "receiving" to modify "it." Grammatically correct would be "It became clear to me upon receiving my undergraduate degree ..." or "When I received my undergraduate degree, it became clear to me ..."

I do agree with JWicker that you need to ease up on the jargon and technical terminology when you're describing; nor do you need to be that detailed. Don't try to impress the reader with how well you understand the nuances of your job. That should be a given. The "duh" factor is also a consideration here -- lots of paralegals apply to law school, so focus on what makes you and your experiences special. JWicker won't agree with me on this, but being forthright about your individual goals and academic interests is a good way to do that. Also keep in mind:
JWicker10 wrote:[C]onvey to the reader who you are, how you've grown from your experiences (which I think you did pretty well) and why you'd be a good fit for their law school.

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Re: Personal Statement

Postby JWicker10 » Tue Jun 22, 2010 6:15 pm

I do agree with the comment from the previous poster that I wasn't supposed to agree with haha.

I just didn't get a good sense of you and who you are from your PS. That's what I felt was most lacking. If you can couch that with a conversation about your goals etc., then by all means.

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philosoraptor
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Re: Personal Statement

Postby philosoraptor » Tue Jun 22, 2010 6:28 pm

JWicker10 wrote:I do agree with the comment from the previous poster that I wasn't supposed to agree with haha.

I just didn't get a good sense of you and who you are from your PS. That's what I felt was most lacking. If you can couch that with a conversation about your goals etc., then by all means.
Ha, sorry to misrepresent you. Just alluding to the fact that the graf containing the stuff I wanted emphasized was the one you said to cut entirely. :)

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JWicker10
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Re: Personal Statement

Postby JWicker10 » Tue Jun 22, 2010 6:31 pm

philosoraptor wrote:
JWicker10 wrote:I do agree with the comment from the previous poster that I wasn't supposed to agree with haha.

I just didn't get a good sense of you and who you are from your PS. That's what I felt was most lacking. If you can couch that with a conversation about your goals etc., then by all means.
Ha, sorry to misrepresent you. Just alluding to the fact that the graf containing the stuff I wanted emphasized was the one you said to cut entirely. :)


Ohhh I misinterpreted that. I thought you meant to discuss your goals beyond law school and how law school might fit into that. I suppose OP could expand on what I said to cut, however it needs to be less preachy imho. What if the adcomm takes a different view/opinion altogether on what OP's goals are? It would come off pretty bad if her goals were prefaced with a preachy statement about how those being foreclosed upon were tricked etc.

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philosoraptor
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Re: Personal Statement

Postby philosoraptor » Tue Jun 22, 2010 7:23 pm

JWicker10 wrote:
philosoraptor wrote:
JWicker10 wrote:I do agree with the comment from the previous poster that I wasn't supposed to agree with haha.

I just didn't get a good sense of you and who you are from your PS. That's what I felt was most lacking. If you can couch that with a conversation about your goals etc., then by all means.
Ha, sorry to misrepresent you. Just alluding to the fact that the graf containing the stuff I wanted emphasized was the one you said to cut entirely. :)


Ohhh I misinterpreted that. I thought you meant to discuss your goals beyond law school and how law school might fit into that. I suppose OP could expand on what I said to cut, however it needs to be less preachy imho. What if the adcomm takes a different view/opinion altogether on what OP's goals are? It would come off pretty bad if her goals were prefaced with a preachy statement about how those being foreclosed upon were tricked etc.
I don't think this is preachy:
I’m hesitant to say that these people have been taken advantage of, but...
OP is pushing for greater transparency, not for (e.g.) redistributing greedy banks' money to the unfailingly good-heated povs who were bamboozled by The Man and bear no responsibility for what happened to them. You'd have to be a mighty ruthless adcomm to find a call for transparency offensive.

While I'm here, I'll suggest cutting most of this graf and incorporating the remainder into the previous graf as maybe one sentence. If it makes your grafs too long, split them up. The enter key is your friend.
3|ink wrote:These proficiencies notwithstanding, an insight into the humanity of the legal profession was the most valuable product of my experience working for a foreclosure firm. Beyond my satisfaction for the job were people facing severe realities. Communicating with debtors was a challenge of its own caliber but was sometimes necessary in my position.[s] The loan default process is an understandably difficult topic -- both emotionally and intellectually -- especially for those unfamiliar with banking and finance. In order to communicate effectively with these people, I learned to maintain a sensitive tone of voice so as to appear sympathetic and to refrain from using technical language. I believe this is one of the many manners of speaking that an attorney must master in order to interact with clients and others outside of the sphere of law.

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Re: Personal Statement

Postby JWicker10 » Tue Jun 22, 2010 7:30 pm

Idk...most advice threads say you really shouldn't include great calls to action, changes you want etc. in too great of detail/spend too much space on them. I just think more than one paragraph will really limit the amount of time/space OP gets to spend on developing for the reader who they are, how law school fits into that, why they're a good candidate etc.

There's a number of ways to get across who OP is to adcomms. If he/she chooses to couch that in a discussion of transparency and previous WE I think that's fine, but OP should spend more time on who they are now than what they want to accomplish 20-30 years into the future.

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philosoraptor
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Re: Personal Statement

Postby philosoraptor » Tue Jun 22, 2010 7:48 pm

JWicker10 wrote:Idk...most advice threads say you really shouldn't include great calls to action, changes you want etc. in too great of detail/spend too much space on them. I just think more than one paragraph will really limit the amount of time/space OP gets to spend on developing for the reader who they are, how law school fits into that, why they're a good candidate etc.

There's a number of ways to get across who OP is to adcomms. If he/she chooses to couch that in a discussion of transparency and previous WE I think that's fine, but OP should spend more time on who they are now than what they want to accomplish 20-30 years into the future.
Definitely credited. Don't get carried away, OP, and don't make it the focus of your PS, but don't cut it, either. You know enough about the topic to pull it off, and your confident but not presumptuous tone is appropriate.

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3|ink
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Re: Personal Statement

Postby 3|ink » Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:31 pm

Thanks for the advice you two. I think I'm going to remove the third paragraph altogether. I think that would be the bulk of the technical jargon pulp. Perhaps I'll find a way to incorporate the idea of paragraph 3 into 2. Perhaps 2 is a good enough description of the job on its own. Paragraph 4 (the humanities) is important as well. However, I'll probably try and extract the main idea of 4 and merge it with 5 as was suggested. I suppose it does get a little off topic there.

Someone mentioned that it was hard to get a feeling of my personality from this. That's what I was afraid of. I'd be lying to say that my motivation were purely academic or altruistic. At the same time, I'm not that 'I want to practice law so I can make $ and #%^# women' guy (at least not entirely). I think that the legal profession is a noble and intellectually satisfying pursuit. I want to make a career out of the intellectual creativity I experienced as a paralegal. Would that be worthy of a paragraph of its own? I'm thinking about revamping the final paragraph with something like that.

Thanks again for your assistance.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Personal Statement

Postby CanadianWolf » Tue Jun 22, 2010 10:01 pm

"Be brutal. I like it.", was the best part of your original post. This opening captures the readers attention. I truly would scrap the rest of the essay. I am not kidding & I am not trying to be impolite.

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Re: Personal Statement

Postby 3|ink » Tue Jun 22, 2010 10:09 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:"Be brutal. I like it.", was the best part of your original post. This opening captures the readers attention. I truly would scrap the rest of the essay. I am not kidding & I am not trying to be impolite.


I appreciate your honesty. Do you think you could elaborate?

Oh! As I'm sure you gathered, those first two sentences were not part of the actual essay.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Personal Statement

Postby CanadianWolf » Tue Jun 22, 2010 10:13 pm

I understand that the first two sentences were not part of your personal statement, but they were great at getting the readers' attention.
The rest of your original post is hard to read because it is boring, too technical and too long. Law schools value crisp, clear, concise writing.
"Be brutal. I like it" was what I imagined my bankruptcy clients saying to me. They didn't seem to care about the technicalities of the Bankruptcy Code or the posh surroundings of the penthouse law offices. No, they wanted a quick fix from their months or years of sleepless nights and the seemingly endless harrassment of creditors' phone calls. And I could help.
My point is that personal statements, while flexible, are not really intended to be an opportunity to demonstrate technical legal knowledge. Save that for law school exams. An effective personal statement should convey something about you & your vision of the world & how you obtained that vision.
Last edited by CanadianWolf on Tue Jun 22, 2010 10:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

blsingindisguise
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Re: Personal Statement

Postby blsingindisguise » Tue Jun 22, 2010 10:20 pm

Oddly, I seem to be the only one who thinks the FIRST paragraph is the weak spot in this essay -- it's like this throwaway/warm-up paragraph where you haven't started telling us anything specific. Everyone who applies to law school went to college and thought about what to do with themselves before ultimately doing something. You don't need to waste time telling us that. Find a quicker way to get to the meatier stuff about being a paralegal and developing an interest in the law.

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Re: Personal Statement

Postby philosoraptor » Tue Jun 22, 2010 10:26 pm

blsingindisguise wrote:Oddly, I seem to be the only one who thinks the FIRST paragraph is the weak spot in this essay -- it's like this throwaway/warm-up paragraph where you haven't started telling us anything specific. Everyone who applies to law school went to college and thought about what to do with themselves before ultimately doing something. You don't need to waste time telling us that. Find a quicker way to get to the meatier stuff about being a paralegal and developing an interest in the law.
Actually, getting rid of graf 1 was my first suggestion (keeping only what OP absolutely needs to show personal growth, if he wants to go that route), but maybe I wasn't blunt enough. In any case, this is credited.

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Re: Personal Statement

Postby JustDude » Tue Jun 22, 2010 11:09 pm

3|ink wrote:
CanadianWolf wrote:"Be brutal. I like it.", was the best part of your original post. This opening captures the readers attention. I truly would scrap the rest of the essay. I am not kidding & I am not trying to be impolite.


I appreciate your honesty. Do you think you could elaborate?

Oh! As I'm sure you gathered, those first two sentences were not part of the actual essay.


Well that sucks. It was the best part

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JWicker10
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Re: Personal Statement

Postby JWicker10 » Wed Jun 23, 2010 3:18 pm

blsingindisguise wrote:Oddly, I seem to be the only one who thinks the FIRST paragraph is the weak spot in this essay -- it's like this throwaway/warm-up paragraph where you haven't started telling us anything specific. Everyone who applies to law school went to college and thought about what to do with themselves before ultimately doing something. You don't need to waste time telling us that. Find a quicker way to get to the meatier stuff about being a paralegal and developing an interest in the law.


Now that you mention it, this is good advice.

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Re: Personal Statement

Postby JWicker10 » Wed Jun 23, 2010 3:19 pm

OP, I think your topic is fine to write on for your PS, but you really do need a re-write. You could probably keep a lot of the individual sentences, but a lot needs to be cut and reorganized.

sandaltan
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Re: Personal Statement

Postby sandaltan » Thu Jul 01, 2010 6:23 pm

The topic is fine for a personal statement, but i did find it to be a bit boring. I lost interest pretty quickly. The general impression I got after the first paragraph was an average college graduate with no real event that sparked a change, and no real challenge to overcome and learn from.

Lastly, remember that the entire PS should be an "organic whole" and should flow easily from paragraph to paragraph. I'm not sure i saw a strong thesis either.

Like i said you have decent material, but the adcom is going to be reading hundreds of these, and you need to find a way to grip the reader's attention and hold it til the end.

Best of luck!

Scott4LLM
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Re: Personal Statement

Postby Scott4LLM » Mon Jul 05, 2010 3:29 pm

Not sure if you are keeping these segments, but...
--a diction point in "I had greater reverence for the trials immediately ahead of me", reverence is the wrong word--you're looking for something meaning focus. Also, in a law context I initially read "trials" literally; while it is nice in some ways to use a word with a legal meaning in its layman's meaning, it caused me to reread the sentence when I realized you weren't talking about litigation.
--saying that you chose "English and Philosophy to improve my writing and reasoning skills" seems a little venal to me...perhaps they were a welcome result of pursuing your interest in these fields?
--"swelled" in paragraph 2 hits me as not quite on, "booming" later is fine
--"While every decision I made and was subject to review by an attorney" I think you put the "and" by mistake
--"I discovered that I had a passion for numbers that had undoubtedly derived from my satisfaction for constructing careful and coherent arguments." I would say that your numerical "passion" complimented, rather than "derived from" your English/Philosophy based arguments. In general, maybe adcons have more tolerance for what I can't help roll my eyes at as self-satisfied pablum (of doubtful sincerity) but this sentence especially rankles me.
--next paragraph, "These proficiencies" were the product of the firm experience. Maybe it is splitting hairs but you describe a passion and what seemed to be a previously-existing satisfaction, thus making "These proficiencies" a rather vague reference.
--the point about the humanity is nice and I would underscore the surprise in finding it in--of all places--a forclosure firm.
--the fact that you leave a fill-in-the-blank in the second to last sentence is telling because indeed, you really could substitute any name in there. The lat 2 sentences are more eye-rolling territory. If the instructions ask you why you want to go there, you'll need to be more specific (which I hate--it's really an invitation to lie, because everyone is applying to a raft of schools) otherwise cut it.
In general it is well written and easy to read...which is good because indeed it is somewhat boring and devoid of emotional content. Open up a little and let yourself out. ;)

Hey-O
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Re: Personal Statement

Postby Hey-O » Mon Jul 05, 2010 3:49 pm

I agree that the first paragraph is the weakest. Start strong. Give the adcoms a reason not to fall asleep. Your first sentence should be an attention grabber.




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