Second Draft of Personal Statement

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jamesbrf
Posts: 27
Joined: Thu Jun 14, 2012 2:55 pm

Second Draft of Personal Statement

Postby jamesbrf » Tue Jul 03, 2012 2:00 am

This is my second draft of my current personal statement, which is the third attempt I have made at a personal statement. I would love to hear what people think about so far.

For the past five years I have been preparing myself to be a successful law school candidate. I took most of the classes available for pre-law students and each one helped me to clarify what I could expect from a career in the law. In a dispute resolution class I was introduced to the ideas of the ** Institute which deal with healing our interpersonal relationships. I felt a connection to their ideas and I eventually secured an internship with them working for former ** Judge **** as a research assistant. He related to me that it was his experience that a significant percentage of the practice of law is not litigation but negotiation. That same semester I was able to sit for three days observing court proceedings in ***. I noticed that the lawyers in court were negotiating settlements with each other and not taking part in the formal litigation proceedings I had seen on television. Judge **** also believed that lawyers could be more successful in helping their clients if they would be more civil to those participating in the litigation process, but especially to each other. I found that at least thirty states include stipulations about civility in their state bar association codes of ethics for legal professionals. I want to be another of the lawyers who do uphold these ideals.

These ideas led me to major in philosophy where I could become more familiar with the the ideas of Martin Buber and Soren Kierkegaard, whose ideas were foundational to the principles of the *** Institute. I studied Kierkegaard, took several classes in ethics, and I eventually was able to get a professor to help me work through Buber. For that last class I created a syllabus for myself and assigned myself a fifteen page paper at the end which would culminate my work for that three year period. Together with the professor I read the works of Kierkegaard and Buber and I would meet with him weekly to ensure that I understood them correctly. After the class was over I presented the fifteen page paper at a philosophy conference at the University of Puget Sound. The students there said they found my ideas enlightening and one of them thanked me for presenting hopeful and positive paper. These experiences were formative to my decision to become a lawyer and bring these convictions with me as I practice law.

...

I have worked hard to develop the critical thinking skills that I would need to succeed as a lawyer. I felt that if I wanted to develop the reasoning I would need to succeed on the LSAT and as a lawyer I should become a teaching assistant for logic classes. I worked hard in the basic logic class and received an “A” along with many others but I knew that if I wanted to be a TA I would have to receive one of the highest grades in the class. I spent hours each week pouring over the material and trying to be able to explain the concepts to others, my hard work paid off as I received the highest grade in the class and I got the job as a teaching assistant. I loved being able to help students succeed in logic and I was able to really develop my reasoning skills. Also, this was the first time in my college career that I had really felt that I stood out from the crowd and from that point on I was able to reach the high GPA I always felt I was capable of achieving. In fact all of my internships and other related experiences came after this point and I owe those experiences to the confidence I gained from this class and from the support of my wife whom I married three months before taking my first logic class.

I have worked to develop the legal reasoning skills to be a good lawyer. While preparing my article for publication in the Pre-Law Review, one of my editors introduced me to Bernstein v. Ocean Grove, a Supreme Court case where a same-sex couple seeks to be married in the Ocean Grove pavilion owned by a Methodist Church. They were denied and they successfully sued the Methodist Church who subsequently lost their tax exemption on the property. I was writing my article to suggest policy decisions which would enable religious institutions to avoid losing tax exemptions so I decided to use this case as a foil for my own arguments. After I had crafted a rebuttal to the case, which I had not yet read, I realized that I agreed with the verdict. The Ocean Grove property was not exempted from taxes for religious purposes but as beautified landscape and to receive this exemption the Ocean Grove Methodist Church had promised they would allow equal access to anyone who petitioned to use the property. Clearly they had violated that agreement when they denied the use of their facilities to the same-sex couple. From the experience of writing a law article I developed the ability to think critically while reading a variety of legal sources, and I learned to establish the facts before jumping to conclusions.

So with the skills of empathy, civility, reasoning, and legal research I know that I am a solid candidate for law school and the practice of law. ... Here I will probably insert specific reasons "why I want to attend your school" for each school on my list.

Thank you in advance for your help.
Last edited by jamesbrf on Thu Jul 19, 2012 9:59 am, edited 2 times in total.

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kwais
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Re: Second Draft of Personal Statement

Postby kwais » Tue Jul 03, 2012 2:11 am

You write well and you are clearly ready for law school, but this idea that you spent 5 years of your life preparing to be a good law school candidate is a real turn off. It makes you seem robotic. Interesting candidates are those who have other interests, whoa are complete people and add to the law school community. I have no idea what you would add to the community except maybe gunning. Not my favorite, but with the numbers to back it up, you'll be just fine.

jamesbrf
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Re: Second Draft of Personal Statement

Postby jamesbrf » Tue Jul 03, 2012 1:29 pm

kwais wrote:You write well and you are clearly ready for law school, but this idea that you spent 5 years of your life preparing to be a good law school candidate is a real turn off. It makes you seem robotic.

Thank you for your feedback, kwais. I see what you mean about "I've been preparing for law school for the past 5 years," it does seem like a potential turnoff. In truth that sentence is not entirely accurate anyway. I have made it seem that I have been intently preparing for law school since it has always been at the top of my list but I have considered becoming an organizational psychologist, a mediator, a philosophy professor, or a retail banking manager/executive (I am currently a branch representative at a local credit union). However, all these paths seemed less clearly defined and I seemed to have marketed myself only for law school. When my daughter was born I decided that I needed to decide finally if I was going to go to law school or not and I ended up deciding to apply this year.

kwais wrote: Not my favorite, but with the numbers to back it up, you'll be just fine.

Also I tried to paint myself as a motivated law school applicant to compensate for my numbers (164/3.15). I had fleshed out a few other personal statements that showed my personality a bit better but I felt they didn't really show what i would bring to law school as far as skills are concerned. I like a lot of what is here but I will take some of it out (especially the parts that imply that all I've done with my life is prepare for law school) but I am not sure what things I should include instead.

kwais wrote: Interesting candidates are those who have other interests, whoa are complete people and add to the law school community. I have no idea what you would add to the community except maybe gunning.

Would you suggest trying to highlight my personality more? I could talk more about my family and my hobbies but I am not sure how to tie those in to my personal statement.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Second Draft of Personal Statement

Postby CanadianWolf » Tue Jul 03, 2012 1:48 pm

Your claim that you have been preparing for five years to be a successful law school candidate is not demonstrated by your personal statement essay because it is too long & too shallow. Try to condense your experiences into insights rather than details.

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cutecarmel
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Re: Second Draft of Personal Statement

Postby cutecarmel » Tue Jul 03, 2012 7:10 pm

The things that you did are great, but I don't feel this is a good PS.

The first thing that stands out to me is that you mentioned that you spent the lats 5 years "preparing" for law school, but I think the general consensus is that you cannot "prepare" for law school.

You basically say, I have done A B and C in the field of law, so I have developed the characteristics X Y and Z which would make me a good lawyer, so that's why I will be good for law school. You can imply that you have certain skills without outright stating that you have those particular skills and those skills will make you a good lawyer.
The more I look at it, the more this paper reminds me of papers that I had to write in high school where I have a thesis with three topics and wrote a paragraph on each topic. Ideally, the format of your paper should be a bit more advanced.

I would focus on one of your experiences (preferably one that is connected the the field of law that you desire to practice) and make that the theme of your paper.

You write really well and the things you have done are very impressive, but the way that you work them into a PS doesn't really work.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Second Draft of Personal Statement

Postby CanadianWolf » Tue Jul 03, 2012 7:16 pm

Doesn't seem to be particularly well written, in my opinion. I must be missing something.

OP: Try to cut-down on the use of the word "I". Your essay is a seemingly endless list of I did that & I did this. Show, don't tell. This is little more than a verbal expansion of your resume.

elizcbeth
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Re: Second Draft of Personal Statement

Postby elizcbeth » Tue Jul 03, 2012 7:19 pm

cutecarmel wrote:I would focus on one of your experiences (preferably one that is connected the the field of law that you desire to practice) and make that the theme of your paper.

You write really well and the things you have done are very impressive, but the way that you work them into a PS doesn't really work.


My thoughts exactly. Show, don't tell, and definitely don't list. I think the part about your mission in Iowa could be an engaging story.

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Neander
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Re: Second Draft of Personal Statement

Postby Neander » Tue Jul 03, 2012 7:27 pm

This personal statement is too long, no? I checked in a word document and it was 3 double spaced pages. I think you will have to trim a paragraph or two for some schools.

jamesbrf
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Re: Second Draft of Personal Statement

Postby jamesbrf » Tue Jul 03, 2012 7:34 pm

Thanks for the feedback so far, it has been very helpful. I wrote this personal statement after reading UC Berkeley's article about personal statements. Originally my PS began with the following story but I removed it because I thought it took up too much space and I couldn't tie it back to my desire to attend law school.
...

Should I include the story and get rid of most of the list?
Last edited by jamesbrf on Thu Jul 05, 2012 5:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

jamesbrf
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Re: Second Draft of Personal Statement

Postby jamesbrf » Tue Jul 03, 2012 7:38 pm

I went on to talk about how I find meaning in life from helping others. My worry was that the LS committee members would look at my earlier personal statement and say, "that is great that you enjoy serving people but you can do that anywhere. Why do you want to go to law school and become a lawyer?" The first post was an attempt to better answer that question.

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CorkBoard
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Re: Second Draft of Personal Statement

Postby CorkBoard » Tue Jul 03, 2012 9:20 pm

jamesbrf wrote:edit



Why is this not your PS topic? It's more unique and says more about you than the fact that you've been PREPARING FOR SO LONG to be a law student.
Last edited by CorkBoard on Thu Aug 02, 2012 11:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

jamesbrf
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Re: Second Draft of Personal Statement

Postby jamesbrf » Tue Jul 03, 2012 10:04 pm

CorkBoard wrote:
jamesbrf wrote:Through these experiences I have come to realize that legal issues should not be viewed only from one perspective. This knowledge contributed to my desire to attend law school so I can receive the legal training I need to help people navigate difficult legal issues. Someday I hope to be responsible for legislating laws related to these and many other issues.


Why is this not your PS topic? It's more unique and says more about you than the fact that you've been PREPARING FOR SO LONG to be a law student.


That is a great suggestion! Thank you.
Last edited by jamesbrf on Thu Aug 02, 2012 10:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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kwais
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Re: Second Draft of Personal Statement

Postby kwais » Tue Jul 03, 2012 10:51 pm

I really don't understand where people get this idea that adcomms read personal statements asking "will this person make a good lawyer." I don't think they care. Once they see your numbers and determine that you are not an Olympic gold medalist or Mt. Everest climber, they are looking to put together an interesting class. They are tasked, first, with maintaining high numerical standards and second, with ensuring as vibrant a community as possible. This is your one shot to be a human being. You have a stack of papers in your file that relate to your academic and professional life.

You have a daughter. I'm not a parent, but from what I hear, raising a child is an experience that makes you grow up fast and, for many, instills in them a strong sense of responsibility. I'm not saying you should write your personal statement about her, but the fact that she wasn't mentioned says, to me, that you are not conveying who are, but who you want them to think you are.
People are attracted to those who are humble, self-aware, funny, not those who are well-versed in philosophy. At schools where you are on the border numerically, make the adcomm fight for you because they like you and relate to you. At the other schools, your PS likely won't matter much.

jamesbrf
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Joined: Thu Jun 14, 2012 2:55 pm

Re: Second Draft of Personal Statement

Postby jamesbrf » Wed Jul 04, 2012 10:21 pm

Thank you all for your feedback you've given me a lot to consider. Kwais, you are right, I am not really showing the real me in this statement. I will rework this keeping that in mind.




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