Personal Statement Critiques/Opinions

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Anonymous User
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Personal Statement Critiques/Opinions

Postby Anonymous User » Sat May 11, 2013 11:41 pm

Hello everyone,

I would greatly appreciate your feedback regarding my personal statement. It is my initial draft and need some critiques and opinions. Please note that I've redacted all information indicating the school to which I am applying as well as geographic information (City and State). Here it is:


The question “Why do you want to become a lawyer?” is one that’s understandably posed to any prospective law student. However, I find myself to be an unyielding dissident regarding whether this should be the focus question for applicants to address in their personal statements. It may be somewhat uncustomary to change the question to which I am responding, but I believe that the question “Are you sure you want to become a lawyer and, if so, how are you so sure?” is more applicable to law school applicants today. The reason I decided to address this question is derived from my experience in and research of the legal field. Considering recent news and opinions of the legal profession (i.e. job prospects, tuition debts, overall satisfaction, etc.), there is no short supply of information to persuade would-be law students into choosing another career. Furthermore, law school is often well known for attracting people that are more interested in the “glamour” they see in a fictional television series, the “big bucks” that many seem to infer is a sure thing with a law degree, and those that really have no other ideas on what to do in life. These are all absurd reasons to choose law as a profession and I feel that all law school candidates should provide substantial rationale for their decision to apply. By requiring such substance, I believe that law schools will have testimonials that are more suitable for analyzing one’s desire to attend and, henceforth, decrease the number of students who are pursuing law for the wrong reasons.
Now that I’ve established my reasoning for addressing this alternative question (“Are you sure you want to become a lawyer and, if so, how are you so sure?”), I will offer my personal answer. First, am I sure that I want to become a lawyer? Obviously, the answer is an unequivocal yes! Now, how am I so sure? To substantiate my certainty, I will briefly discuss some factors such as my experience, my passions, and, at least to some extent, my personal philosophies. I will also share why [School-Name] College of Law is my top choice of schools to attend.

When I began my time as an intern in 2012, I was exposed to various business fields, including human resources, accounting, and legal. Aided by a pre-existing interest in the legal field, I was quickly drawn to all types of work that were legal related. As opposed to many people who may realize that law is not their calling as they learn more about the nature of the work, my desire to pursue law was only strengthened as I learned more. For me, the most exciting aspect of the work was the detail. As a detail oriented person, I enjoy the precise nature of legal work and concepts. Whether it’s the eloquence of a well-written appellate brief or the comprehensiveness of thoroughly drafted corporate bylaws, the precision is something to admire!

I’m fortunate to say that I have professional experience in two of my most passionate interests: business and technology. I’ve worked for small businesses and large corporations and one of my favorite things to do is work on growing my own web design business. Business and technology have coupled to produce some of the largest enterprises in the world. Companies such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung have all taken technological concepts and made billions of dollars from them. With the rapidly expanding field of mobile health (i.e. mobile applications for physicians to share patient information more quickly and efficiently) and the seemingly limitless technological innovations possible in the future, there is no reason to believe that technology will not continue to generate massive streams of revenue and job growth. As with any highly profitable industry, the competition will increase and, because technology is so dependent on intellectual property rights, there will be a continuous need for skilled attorneys to protect future innovations.

The decision to apply to [School-Name] comes after visiting and researching numerous schools, talking to current law students, and listening to many admission representatives from around the country discuss the benefits of attending their schools. A significant factor that contributes to my zest for attending [School-Name] is the level of enthusiasm I’ve seen in [School-Name] admission representatives, faculty members, and current students. Every time I have a conversation with someone from [School-Name], I always pick up on their relaxed, friendly nature as well as their extraordinary approval of the school in general. There is also a close-to-home, comfort factor that, along with the opportunities for students, commitment to the success of its graduates, fantastic regional recognition, and state of the art facility, adds to my excitement to attend [School-Name]. The fact that a law school with such an outstanding reputation is located right here in the city where I hope to spend my career is the perfect combination of offerings. Another reason worth mentioning is my passion for the city of [City]. Although born in Houston, I was raised in northeast [State] and can’t imagine myself anywhere else. This area is my home and I see the growth potential here and I look forward to playing a part in its success. Many of my peers, and multiple good friends, intend on leaving [City] after college. Many have plans to leave [State] altogether. News like this is disappointing because I know [City] has plenty to offer and I’m confident that the city’s future is bright. With the fine educational institutions, new business ventures, and countless of things to do for fun, [City] can be at the heart of the nation’s growth for years to come!

How does all this tie together to explain how I am sure that attending law school (specifically, [School-Name]) is right for me? Simple! My passions and experiences have sparked my interest in working with startup businesses, specifically in the field of intellectual property and in the [City] area. Experience has also given me sufficient insight into the nature of the legal profession and has allowed me to make a well thought out decision. I hope to be considered for admission to [School-Name] College of Law to pursue my ambition of becoming a lawyer. While I cannot assume that my life experiences qualify me as unique compared to other applicants, I can submit with full confidence that my work ethic, commitment and determination are just a few personal credentials that make me a qualified candidate. I know that law school will be a demanding, laborious endeavor, but it is one that I look forward to beginning and I warmly welcome the challenges that come with the journey. A challenge is no different than an adversity in that it will either prevent one from moving forward or it will be overcome. Anyone who is willing to work hard enough and refuse to succumb to the stresses caused by such challenges will enjoy the benefits that they have worked tirelessly to reap. This has been a principle I have lived by ever since the birth of my daughter (something many would argue to be a large challenge for my age) and I’ve seen how true it can be. Nothing worthy of being deemed a great achievement ever comes easy and I hope to achieve my dream and goal of becoming an attorney at [School-Name] College of Law!

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Ave
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Re: Personal Statement Critiques/Opinions

Postby Ave » Sat May 11, 2013 11:57 pm

Anonymous User wrote:The question “Why do you want to become a lawyer?” is one that’s understandably posed to any prospective law student. However, I find myself to be an unyielding dissident regarding whether this should be the focus question for applicants to address in their personal statements. It may be somewhat uncustomary to change the question to which I am responding, but I believe that the question “Are you sure you want to become a lawyer and, if so, how are you so sure?” is more applicable to law school applicants today. The reason I decided to address this question is derived from my experience in and research of the legal field. Considering recent news and opinions of the legal profession (i.e. job prospects, tuition debts, overall satisfaction, etc.), there is no short supply of information to persuade would-be law students into choosing another career. Furthermore, law school is often well known for attracting people that are more interested in the “glamour” they see in a fictional television series, the “big bucks” that many seem to infer is a sure thing with a law degree, and those that really have no other ideas on what to do in life. These are all absurd reasons to choose law as a profession and I feel that all law school candidates should provide substantial rationale for their decision to apply. By requiring such substance, I believe that law schools will have testimonials that are more suitable for analyzing one’s desire to attend and, henceforth, decrease the number of students who are pursuing law for the wrong reasons.

Now that I’ve established my reasoning for addressing this alternative question (“Are you sure you want to become a lawyer and, if so, how are you so sure?”), I will offer my personal answer. First, am I sure that I want to become a lawyer? Obviously, the answer is an unequivocal yes! Now, how am I so sure? To substantiate my certainty, I will briefly discuss some factors such as my experience, my passions, and, at least to some extent, my personal philosophies. I will also share why [School-Name] College of Law is my top choice of schools to attend.

This is not a good way to start your PS. I think you should reconsider the approach and the direction you want to take with your personal statement. As it is now, it sounds more like a canned INTERVIEW answer

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JaviSTB
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Re: Personal Statement Critiques/Opinions

Postby JaviSTB » Sun May 12, 2013 12:00 am

I have to agree with Ave. It's supposed to be a personal statement. The beginning reads like you were given a question or prompt, but decided, hey instead of answering your question, I'm going to tell you why I won't, but providing my own question/prompt. The beginning sentence felt slightly cliche, and the first paragraph reads in a dry clinical tone that makes it hard to connect with you.

ETA: Your personal statement gives off this pretentious feel. Whether it's intentional or accidental, it's very off-putting. While the PS is used to distinguish yourself from your applicant peers, it sounds like you believe yourself to be the sole person with this particular insight into how admissions and decisions into law school work.

ETA2: You need to cut out that business and tech paragraph. It does nothing and, up until the last sentence, I kept asking myself, why does this kid want to go to law school, when he seems to have another passion? Those thoughts about intellectual property can be reduced and summarized into something that helps your point. Also, the word "zest" feels really out of place in this particular statement. It awkwardly stands out.

Anonymous User
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Re: Personal Statement Critiques/Opinions

Postby Anonymous User » Sun May 12, 2013 12:21 am

JaviSTB12 wrote:I have to agree with Ave. It's supposed to be a personal statement. The beginning reads like you were given a question or prompt, but decided, hey instead of answering your question, I'm going to tell you why I won't, but providing my own question/prompt. The beginning sentence felt slightly cliche, and the first paragraph reads in a dry clinical tone that makes it hard to connect with you.

ETA: Your personal statement gives off this pretentious feel. Whether it's intentional or accidental, it's very off-putting. While the PS is used to distinguish yourself from your applicant peers, it sounds like you believe yourself to be the sole person with this particular insight into how admissions and decisions into law school work.

ETA2: You need to cut out that business and tech paragraph. It does nothing and, up until the last sentence, I kept asking myself, why does this kid want to go to law school, when he seems to have another passion? Those thoughts about intellectual property can be reduced and summarized into something that helps your point. Also, the word "zest" feels really out of place in this particular statement. It awkwardly stands out.


First, thanks to both you and Ave for providing quick responses. I see the point on the intro and will work to restructure it. Regarding your first ETA, I don't know what you're referring to because I never mentioned having any insight into how admissions/decisions work.

Your second ETA make sense. I used the word "zest" before consulting a thesaurus.

Thanks for the feedback.

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JaviSTB
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Re: Personal Statement Critiques/Opinions

Postby JaviSTB » Sun May 12, 2013 12:34 am

Ah, yeah I should rephrase that. What I meant by that was that your intro paragraph reads sort of like the TLS mantra of, hey, I went on TLS, and Law school transparency, and ATL, and I know the game that is law school. I know the likelihood of my success, I did my research unlike the other applicants applying to law school who probably just look at the law school rankings. While its great to bring that air of knowledge to your statement, this sort of blunt approach makes it seem like you're some genius while everyone else is an ignorant fool (which is why it brings this sort of pretentious feel to it).

I'll keep reading your statement to see how else I can help.

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Re: Personal Statement Critiques/Opinions

Postby Anonymous User » Sun May 12, 2013 12:50 am

JaviSTB12 wrote:Ah, yeah I should rephrase that. What I meant by that was that your intro paragraph reads sort of like the TLS mantra of, hey, I went on TLS, and Law school transparency, and ATL, and I know the game that is law school. I know the likelihood of my success, I did my research unlike the other applicants applying to law school who probably just look at the law school rankings. While its great to bring that air of knowledge to your statement, this sort of blunt approach makes it seem like you're some genius while everyone else is an ignorant fool (which is why it brings this sort of pretentious feel to it).

I'll keep reading your statement to see how else I can help.


Your help is much appreciated! If you could quote some specific sections that give off that vibe, that would be great. I am also working on a second version that is more personal (and less pretentious! :wink: ) and will post when finished. Thanks again!

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JaviSTB
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Re: Personal Statement Critiques/Opinions

Postby JaviSTB » Sun May 12, 2013 1:11 am

Anonymous User wrote:
The question “Why do you want to become a lawyer?” is one that’s understandably posed to any prospective law student. However, I find myself to be an unyielding dissident regarding whether this should be the focus question for applicants to address in their personal statements. It may be somewhat uncustomary to change the question to which I am responding, but I believe that the question “Are you sure you want to become a lawyer and, if so, how are you so sure?” is more applicable to law school applicants today.


Lets take your first few sentences. It opens up with a very cliche philosophical question, and the way you go around answering it by saying that in your opinion, even if it isn't traditional to do, the question should be different. You bring this self awareness of ignoring the traditional question and the fact that your act isn't customary or warranted, and yet you pursue that path anyway. Then, this happens:

Furthermore, law school is often well known for attracting people that are more interested in the “glamour” they see in a fictional television series, the “big bucks” that many seem to infer is a sure thing with a law degree, and those that really have no other ideas on what to do in life. These are all absurd reasons to choose law as a profession and I feel that all law school candidates should provide substantial rationale for their decision to apply.

We all know that there are people that apply to law school because of watching too much Land and Order, however, you pointing that out only shows you mocking them. In bringing yourself up you shouldn't really be bringing other applicants down. It makes it seem like you're this special snowflake that has never fallen for the glitzy, idealized role of a lawyer. You should never talk about other applicants, or other people like you know their reasons for attending law school. It's great to allude to people not thinking law school out enough and then dropping out (and you being different from that), but directly stating their reasons rubs the wrong way.

Finally, you end the first paragraph with this:

By requiring such substance, I believe that law schools will have testimonials that are more suitable for analyzing one’s desire to attend and, henceforth, decrease the number of students who are pursuing law for the wrong reasons.

Don't tell admissions how they should be looking at or qualifying their applicants. They know what they want in their incoming class. They get their job done and bring in the students. Your PS is no place where you should be telling them these awesome new methods of garnering better applicants. After all, you're just an applicant yourself.

Hope this helps and sorry if it sounds like I'm bring belligerent. I'm not. I promise.

Anonymous User
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Re: Personal Statement Critiques/Opinions

Postby Anonymous User » Sun May 12, 2013 1:26 am

JaviSTB12 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Hope this helps and sorry if it sounds like I'm bring belligerent. I'm not. I promise.


Most appreciated! My job has led to my writing style becoming rather "matter of fact" and I understand how it can come off as "elitist", so to speak. I think I will scrap this version and post the new statement when finished (I'll update this thread with a link to the new post).

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rinkrat19
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Re: Personal Statement Critiques/Opinions

Postby rinkrat19 » Sun May 12, 2013 3:43 am

Man, I'm sorry, but this hits pretty much every single one of my personal statement pet peeves except for bad spelling.

Too long for pretty much any school except Berkeley. (Word/page limits are srs bzns.)

Hideously pretentious, as others have said. And yet somehow not actually formal. I wanted to set the exclamation points on fire. Why not use smileys while you were at it? Also, contractions are usually a bad idea.

It starts off badly when you take 300 words to tell them what you aren't going to write about and say absolutely nothing interesting or helpful whatsoever, except to helpfully make yourself sound like a gigantic douche.

Then there's a bit of resume vomit. I worked here, then here, then here, and I have these awesome qualities. The former tells them nothing they can't get off your resume, and the latter is telling, not showing. Tell a story in which you illustrate your awesome qualities by accomplishing/overcoming/persevering/being awesome. Don't just tell them you possess awesome qualities X, Y, and Z. They have no reason to believe you.

The paragraph about Google and Apple is weird. I didn't really know where you were going (you want to do IP law? I think?) until the last sentence. Up until then, it was just an odd detour talking about how there are large tech companies that make money. Um, duh?

Then you spend waaaay too much time on why-that-school/why-that-city. Most of it comes straight off the school website, and nearly all of it is better-suited for a LOCI later if you're waitlisted. Space in a personal statement is precious opportunity to introduce yourself to the adcomms, not to regurgitate the brochure.

Then you conclude with a whole bunch more telling of how awesome you are with absolutely nothing to back it up.

It's pretty bad. Start over. Pick one story (say, a project at work or an encounter with a certain person) and a theme and use them to tell the adcomms about who you are as a PERSON and to illustrate your awesome qualities.

ETA: Having trouble understanding the telling/showing distinction?

Telling: I am an awesome driver.
Showing: I built my first stock car in my parents' garage when I was 11, won the pole at Daytona when I was 14, and have kissed the bricks at Indy three times in the last decade. Richard Petty asked me for my autograph once, and Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and I trade tips on how to handle a loose car over margaritas in Cabo every Christmas.

Showing is more interesting and more convincing. (Or it would be convincing if I weren't obviously making shit up about hanging out with NASCAR drivers. But you get my point.)
Last edited by rinkrat19 on Sun May 12, 2013 4:09 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Clearly
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Re: Personal Statement Critiques/Opinions

Postby Clearly » Sun May 12, 2013 3:54 am

I'm inclined to agree with Rink...I'd scrap the whole thing, find a new topic, and start over. I don't see much salvageable stuff here.

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Re: Personal Statement Critiques/Opinions

Postby Anonymous User » Sun May 12, 2013 12:52 pm

New statement here:

viewtopic.php?f=18&t=209483




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