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 Post subject: My personal statement rough draft.
PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:32 pm 
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A very cold day in early January of 1985 is at the heart of my journey to law school. On that fateful winter morning, my grandfather passed away in a hospital in Walker County, Alabama due to heart failure. He was survived by a wife, 5 children, and 4 grandchildren. Almost a month later, it would have been 5 grandchildren, because I was born in February of 1985. To this day, I wish I had met him at least once because by all accounts he was a loving man devoted to his family.

My grandmother told me many stories of their long history together and I appreciated every word she had for him. Dealing with the death of a husband is hard on any person, but her struggle was compounded when the company that my grandfather worked for denied her the benefits she rightly deserved as the widow of a mine worker whose death was hastened by Black lung Disease, otherwise known as Coal Worker’s Pneumoconiosis. Because my grandfather died of heart failure instead of lung disease, the company went before the Department of Labor to claim that they owed my grandmother nothing. The Department of Labor sided with the company on her claim and she was devastated. My grandfather gave his life to feed his family, and in his hour of need the company he worked for most of his life deserted his widow.

Deep in her heart, my grandmother knew that Black Lung disease caused my grandfather’s death. Toward the end of his life, she witnessed his daily struggle to breathe. Even though he did not die of lung disease, heart failure is also a complication caused by Coal Worker’s Pneumoconiosis. She believed that his heart disease was caused by the coal dust he inhaled almost every day of his adult life. My grandmother is not a person to sit back and take injustice. She decided she was going to fight the coal company and the Department of Labor to her last breath. From 1985 to the present, she has been through numerous appeals, motions, and even the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court.

I have listened to my grandmother curse the coal company for years, but I did not understand what she was going through until she tried to appeal to the Eleventh Circuit Court. She is not a woman of means, and fighting long court battles with a company that has dozens of lawyers on retainer is an almost impossible proposition for a woman that has very little education and no money. This led her to try to appeal in forma pauperis, and she asked me to help her do so.
At this time, I was ignorant of what in forma pauperis was or how to present such an appeal to the court so I took her paperwork and researched for hours online. Finally, I found a tool to file online but I did not have access because it required an attorney code before it would let me file. I informed my grandmother of this, and she was distraught. According to her, no attorney was willing to take her case because of the expenses involved. She wanted to proceed as her own counsel, but she realized she just did not have the capability.

My heart broke that day for her. I was also enraged at the callousness of the coal company, the courts, and everyone else keeping my grandmother from the justice she deserved for her dead husband and all his sacrifices for her and her children. I had always had an interest in the legal profession growing up, but that day crystallized my desire. I knew from then on that I was going to law school one way or the other. I wanted to wield legal knowledge like a sword on a crusade to defend those like my grandmother. I wanted to beat back the hordes of lawyers the company threw at her. I wanted my grandmother to feel vindicated before she died. I wanted the memory of my grandfather to not be tainted by a faceless company. I wanted her to be proud of me.

I have made a promise to myself that If my grandmother is still alive when I graduate law school, that I will do all that is in my power to help her. I want to use my intellectual talents that I inherited in part from her to become a member of the legal profession. I am certain that the ******* School of law will give me the opportunity to fulfill that promise to myself. One day, hopefully my grandmother can rest easy knowing that her grandson is helping her with all of his ability.

Going beyond the scope of my grandmother, ** Law can provide me the training I need to help thousands of grandmothers, sons, daughters, and fathers like her. My wish is to see everyone have proper legal representation. In the future, I hope no grandson has to listen to his grandmother sadly recount her failed legal battle without hope of reprieve due to a lack of means and ability.





Any tips or comments would be appreciated.


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 Post subject: Re: My personal statement rough draft.
PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2012 9:12 pm 
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Is it too focused on one topic? Does it end too abruptly? Is the multiple use of "I wanted" effective or too repetitive?


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 Post subject: Re: My personal statement rough draft.
PostPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2012 2:42 pm 
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You spend too much of your time talking about the grandparents and not enough about you. In law school you will learn that lawyers won't take the case, because Granny doesn't have one. But that is okay. You show empathy, which is a fine trait for a lawyer. Just spend more time on yourself and less on the your grandmother's case.


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 Post subject: Re: My personal statement rough draft.
PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2012 2:11 am 
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the PS takes too long to get to the meat and important text.

Can you remove a sentence or even the whole first paragraph without affecting the understanding, clarity and point of your essay? (yes) thus, it's extraneous.


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 Post subject: Re: My personal statement rough draft.
PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2012 10:46 am 
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I appreciate the criticism. I definitely now notice that the entire first paragraph is extraneous. Im also trying weave in my personal struggle with panic disorder.

My reason for going to law school is my grandmother, but I think I will make a great lawyer because I have persevered through some really tough times and I never give up.


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 Post subject: Re: My personal statement rough draft.
PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2012 12:08 pm 
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IMHO, you start way too many sentences with "I." I think you could condense this essay into basically one paragraph of a more complete personal statement that explains how you got interested in the law. The rest of the essay should focus on your accomplishments and the attributes that will make you a good lawyer.


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 Post subject: Re: My personal statement rough draft.
PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2012 8:59 am 
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I am not done with it, but I have crafted a second personal statement of 1 page that I would like to synthesize with my first personal statement. I want to show the ADCOMS that I have a strong motivating factor for attending law school coupled with the perseverance and tenacity to see myself through a tough 3 years.



Death and I are real close acquaintances. We gained a certain familiarity with each other when every night during my second and third semesters in college I would go to bed thinking, “is this the night I fall asleep and do not wake up?” No, I was not afflicted by some terminal illness. My flirtation with death was not even real. However, my body could not tell the difference. Some nights my chest would hurt so badly I was surely having a heart attack. My lungs would stop working on autopilot and I struggled to breath. The fear of dying became so strong that my nights were terror filled, sleep deprived waking nightmares.

The closer I became with death, the worse I performed in school. My motivation for going to class was nonexistent. A lack of sleep, coupled with the fear of having an attack in public barred me from attending class for two whole semesters. I was so out of my mind that I did not even think to drop my classes. I only thought about my next attack. Knowing that another semester away from family would be too much for me to bear, I withdrew from college in December of 2005.

When I arrived home, my mother took me straight to see our family doctor. My doctor only had to hear about 30 seconds of my description of what was going on to come up with an answer to what was plaguing me: Panic Disorder. He told me all of my fear of death and anxiety had a rational explanation and that my condition was treatable. Eventually, through the use of cognitive behavioral therapy, I took control of my life back. I spent 6 months after leaving college working every day to conquer my fear. Now that I knew that I was not actually going to die suddenly, it became easier to calm myself down. Attacks became less frequent, and Death and I were not on speaking terms anymore.
Never in a million years did I think I would become a college dropout. In high school, I excelled in academics. I made A’s in every course, became a National Merit Scholar, and had full rides to every college I wanted to attend. Confidence in my academic abilities was never a question. I loved learning, to the point where it was a major part of my identity. All of a sudden, the ability to learn was stolen by a disease I did not see coming.

Even after coming to terms with Panic Disorder and finally overcoming the disease, confidence in my academic ability did not return right away. Instead of going back to university, I stayed home to enroll in a local community college in the fall of 2006. I fell in love with learning again at that community college. A particular chemistry professor provided the catalyst for love’s re-ignition. He invited me to participate in the college’s scholar’s bowl team after noticing my aptitude one day in class. At first, my fear of failure almost overwhelmed me, but he assured me that the team was very relaxed and would appreciate me no matter how many questions I answered at the tournaments. The scholar’s bowl format included a wide variety of topics, so I rushed to study classical music, art, biology, physics, and a whole host of subjects unfamiliar to me. My mind absorbed these topics like a sponge, and for the first time in years I felt somewhat normal. From the beginning at the initial tournament, my old academic self took over. I exceeded all of my expectations. By the end of the year, my name was on a plaque commemorating the top 3 scorers for scholar’s bowl in the state of Alabama community college system. To some this may be a minor accomplishment, but at that moment, it was the culmination of a very long and tough road for me.

I want to combine this with my first statement, but I'm having trouble segueing from the panic disorder to the grandmother.


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 Post subject: Re: My personal statement rough draft.
PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2012 11:03 am 
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Last edited by Jsa725 on Wed May 29, 2013 5:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: My personal statement rough draft.
PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2012 1:02 pm 
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I am condensing the ideas into two pages typed in 12 point font.

Your comment about legal writing confuses me. I was not aware that a personal statement must be written in the legal writing style.


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 Post subject: Re: My personal statement rough draft.
PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2012 1:15 pm 
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Last edited by Jsa725 on Wed May 29, 2013 5:28 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: My personal statement rough draft.
PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2012 1:18 pm 
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baaron008 wrote:
I am condensing the ideas into two pages typed in 12 point font.

Your comment about legal writing confuses me. I was not aware that a personal statement must be written in the legal writing style.

Um...I think you're forgetting that it needs to be double-spaced. If you try and combine the two sections you've got up right now, it's almost 5 full pages.

Your PS doesn't have to be truly "legal" writing, with the heretofores and the party of the first parties, but it should be pretty formal language. It can be elegant and emotive, but it can't be casual.


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 Post subject: Re: My personal statement rough draft.
PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2012 1:29 pm 
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" Therefore, the PS should be clear, concise, written with purpose, grammatically correct, coherent, and logically formatted (i.e. not jumping from point to point aimlessly)."

I'm going to say any and all good writing should have these characteristics as well.


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 Post subject: Re: My personal statement rough draft.
PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2012 1:51 pm 
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I think you're too far away from having a final product to be stressed about the formation of your sentences or your syntax. I find all of the following to be things you might wish to consider:

*Remember that your PS is supposed to focus on you and your journey. In the first piece, that isn't the case. It's about your grandfather and your grandmother. It doesn't tell me who you are as a person. Remember the essay isn't "Why Law?" it's a personal statement. The adcomm is giving you an opportunity to show who you are. True, many times in doing that you lead to a discussion on why law, but it's not necessary for a PS. Right now, I get no image of who you truly are. You love your grandparents...etc. That's great, but it's not unique. It shows me you care for your family, which is a great trait but it in no way positions you as a more advantageous admit for a law school.

*It's difficult for me to see how your second piece fits with the first. With that said, you cannot combine them. It's too long and trying to connect them, IMO, would be ineffective. Personally, I think that your second piece says more about you, so I give you the following options to consider. If you're hellbent on using the piece about your grandfather, reshape it such that it focuses on you and then use this second story as a statement of disadvantage or diversity. Frame it as such and you can get by with two totally different essays. Whatever you do, though, you must ensure that the focus is on YOU and how you changed/grew/developed as a person.

*I feel like you're trying to include too much information and this goes for both pieces. Carefully consider whether nor not all of the things you say are necessary. Limiting some of this anecdotal information will help take the focus off of all things but you. Once you've restructured these things, then concern yourself with matters of syntax and whatnot.


Good luck!


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 Post subject: Re: My personal statement rough draft.
PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2012 3:45 pm 
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I greatly appreciate all the advice everyone has given me. For the most part, those two pieces of writing were just free form. In no way have i edited them for length or clarity at this point. I have decided to start with the second piece and go from there.

Thanks everyone!


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