Personal Statement Advice/Critique

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Joined: Wed Sep 14, 2011 8:21 pm

Personal Statement Advice/Critique

Postby r3k790 » Wed Sep 14, 2011 8:27 pm

Hi All,

Looking for advice about this statement. I've had my prelaw professor and a law professor look at it and they've given some conflicting advice.


Alan Stuart, the protagonist of my debut novel, inspired my interest in legal problems and legal research. An anxious young man with a fondness for the Romantic literature of the fin de two siècles past, Alan was a person who had not thought much about the law. Toward the end of my novel, Alan gained a visceral connection to matters of jurisprudence, when he became the unwitting victor of a duel. By duel, I mean the competitive pastime that famously claimed the lives of Alexander Hamilton, Alexander Pushkin, and Évariste Galois, before falling out of fashion in the 1830’s.

Though it may come as a surprise to some, victory in a duel is often pyrrhic. If one factors in the legal expenses, the possibility of jail time, the loss of reputation, the damage to credit, and so forth, it turns out that a duel is one of those things one might be better off losing. Certainly, I would have had an easier time if protagonist Alan had lost the duel. The fact that he won meant that he would eventually need to solicit legal advice, which in turn meant that in order to describe that advice I would need to have the answers to a whole host of complicated legal questions.

What sort of questions did the Alan Stuart case involve? The most obvious one was whether Alan could claim self-defense. Through my research, I discovered that the answer was no. Even though the person Alan shot was threatening him with a loaded gun, Alan was engaging in criminal trespass at the time he fired. Under common law, any crime committed in the course of committing another crime is done with full-intent, meaning my protagonist had no obvious ways to beat a first-degree murder rap. Because Alan committed the crime in France, however, I had to determine whether the same rule exists in the French penal code. As it turns out, premeditation for a first criminal act flows to latter acts in France as it does in the Anglophone world.

The circumstances of the case did not bode well for my protagonist. Nor did they bode well for me. What readership would want my charming neo-Romantic brought to justice? Clearly, if both Alan and I wanted to avoid a conviction, Alan would have to pursue an extra-legal defense strategy. One such strategy, fleeing the country as quickly as possible, was what my protagonist ultimately decided to adopt. Alan fled to Geneva, Switzerland, hoping to fall on the mercy of the one person he knew there, Vladimir Nokitoff. Though Nokitoff’s primary occupations were as writer and moth-expert, his estate was apparently so well managed that he could live the lifestyle of a Russian oligarch. Alan suspected that Nokitoff would be able to help find a lawyer that Alan could trust.

The lawyer that Alan would eventually meet could not be entirely scrupulous, since dramatic necessity dictated that the attorney provide a plausible means for my novel’s protagonist to avoid conviction. At the same time, it would be too simple for the lawyer to provide a solution in blatant disregard of basic professional ethics. I researched what a lawyer can say to a client who is a wanted criminal. I learned that an attorney must advise his client to comply with the law, but at the same time can answer general legal questions the client poses without risking disbarment. In my novel, Alan received legal guidance by receiving leading answers to questions he provided his lawyer. Was it possible for a non-citizen to stay in Switzerland indefinitely? If a person accused of a crime in France went back to the United States, was he likely to be tried for the crime? I learned that while it was unlikely for Alan to be prevented by the Swiss police from going back to the United States, eventually the American extradite him to France. Though he could easily become a permanent resident in Canada, a similar extradition agreement would eventually force him to trial. The only other place that Alan could get on the fast-track to immigration was Israel. Studying Israeli extradition law, I learned that in the past few decades Israel has adopted a reciprocal stance to extradition as the requesting state. Because France refuses to extradite any of its citizens abroad, Israel would never extradite one of its citizens back to France. My novel ended with Alan getting on a plane for Israel.

Through the process of writing a novel, I realized that I have a deep interest in the questions that the law raises. I began to appreciate that legal frameworks govern the functioning of daily life in a way that is both fundamental and widespread. People make choices in reference to the legal context in which they find themselves: where to live, how to work, whether to buckle their seat-belts, or if they should flee to Switzerland. I want to study the law because it deals with matters of concrete importance in people’s daily life, and because it does so by working with conceptual frameworks that arouse my intellectual curiosity.

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