Post Your Terrible Early Drafts

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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3|ink
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Post Your Terrible Early Drafts

Postby 3|ink » Wed Dec 29, 2010 4:46 pm

It seems to me that a lot of people make the same beginner mistakes when they write their personal statements. I know I was clueless. I'm certainly no expert today, but I think I know what makes a terrible personal statement. I went through a few terrible drafts myself. Looking back, I think I would have benefited from reading another person's discarded first attempt. This would have given me some idea of what I should avoid saying in my personal statement. This is why I propose we dedicate a thread to our terrible early drafts.

Here's my very first draft. It's terrible. If your statement looks anything like this, start over.

I wrote:Upon receiving my undergraduate degree, I realized that what I had worked so hard to achieve for four years was only a preface to a greater challenge. Though I was pleased with my accomplishment, I had yet to choose what to do with a degree in literature short of composing poetry from atop an apple tree for sustenance. Fortunately, there was one subject that never failed to rouse my curiosity through the course of my studies. I had developed an academic interest for the philosophy and the general practice of law. However, I was not certain that a legal career suited my character. I decided to put my appeal for the law 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 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 Excel 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 markedly gratifying to 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 human element of the legal profession was the most valuable product of my experience working for a foreclosure firm. Beyond my academic satisfaction for the job were people facing severe realities. I spoke directly to many debtors who could not so much as afford an attorney to guide them through the bankruptcy process. The loan default process is an understandably difficult topic -- both emotionally and intellectually -- especially for those unfamiliar with banking and finance. I spent hours on the phone with unrepresented debtors explaining the terms of their loan and the accounting behind their alleged debt. Unfortunately, this proved comparable to teaching a foreign language. Needless to say, these calls were generally unproductive.

I believe that our body of laws 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 many, a clear payment history would provide critical assistance to keeping track of their finances. 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.


El_Gallo wrote:Perhaps it would be more helpful for us 0Ls to see your rough drafts followed by a quick explanation of why they were so horrible.


Excellent point. After pasting your statement, write why you think it is terrible.

What's wrong with this?
1.) The writing is cluttered.
2.) It contains too many facts that one would find on my resume.
3.) In some places, I attempt to sell myself. Don't sell yourself in your personal statement. Express yourself. Sell yourself in your resume.
4.) The statement hints that I went out of my way to help people. Someone might conclude from this that I'm looking for sympathy from the adcomms. Avoid leaving this impression at all costs.
5.) I criticize the current lending AND bankruptcy laws as if I believe my limited experience in these fields sufficiently qualifies me to judge their effectiveness.
6.) I couldn't think of a way to mention my philosophy major in there.
Last edited by 3|ink on Fri Dec 31, 2010 12:14 am, edited 6 times in total.

krad
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Re: Post Your Terrible Early Drafts

Postby krad » Thu Dec 30, 2010 4:35 pm

What not to do! Ballsy.

Let me see if I can find mine buried someplace around here...

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El_Gallo
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Re: Post Your Terrible Early Drafts

Postby El_Gallo » Thu Dec 30, 2010 4:40 pm

Perhaps it would be more helpful for us 0Ls to see your rough drafts followed by a quick explanation of why they were so horrible.

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SMA22
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Re: Post Your Terrible Early Drafts

Postby SMA22 » Thu Dec 30, 2010 4:49 pm

Agreed, great idea--I can't find mine (thank God), but it was a total pity story. For everyone thinking of writing about disabililty/being raped/losing a loved one, etc., don't fall into the trap I did; I know the episode may have been tragic for you and sound totally unique, but there are at leat 50 applicants each year with the same story who overcame. Keep it fun to read, or cry in your beer alone with a rejection letter in your hand. It's not about your tale of woe outdoing everybody else, but showcasing strong writing, a great attitude, and a desire to attend law school.

A personal statement should be personal, but not too personal:)

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3|ink
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Re: Post Your Terrible Early Drafts

Postby 3|ink » Thu Dec 30, 2010 7:25 pm

El_Gallo wrote:Perhaps it would be more helpful for us 0Ls to see your rough drafts followed by a quick explanation of why they were so horrible.


Good point. See edit.




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