Square pegs do not typically fit into round holes, and offbeat applicants do not normally find their way into high-caliber law schools. That said, there are rare occasions on which the candidate, after putting forth sufficient effort and immense attention to their personal development, can enter an institution as august as [the school]. In other words, square pegs – with a bit of chiseling – can fit into round holes.
I have chiseled. I was expelled from three high schools. I have a sub-par GPA and a criminal record (see addenda) – but these are not indicative of who I am. They do not tell the full story, the story of a young man from difficult circumstances who disciplined his energies and poured them into positive things. I have participated in the economic reconstruction of post-Katrina New Orleans. I have run my own firm for three years (it failed, but put me through college). I have returned to India, where I was born, and joined the small-but-growing effort to eliminate the archaic social-managerial immobilisme that keeps nearly a tenth of humanity mired in grinding poverty – an unacceptable waste of resources, and one of the greatest economic and human problems of our time. Along the way, I have become operationally fluent in three new languages and conquered my hyperactivity disorder.
I am capable of performing well in law school. My current job involves (usually) 72-hour weeks writing highly structured notes and proposals within intense and absolutely non-negotiable timeframes. My target audience – policy professionals at bodies like the UN Development Program, the World Bank, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and various sovereign aid organizations like the UK's Department for International Development – is far more intelligent and discriminating than I. Much of my work boils down to asking them for money to fund my employer organization’s policy projects; anything less than impeccable writing is impotent and frankly unacceptable. I anchor all writing in the organization, and report directly to the CEO, who ensures my work is held to an extremely high standard.
I am also extremely comfortable with independent research. I am new to the world of international development, and the writing I am tasked with often calls for immense amounts of research in fields that are new to me – healthcare, economics, agronomy, climate change, human-capital development, labour relations, obscure areas of South Asian law and governance… the list goes on, seemingly ad infinitum. Since a winning proposal (of which I have authored a few) will be subjected to detailed scrutiny by experts, accuracy is paramount. Maybe a third of my 72-hour week is spent actually writing; the remainder is spent reading academic journals, seminar proceedings, policy notes and field research reports.
I have worked in the private sector, the public sector, and the non-profit sector – and in each, my work has repeatedly intersected with the law. But that is not why I want to study the law; I am not reactionary, but proactive. I want to have a positive impact on my community – the global community, our community – by reducing the barriers that all too often keep capable, motivated young people from being able to realize their potential. India is a perfect example of this – despite what we might read in The Economist, the country is plagued by social immobility. If you are born poor in India, you will likely die poor in India (in economic parlance, this is a “sub-optimal outcome”). I was born poor in India, and I know it does not have to be this way – but I was lucky. I would like to reduce the role of luck in determining who does, and does not, end up a sub-optimal outcome.
That is why I want to study the law – so I can work toward ensuring young people everywhere an equality of access to opportunity. I was once naïve, and thought that I could change the world; in fact I still think that, but my naïveté is slightly more bounded insofar as I realize the limits of my current skillset. Professor Ran Hirschl of the NYU School of Law writes of “the ascendancy of legal discourse… in virtually every aspect of modern life [and] almost every decision-making forum in modern rule-of-law polities”. I would like to be an informed and capable participant in these decision-making forums, and thus want to work toward the best in legal education.
I want to be a lawyer so I can impact my community in a positive way. I would like to enter public service. I define this broadly: it could be counterintelligence (I am working to publish a counterterrorism policy paper I wrote last year) or it could be academia. I have a deep respect for academia – contrary to most belief, theory is not divorced from the practical, and the owl of Minerva can take flight at dawn. Montesquieu’s The Spirit of Laws infused the United States with the idea of civil liberty. It is now read (albeit on the sly) by my friends in Beijing and New Delhi, who see it as a clarion call, impending change for the better. As a humble engineer who wants to help architect this change, I can think of no better tool than a legal education from [the school].
Thank you very much for your critique.
As mentioned, I'm a splitter - 176 with a 3.09 GPA - but I have high aims.