Should the PS address "Why I Am Going To Law School?"

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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honeybadger12
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Should the PS address "Why I Am Going To Law School?"

Postby honeybadger12 » Tue Jul 31, 2012 2:26 pm

A lot of threads here end up discussing whether the PS should address why the applicant is interested in law school. I've researched this for myself and thought I'd share the opinions I've found. Maybe this will clear things up...or not:
Asha Rangappa, Yale Dean of Admissions (blog):
“I don't think it's superficial or suck-uppy to explain why you want to go to law school -- I actually think that's the point of the P.S. (I may be one of the few admissions people who believes this, but I'd like to know that this is well thought out, not something you're doing because you can't find a job.) You don't have to use legal jargon or talk about things you don't know about, but presumably there are certain academic, professional, or personal experiences that have led you in this direction. Tell me what they are!”

Anna Ivey, former Chicago Dean of Admissions (pg. 65):
“If admissions officers wanted to know why you’re pursuing a law degree, they’d ask you expressly and you’d be writing what I call a statement of purpose, not a personal statement… The only people who should be discussing their career goals in a personal statement are older applicants pursuing a career change.”

Joyce Curll, former Harvard Dean of Admissions (pg. 185):
“To explain ‘Why Law’ when that question is not specifically asked, do so as a subtext. Show them why law, don’t tell them.”

Josh Rubenstein, former Harvard Assistant Dean of Admissions (TLS interview):
"Our Admissions Committee looks primarily for two things – the ability to thrive academically and the capability and desire to have an impact in a chosen field... Regardless of your numerical credentials, if a reader doesn’t walk away from reading your application with a clear understanding of who you are and why law school makes sense for you, it’s unlikely you will be admitted."

Faye Deal, Stanford Associate Director of Admissions:
“Some applicants mistakenly think that in all cases what we want to know is why they want to go to law school, and that’s not necessarily true.”

Ken DeLeon, founder of TLS:
"A powerful personal statement must be a brilliant piece of self-marketing that also demonstrates a strong and mature commitment to the law."

Richard Montauk, author endorsed by officers of nearly every top school (pg. 250):
“Few candidates who are still in college will benefit from writing about why they want to be a lawyer…few college seniors can say anything both interesting and credible. Nearly all college seniors reveal themselves to be naïve about the law and lacking in real self-knowledge, particularly concerning career direction, when writing about this topic.”

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nickb285
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Re: Should the PS address "Why I Am Going To Law School?"

Postby nickb285 » Tue Jul 31, 2012 2:39 pm

So, it's a strong "maybe" then.

I tend to feel like it's better to err on the side of explaining it--not making it your whole PS, but tying your PS to why you want to go to law school. I'd rather give someone an explanation that they consider unnecessary than not give them an explanation that they consider necessary.

Then again, I also tend to talk out of my ass.

thederangedwang
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Re: Should the PS address "Why I Am Going To Law School?"

Postby thederangedwang » Tue Jul 31, 2012 2:48 pm

giuseppes12 wrote:A lot of threads here end up discussing whether the PS should address why the applicant is interested in law school. I've researched this for myself and thought I'd share the opinions I've found. Maybe this will clear things up...or not:
Asha Rangappa, Yale Dean of Admissions (blog):
“I don't think it's superficial or suck-uppy to explain why you want to go to law school -- I actually think that's the point of the P.S. (I may be one of the few admissions people who believes this, but I'd like to know that this is well thought out, not something you're doing because you can't find a job.) You don't have to use legal jargon or talk about things you don't know about, but presumably there are certain academic, professional, or personal experiences that have led you in this direction. Tell me what they are!”

this implies that most other deans do not want this type of statement

Anna Ivey, former Chicago Dean of Admissions (pg. 65):
“If admissions officers wanted to know why you’re pursuing a law degree, they’d ask you expressly and you’d be writing what I call a statement of purpose, not a personal statement… The only people who should be discussing their career goals in a personal statement are older applicants pursuing a career change.”

anna obviously does not want a why law statement

Joyce Curll, former Harvard Dean of Admissions (pg. 185):
“To explain ‘Why Law’ when that question is not specifically asked, do so as a subtext. Show them why law, don’t tell them.”

exactly, implicit why law, not explicit why law

Josh Rubenstein, former Harvard Assistant Dean of Admissions (TLS interview):
"Our Admissions Committee looks primarily for two things – the ability to thrive academically and the capability and desire to have an impact in a chosen field... Regardless of your numerical credentials, if a reader doesn’t walk away from reading your application with a clear understanding of who you are and why law school makes sense for you, it’s unlikely you will be admitted."

communicating why law makes SENSE does not equal writing about why you WANT to study law.

Faye Deal, Stanford Associate Director of Admissions:
“Some applicants mistakenly think that in all cases what we want to know is why they want to go to law school, and that’s not necessarily true.”

not why law

Ken DeLeon, founder of TLS:
"A powerful personal statement must be a brilliant piece of self-marketing that also demonstrates a strong and mature commitment to the law."

ken's opinion is not important in the context of admissions since he never served as admissions to anything

Richard Montauk, author endorsed by officers of nearly every top school (pg. 250):
“Few candidates who are still in college will benefit from writing about why they want to be a lawyer…few college seniors can say anything both interesting and credible. Nearly all college seniors reveal themselves to be naïve about the law and lacking in real self-knowledge, particularly concerning career direction, when writing about this topic.”

not why law





the opinion is overwhelmingly against why law type statements

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cutecarmel
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Re: Should the PS address "Why I Am Going To Law School?"

Postby cutecarmel » Tue Jul 31, 2012 3:11 pm

I can't believe the Dean of Yales said "suck-uppy"

I would say that its a good idea to write about why law if you have a good reason for going to law school. ("I've wanted to be a lawyer all of my life" is not a good reason). I mentioned what type of law I wanted to practice, but it tied in with the rest of my statement. It was a statement about myself that happened to mention law, as opposed to a statement about why I want to go to law school that happens to mention things about me.

But then again it also depends on the school. If I were to apply to a school that doesn't seem to want a "why law" statement, I would have changed it for that school

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JamMasterJ
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Re: Should the PS address "Why I Am Going To Law School?"

Postby JamMasterJ » Tue Jul 31, 2012 3:16 pm

cutecarmel wrote:I can't believe the Dean of Yales said "suck-uppy"

I would say that its a good idea to write about why law if you have a good reason for going to law school. ("I've wanted to be a lawyer all of my life" is not a good reason). I mentioned what type of law I wanted to practice, but it tied in with the rest of my statement. It was a statement about myself that happened to mention law, as opposed to a statement about why I want to go to law school that happens to mention things about me.

But then again it also depends on the school. If I were to apply to a school that doesn't seem to want a "why law" statement, I would have changed it for that school

Really? She's really candid.

Anyway, OP, it can address it, but it doesn't have to. The PS is about showing them that you can write decently and a little about conveying yourself to the admissions committee. If that addresses law, fine. If not, oh well.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Should the PS address "Why I Am Going To Law School?"

Postby CanadianWolf » Tue Jul 31, 2012 3:18 pm

Agree with JamMaster J.'s comments. In short, it depends.

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alwayssunnyinfl
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Re: Should the PS address "Why I Am Going To Law School?"

Postby alwayssunnyinfl » Tue Jul 31, 2012 3:23 pm

Write your PS addressing both sides of the argument as to whether or not you should have included "Why Law?"

privatemember2012
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Re: Should the PS address "Why I Am Going To Law School?"

Postby privatemember2012 » Thu Aug 09, 2012 4:57 am

I'm also very curious about this. What would be a good reason for studying law? I want to do it in order to strengthen policy expertise, fusing it with economics and political science. But would that fly as a 'good reason'?

thederangedwang
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Re: Should the PS address "Why I Am Going To Law School?"

Postby thederangedwang » Thu Aug 09, 2012 11:03 am

privatemember2012 wrote:I'm also very curious about this. What would be a good reason for studying law? I want to do it in order to strengthen policy expertise, fusing it with economics and political science. But would that fly as a 'good reason'?

the only non-superficial and naive sounding ways to approach why law in a PS is if your life has been meaningfully impacted by law.

For instance, if you suffered a grave injustice and the law helped right the boat, or, on the contrary, you slipped the cracks of the law and so you want to fill in that gap by practicing law.

Why law for the sake of why law, such as, "it sounds interesting to me", or "my parents were an attorney" is a bad why law.

Bottom line, why law can be a good statement but only if you can communicate how much the law has affected you personally, or soembody close to you

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rinkrat19
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Re: Should the PS address "Why I Am Going To Law School?"

Postby rinkrat19 » Thu Aug 09, 2012 12:06 pm

I lean towards the 'no why law' side, but I also think it's extremely important that your PS not leave the reader actively wondering "so...why IS this person going to law school?" Talk about your passion for playing the cello all you want, but don't make the reader think that you should actually be applying to Julliard, not NYU Law. Use cello (or whatever) to illustrate your good traits that would translate well to law school.

biguplaws
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Re: Should the PS address "Why I Am Going To Law School?"

Postby biguplaws » Fri Aug 10, 2012 2:19 pm

Would a good reason be if you worked with underprivileged, low-socioeconomic, children and were active in an organization that lobbied the change of certain educational policies that effected these children be a good reason?

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rinkrat19
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Re: Should the PS address "Why I Am Going To Law School?"

Postby rinkrat19 » Fri Aug 10, 2012 2:29 pm

biguplaws wrote:Would a good reason be if you worked with underprivileged, low-socioeconomic, children and were active in an organization that lobbied the change of certain educational policies that effected these children be a good reason?
Yes, but temper your save-teh-poor-children idealism with realism. You can't just gush vaguely about how you want to save the world with your JD, because most lawyers end up doing nothing of the sort. Show that you know what the actual jobs would be, and show that you understand that this goal may not happen.

shntn
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Re: Should the PS address "Why I Am Going To Law School?"

Postby shntn » Tue Aug 21, 2012 8:58 pm

I didn't take the "why law" angle, as it seemed forced and very transparent. I just talked about myself for two pages.

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cloudhidden
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Re: Should the PS address "Why I Am Going To Law School?"

Postby cloudhidden » Wed Aug 22, 2012 10:01 am

I agree with the consensus, but if the words "law" and "school" don't appear next to one another at least once in the PS, I think admission people might wonder about why you just sent this essay (and application).

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alwayssunnyinfl
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Re: Should the PS address "Why I Am Going To Law School?"

Postby alwayssunnyinfl » Wed Aug 22, 2012 10:03 am

cloudhidden wrote:I agree with the consensus, but if the words "law" and "school" don't appear next to one another at least once in the PS, I think admission people might wonder about why you just sent this essay (and application).

What if it's in the header?

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cloudhidden
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Re: Should the PS address "Why I Am Going To Law School?"

Postby cloudhidden » Wed Aug 22, 2012 11:15 am

alwayssunnyinfl wrote:
cloudhidden wrote:I agree with the consensus, but if the words "law" and "school" don't appear next to one another at least once in the PS, I think admission people might wonder about why you just sent this essay (and application).

What if it's in the header?


Valid point. I believe TCR depends on whether you embolden the header.

WaterCoffeeBeer
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Re: Should the PS address "Why I Am Going To Law School?"

Postby WaterCoffeeBeer » Sat Sep 01, 2012 2:24 pm

I would say that my PS was completely tailored to answering the question "Why law?" I applied to six US schools, all T-14. I got into five, including Yale, and was wait-listed at the other one. This probably means that my PS was not a total failure. Previous people in this thread have said something like "Do it only if you have been profoundly affected by law." I think this is bad advice. The best advice is to do it if and only if you actually have a good reason for studying law, which you could have without ever having been profoundly exposed to it or spending a large amount of time in the workforce. You could want to go into legal academia and be interested in law for academic reasons, while still believing that you will be able to make a social impact in your legal research and teaching.

However, if you don't have a great reason, then maybe don't mention it. It's probably not bad if you don't have a great reason for going to law school, because you can't be expected to have had a large enough exposure to law if you haven't actually studied it yet or worked in the profession. But I think it would be favorable for your application that you actually DO have a good reason, so it might behoove you to spend some time thinking about why you want to go to law school in the first place. If you find such a reason, write it down.




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