Dispute w/ Recommender, also 3rd draft

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patfeeney
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Dispute w/ Recommender, also 3rd draft

Postby patfeeney » Fri Nov 08, 2013 3:32 pm

The main point of this post is for some advice regarding a conversation I had with one of my letter-writers, mainly because her advice went so against what I've heard/read from others.

As some background, she is a politics professor who taught me for two political science classes, one of them a constitutional law class. If I remember correctly, she received her J.D. from a school in Washington state in the early 90s, although she graduated from undergrad some time before that. She seems to be a major resource for legal studies students planning to go to law school directly from undergrad.

I gave her a draft of my essay and she gave me the following advice for the final draft:
- I should have my first paragraph summarize my interest in law school and why my experiences fit into a legal education.
- If I explicitly talk about a certain school at some point (for individualized letters), I should mention them early on because they'll pay attention during the first few paragraphs, but not nearer the end.
- I should explicitly mentioned any legal studies courses I have taken and discuss my success/grades in them, to show them I can do well in an actual law class.

I feel this advice runs absolutely contrary to everything I've read about the personal statement that it makes me wonder whether my current draft, which she says is "better", is even any good. The real problem is that she's also writing one of my letters, and I'm not sure whether she'd expect a "fixed" version of the draft before writing said letter.

How do you guys suggest I approach this?

My personal statement is below, if that will help judgement on the matter. Also, if you have any comments on it, please let me know.


There was a sudden rush to the press podium as the doors to the U.N. Security chambers opened. The tight pack of journalists had waited three hours as delegates negotiated on the Syria crisis. I stood among them, juggling emails on my phone, newspapers, and notes on the Council delegation when the first officials arrived. Out walked two U.N. Secretary Generals, Ban Ki-Moon and Kofi Annan, in a rare Security Council meeting, coming to address the press. I never thought my journalism would bring me to a press conference with world officials. I’d never guess that this experience would draw me to law school.
Nine months earlier, I started writing for the xxx, my school’s weekly paper. As many of my classmates took sports or fashion beats, I intended to conquer my interviewing nerves and develop a topical specialization. As a politics major, I hoped to incorporate some of the idea from the classroom into my reportage and learn more about local government. A few weeks and a front-page feature later, I took up the city beat, which mixed hard news and city politics.
The beat required keeping constantly updated with breaking news and working on several stories at a time. I found that my favorite pieces were analyses of budgets or law enforcement crackdowns. I would boil down thick packets of fiscal policy or police statistics into a palpable 600-word summary and interview the people who were affected by the changes, for better or worse. However, the minimal page space and turnaround time for these stories ensured my disconnect from the subjects. I loved the political analysis, but I couldn’t dig below the surface.
After two semesters at the xxx, I entered an internship with yyy’s New York bureau, working the international beat with U.N. correspondent zzz. Within my first week we dove immediately into Egyptian elections and Syria negotiations. Spending an entire day outside the Security Council, waiting for elusive quotes, became one weekly ritual in a ferocious schedule. On a typical Monday, I could be discussing election politics with Egyptian expatriates in Astoria, and by Friday, zzz and I would be sitting in on a sex offender class, trying to get an interview with a former prostitute.
These stories were a grander challenge than what I faced at school. They were constantly developing and deeping, and I needed to keep abreast with and fervently research every possible angle before entering the field. I learned the names and faces of all the major Security Council delegates, the factions and separate interests in Syria, New York Limousine and Taxi auction procedures, horse-betting stats, and more, as each story required. Despite this deeper involvement, however, the disconnect was still palpable. Although I would become a semi-expert in an issue, my engagement would still be limited by a looming deadline.
While I spent my summer at yyy covering political and social issues, I met several network correspondents, such as legal analyst aaa. Learning about his work helped me realize for the first time that my favorite stories were based in policy or law. I decided to research the law as a specialty for my writing and started to read works of legal journalism and history. As I read these works, such as Edward Larson’s Summer for the Gods or aaa, my attention drew away from the writing and to law as a career in itself. I had become so concerned with reporting on legal issues and analyzing them for a consumer audience that I never considered the possibility of working with the legal issues themselves.
As it stands, besides a general interest in the legal profession, I aim to enter the fields of either intellectual property or constitutional law. My consistent work in journalism has given me valuable insight of the state of mass media in the world today, at a time when technology makes copyrights and remuneration harder than ever. My heavily research-oriented journalism and wide experience give me a base point for a legal education.

[Past here, I would talk about specific schools. An example follows.]

Columbia Law, located in a city filled with corporate and independent media, would place me in an international seat of communications. A Columbia education would give me unprecedented connection to the world while keeping me close to classmates from my undergraduate college, aspiring media workers whose connections would be invaluable personally and professional. Logically and emotionally, a legal education is the best next step in my professional life.



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malleus discentium
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Re: Dispute w/ Recommender, also 3rd draft

Postby malleus discentium » Sat Nov 09, 2013 6:16 am

Some textual notes:
There was a sudden rush to the press podium as the doors to the U.N. Security chambers opened. Where exactly is this? Do you mean the Security Council Chamber? (note caps) The tight pack of journalists had waited three hours as while delegates negotiated on the Syria crisis. Should this be Syrian? Also I would call it the Syrian civil war rather than crisis I stood among them, juggling emails on my phone, The emails are nonphysical objects in a list of physical objects here, which is strange newspapers, and notes on the council delegation when the first officials arrived. Out walked two U.N. Secretary Generals Secretaries-General, Ban Ki-Moon and Kofi Annan, in from a rare Security Council meeting, Meetings of the SC are rare? Since when? coming to address the press. I never thought my journalism would bring me to a press conference with world officials. I’d never guess that this experience would draw me to law school. These two sentences, particularly the latter, sound artificial and over-rhetorical.

Nine months earlier, I started writing for the xxx, my school’s weekly paper. As many of my classmates took sports or fashion beats, I intended to conquer my interviewing nerves and develop a topical specialization. Sports and fashion beats are also topical specializations. Give a different reason As a politics major, Politics, rather than political science? I hoped to incorporate some of the idea from the classroom What does "the idea from the classroom" even mean? into my reportage This is a gross word. What's wrong with "reporting"? and learn more about local government. A few weeks and a front-page feature later, I took up the city beat, which mixed hard news and city politics. City politics is hard news. Politics is probably the prototypical hard news, actually.

The beat required keeping being constantly Wasn't this a weekly? updated with about breaking news and working on several stories at a time. I found that my favorite pieces were analyses of budgets or law-enforcement crackdowns. I would boiled down thick packets of fiscal policy or police statistics into a palpable I think you mean "palatable" 600-word summary and interviewed the people who were affected by the changes, for better or worse. However, the minimal page space and turnaround time for these stories ensured my disconnect from the subjects. Did it? I'm not sure why that would necessarily be true. Particularly because you could have developed feature-length stories or a series, and, again, this is a weekly. Based on what you say below, I suspect it was just that you were so busy. I might make this a bit clearer, but keeping in mind that you don't want to come across like you couldn't handle the workload I loved the political analysis, but I couldn’t dig below the surface.

After two semesters at the xxx, I entered an internship interned with yyy’s New York bureau, working the international beat with U.N. correspondent zzz. Within my first week we dove immediately into Egyptian elections and Syrian? negotiations. Spending an entire day outside the Security Council Chamber, waiting for elusive quotes, Were quotes really elusive? I suspect they would be very happy to talk to the media became one weekly ritual in a ferocious schedule. On a typical Monday, I could be discussing election politics with Egyptian expatriates in Astoria, I assume you mean the neighborhood in Queens rather than the hotel, which is properly the Waldorf Astoria and by Friday, zzz and I would be sitting in on a sex-offender class, trying to get an interview with a former prostitute.

These stories were a grander challenge than what I faced at school. They were constantly developing and deeping, Deepening? and I needed to keep abreast with of and fervently research every possible angle before entering the field. I learned the names and faces of all the major Security Council delegates, the factions and separate interests in Syria, New York Limousine and Taxi auction procedures, horse-betting stats, and more, as each story required. Despite this deeper involvement, however, the disconnect was still palpable. You really like this word, don't you? It's correct here, though I'm not sure I like it Although I would become a semi-expert on an issue, my engagement would still be limited by a looming deadline.

While I spent my summer at yyy covering political and social issues, I met several network correspondents, such as legal analyst aaa. Learning about his work helped me realize for the first time that my favorite stories were based in covered policy or law. I decided to research the law as a specialty for my writing and started to read works of legal journalism and history. As I read these works, such as Edward Larson’s Summer for the Gods or aaa, my attention drew was drawn away from the writing and to law as a career in itself. I had become so concerned with reporting on legal issues and analyzing them for a consumer audience that I never considered the possibility of working with the legal issues themselves.

As it stands, besides a general interest in the legal profession, I aim to enter the fields of either intellectual property or constitutional law. Neither the preceding nor following exposition explains why you are interested in either of these focuses. Also, "As it stands, besides a general interest in the legal profession" adds nothing to this sentence and borders on meaningless My consistent work in journalism has given me valuable insight of into the state of mass media in the world today, at a time when technology makes copyrights and remuneration Weirdly pompous word and I'm not sure what you're even trying to say harder than ever. My heavily research-oriented journalism and wide experience give me a base point "Base point" is not a phrase for a legal education. Is the point you're trying to make that your experience in journalism prepares you for journalism-y law or just law in general? It's not clear how either of these is a logical extension of your experience.

Columbia Law School, located in a city filled with corporate and independent media, would place me in an international seat of communications. A Columbia education would give me unprecedented connection to the world while keeping me close to classmates from my undergraduate college, aspiring media workers whose connections would be invaluable personally and professional. Logically and emotionally, a legal education is the best next step in my professional life.

Some content thoughts:
*4 out of 5 experts agree that a Why X graf is not that helpful in a PS. I think you might get away with Columbia and NYU, simply because you make a reasonable case why NYC is where you want to be. No other school warrants a section in your PS, however, and I'm not totally convinced CN do.
*You have a lot of names here. I think personal statements in general can stand a few hyperspecific details like this, but I wonder if there are too many here. Unless the names are impressive, and perhaps even if they are, I'd leave some of them out. Especially the "legal works" part.
*You make it a point to mention twice that you felt you couldn't ever "dig into" something when writing a story on it. This is contradicted explicitly by the fact that you became a mini-expert on the stuff you reported on. Furthermore, mentioning it the way you do structurally sets it up for a resolution that never comes. Perhaps you were trying to say that your dissatisfaction with shallow stories led to your research into legal stories which in turn led to a desire to practice law? If so it's not clear enough and would run the risk of seeming contrived.

As for your question, I agree with you that she is wrong on all counts. If you're worried she won't like it if you don't take her advice, the first response to that is asking whether she's the best person to write you a letter because that would make her pretty high-strung and likely the kind of person to write a LOR mostly about herself (which apparently happens and is bad). But if you still want her to write your LOR, just go ahead and write the PS that she wants but submit your own. It will cost you like an afternoon. It's not the most honest thing to do, but sacrificing your PS on the altar of an LOR is a bad life plan.

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patfeeney
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Re: Dispute w/ Recommender, also 3rd draft

Postby patfeeney » Sat Nov 09, 2013 10:08 am

So, not to be rude, but I need to get something clarified.

Everyone I talk to says that I can't focus on doing a "why law school" statement
Yet, at the same time, everyone I talk to says that my statements aren't really "personal statements' - precisely because I don't bring the law school aspect to it.

So what is it? Should I? Should I not? Or do I need to find some middle ground? Should I completely start from scratch? I'm never going to get this thing sent out if I can't figure that out, and I've been working on this thing for well over a month.

I value your comments otherwise, but the whole contextual aspect has become utter cacophony.

MrBlueSky!
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Re: Dispute w/ Recommender, also 3rd draft

Postby MrBlueSky! » Sat Nov 09, 2013 1:40 pm

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Last edited by MrBlueSky! on Tue Apr 15, 2014 2:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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patfeeney
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Re: Dispute w/ Recommender, also 3rd draft

Postby patfeeney » Sat Nov 09, 2013 2:03 pm

MrBlueSky! wrote:
patfeeney wrote:So, not to be rude, but I need to get something clarified.

Everyone I talk to says that I can't focus on doing a "why law school" statement
Yet, at the same time, everyone I talk to says that my statements aren't really "personal statements' - precisely because I don't bring the law school aspect to it.

So what is it? Should I? Should I not? Or do I need to find some middle ground? Should I completely start from scratch? I'm never going to get this thing sent out if I can't figure that out, and I've been working on this thing for well over a month.

I value your comments otherwise, but the whole contextual aspect has become utter cacophony.



Just to double down on this notion....your advisor really is completely wrong. Almost so wrong, and almost so similar to what I have heard from my undergrad advisor that I have to ask, did you go to school in Oregon?
Your advisor gave you what sounds like a "this is your cover letter for your application." Which is not entirely true.

Your PS however is flowery with language. Speak more straightforwardly, and don't try to force the suspense of it. Your UN related work, starting from a journalism background is impressive, but heed to the corrections made by MD.

IMO, I would write a separate 250-500 word WHY essay elaborating on more than just the NYC location. Dig deep into Col/NYU/ABC Law school's websites and name courses and programs, as they relate to your goals....and leave out the Why XLS paragraph from your PS


Do you have any suggestions to how I end the piece?

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Re: Dispute w/ Recommender, also 3rd draft

Postby thewaves » Sat Nov 09, 2013 2:14 pm

Aside from the advice to list your law-related classes and grades, what your professor said is good advice for statements of purpose. These are different from personal statements, which TLS tends to focus on, and you should read the prompts of law school essays to be sure which one they want. The majority leave the choice up to you.

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Re: Dispute w/ Recommender, also 3rd draft

Postby MrBlueSky! » Sat Nov 09, 2013 2:29 pm

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Last edited by MrBlueSky! on Tue Apr 15, 2014 2:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Dispute w/ Recommender, also 3rd draft

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sat Nov 09, 2013 2:56 pm

thewaves wrote:Aside from the advice to list your law-related classes and grades, what your professor said is good advice for statements of purpose. These are different from personal statements, which TLS tends to focus on, and you should read the prompts of law school essays to be sure which one they want. The majority leave the choice up to you.

I think this is absolutely correct, and that the vast majority of undergrad profs went to Ph.D. programs, where a statement of purpose is required, and operate within this framework, rather than within a law school admissions framework, where a PS is required. But it's true that they're quite different genres. (In fact, looking back, my PS was probably closer to a statement of purpose, because that was what I was more familiar with.)

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malleus discentium
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Re: Dispute w/ Recommender, also 3rd draft

Postby malleus discentium » Sat Nov 09, 2013 4:46 pm

patfeeney wrote:So, not to be rude, but I need to get something clarified.

Everyone I talk to says that I can't focus on doing a "why law school" statement
Yet, at the same time, everyone I talk to says that my statements aren't really "personal statements' - precisely because I don't bring the law school aspect to it.

So what is it? Should I? Should I not? Or do I need to find some middle ground? Should I completely start from scratch? I'm never going to get this thing sent out if I can't figure that out, and I've been working on this thing for well over a month.

I value your comments otherwise, but the whole contextual aspect has become utter cacophony.

I've read Anna Ivey's book and she draws a pretty clear line between what she calls personal essays and professional essays. She says most law schools ask for the former and you should not give them the latter. Why Law is characteristic of a professional essay. She concedes that if you have a compelling argument for why law school makes sense then you can use it, but says most people don't, and it should only be included at all if it's clearly a natural extension of what the rest of the essay is about and doesn't sound contrived. Admittedly, the PS she offers an example of a good way to do this doesn't seem that organic to me, but maybe I'm overcritical. Though I've not heard advice on this specific question from the deans and former deans on this board who offer advice, Anna Ivey is unique among the advice I've read that she actually made these calls at a school I would attend. So I generally put stock in her advice, but maybe not everyone does.

Either way, the sense I got from her book and advice elsewhere is that when law schools are asking you for a personal statement, that's what they're asking for. If Why Law School isn't part of the narrative you want to present about yourself to the adcoms to help them get to know you better, then don't put it in. For my money, it won't be part of my PS.

(To clarify something, when I said a 'Why X' graf I meant 'Why X Law School,' not 'Why Law'; based on your response I think you may have misinterpreted. I base that advice on the following exchange from the Spivey thread:
nothingtosee wrote:
Hi Mike and Karen,
Quick question on personal statements. I'm applying to ten T14 schools; what do you think about including a different small section for each school saying I want to take advantage of this program at Chicago/these are the profs or clinics I am interested in at Penn, etc?


In general, I'd stay away from being specific about a school in a PS -- save it for a "why X" statement if appropriate. There's too much room for error and it takes up valuable space in your PS while generally not adding value (as it might in a why x statement).
You'd be amazed how many statements I read that declared their love for Yale... or Stanford ...or Chicago ...or some other school while working at HLS.

Cheers,
Karen)

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patfeeney
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Re: Dispute w/ Recommender, also 3rd draft

Postby patfeeney » Sun Nov 10, 2013 11:29 am

malleus discentium wrote:
patfeeney wrote:So, not to be rude, but I need to get something clarified.

Everyone I talk to says that I can't focus on doing a "why law school" statement
Yet, at the same time, everyone I talk to says that my statements aren't really "personal statements' - precisely because I don't bring the law school aspect to it.

So what is it? Should I? Should I not? Or do I need to find some middle ground? Should I completely start from scratch? I'm never going to get this thing sent out if I can't figure that out, and I've been working on this thing for well over a month.

I value your comments otherwise, but the whole contextual aspect has become utter cacophony.

I've read Anna Ivey's book and she draws a pretty clear line between what she calls personal essays and professional essays. She says most law schools ask for the former and you should not give them the latter. Why Law is characteristic of a professional essay. She concedes that if you have a compelling argument for why law school makes sense then you can use it, but says most people don't, and it should only be included at all if it's clearly a natural extension of what the rest of the essay is about and doesn't sound contrived. Admittedly, the PS she offers an example of a good way to do this doesn't seem that organic to me, but maybe I'm overcritical. Though I've not heard advice on this specific question from the deans and former deans on this board who offer advice, Anna Ivey is unique among the advice I've read that she actually made these calls at a school I would attend. So I generally put stock in her advice, but maybe not everyone does.

Either way, the sense I got from her book and advice elsewhere is that when law schools are asking you for a personal statement, that's what they're asking for. If Why Law School isn't part of the narrative you want to present about yourself to the adcoms to help them get to know you better, then don't put it in. For my money, it won't be part of my PS.

(To clarify something, when I said a 'Why X' graf I meant 'Why X Law School,' not 'Why Law'; based on your response I think you may have misinterpreted. I base that advice on the following exchange from the Spivey thread:
nothingtosee wrote:
Hi Mike and Karen,
Quick question on personal statements. I'm applying to ten T14 schools; what do you think about including a different small section for each school saying I want to take advantage of this program at Chicago/these are the profs or clinics I am interested in at Penn, etc?


In general, I'd stay away from being specific about a school in a PS -- save it for a "why X" statement if appropriate. There's too much room for error and it takes up valuable space in your PS while generally not adding value (as it might in a why x statement).
You'd be amazed how many statements I read that declared their love for Yale... or Stanford ...or Chicago ...or some other school while working at HLS.

Cheers,
Karen)


So you mean, instead of focusing so much on what I did, I should focus on what I thought was more interesting personally, or what I got out of it the most... Instead of "I did X and Y and Z, now admit me," I should try "I did X, and I found X made me click in a certain way." Instead of arguing why I should go to law school, I should show what I've done and what interests me , but in a way that will let the adcoms see my abilities and potential?

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patfeeney
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Re: Dispute w/ Recommender, also 3rd draft

Postby patfeeney » Mon Nov 11, 2013 6:54 pm

malleus discentium wrote:
patfeeney wrote:So, not to be rude, but I need to get something clarified.

Everyone I talk to says that I can't focus on doing a "why law school" statement
Yet, at the same time, everyone I talk to says that my statements aren't really "personal statements' - precisely because I don't bring the law school aspect to it.

So what is it? Should I? Should I not? Or do I need to find some middle ground? Should I completely start from scratch? I'm never going to get this thing sent out if I can't figure that out, and I've been working on this thing for well over a month.

I value your comments otherwise, but the whole contextual aspect has become utter cacophony.

I've read Anna Ivey's book and she draws a pretty clear line between what she calls personal essays and professional essays. She says most law schools ask for the former and you should not give them the latter. Why Law is characteristic of a professional essay. She concedes that if you have a compelling argument for why law school makes sense then you can use it, but says most people don't, and it should only be included at all if it's clearly a natural extension of what the rest of the essay is about and doesn't sound contrived. Admittedly, the PS she offers an example of a good way to do this doesn't seem that organic to me, but maybe I'm overcritical. Though I've not heard advice on this specific question from the deans and former deans on this board who offer advice, Anna Ivey is unique among the advice I've read that she actually made these calls at a school I would attend. So I generally put stock in her advice, but maybe not everyone does.

Either way, the sense I got from her book and advice elsewhere is that when law schools are asking you for a personal statement, that's what they're asking for. If Why Law School isn't part of the narrative you want to present about yourself to the adcoms to help them get to know you better, then don't put it in. For my money, it won't be part of my PS.

(To clarify something, when I said a 'Why X' graf I meant 'Why X Law School,' not 'Why Law'; based on your response I think you may have misinterpreted. I base that advice on the following exchange from the Spivey thread:
nothingtosee wrote:
Hi Mike and Karen,
Quick question on personal statements. I'm applying to ten T14 schools; what do you think about including a different small section for each school saying I want to take advantage of this program at Chicago/these are the profs or clinics I am interested in at Penn, etc?


In general, I'd stay away from being specific about a school in a PS -- save it for a "why X" statement if appropriate. There's too much room for error and it takes up valuable space in your PS while generally not adding value (as it might in a why x statement).
You'd be amazed how many statements I read that declared their love for Yale... or Stanford ...or Chicago ...or some other school while working at HLS.

Cheers,
Karen)



Thanks again for the help, MD. Another question: do you think there's much of a problem if the essay doesn't have all that much to do with law school at all? I have another draft I'm writing, something completely different, something I'll post down here when done, that says a lot more about me personally but not much about why I'd be a good law school candidate, although I think it says why I want to enter law.

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malleus discentium
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Re: Dispute w/ Recommender, also 3rd draft

Postby malleus discentium » Mon Nov 11, 2013 7:43 pm

patfeeney wrote:Thanks again for the help, MD. Another question: do you think there's much of a problem if the essay doesn't have all that much to do with law school at all? I have another draft I'm writing, something completely different, something I'll post down here when done, that says a lot more about me personally but not much about why I'd be a good law school candidate, although I think it says why I want to enter law.

The advice I've seen from people who know suggests that Why Law School is unnecessary for a good personal statement and should only be included if it's part of a compelling coherent narrative you have to tell about yourself. Like I said, mine, which I am ignoring this very second, will not include any reference to why I want to attend law school and I am okay with that.




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