I am 26, German-American(white), and male from a Texas town of 1,500 people. My resume is void of experience in law of any capacity. Instead, it is dotted with everything from waiter and cook at a hole in the wall restaurant to ranch hand(hauling hay and building fence) for a Czech-born land owner to butchering hogs, cattle, buffalo, deer, and ostrich for the meat market my family owns. Of course, that all happened before or during my time in college.
I earned my undergrad degree in Architecture at Texas A&M in 2007 with an overall 3.101 GPA. I have worked at the same architecture firm since graduation, staying employed through the recession.
Late in the summer of 2011, I decided (completely out of the blue) to go to law school. I had little idea what prerequisites I might need, what was required to be accepted, or where to apply. I researched for a week or so, signed up with LSAC, payed to take the LSAT in October, and ordered three books with past tests. While my GPA is rather poor, I had historically been successful with standardized/aptitude tests. As such, these three books with past LSATs were all the study materials I felt were necessary. I planned on taking the test once, confident that the consistent scoring of 165-172 on the previous LSAT tests with time constraints would mirror my score on the actual administration on October 1st.
October 2011 LSAT: 159 (79th percentile)
Disappointing to say the least. I didn't even get to the last five questions on any of the five sections. An automatic 20 questions missed, save for a few that my random guessing helped rectify. I signed up for the December test the day after I took the October test, knowing I had done poorly. I still maintained I could do the studying on my own, and that I did not need to take a course on how to do well on the LSAT. Getting questions correct wasn't my issue...time was my issue. A course would likely have helped with this, but I forged ahead to the December test. This test went considerably better until the last section. For that singular section, distractions were everywhere, from people talking just outside the window, to proctors audibly discussing everything from career to love life. This last section, reading comprehension, I fell apart on, missing 13 of the 27 questions. That is HALF of all the questions I missed across the whole test being missed in just one section.
December LSAT: 161 (85th percentile)
Oh well, no time to take a third administration...161 would have to do.
I had applied to nine schools on October 31st 2011. They were sent this new score on January 6th.
Later, about January 15th, I applied to a tenth school to accommodate a family friend's urging. By that time, I had already heard from two schools, Arkansas and Tulsa.
Below are the ten schools and each school's response. To supplement the above, I had glowing recommendation letters, two from professors, one from my current employer(owner of the construction portion of the firm and a practicing attorney who went to South Texas College of Law).
Arkansas at Fayetteville: Accepted
on December 14th, which means they accepted the Oct. LSAT of 159.
$4,000/semester for 1L, $2,000/semester for 2L and 3L. (((UPDATED
to $5,000/semester for 1L after they got the Dec. LSAT of 161.))) Withdrew.
University of Tulsa: Accepted
on January 10th.
$8,500/semester for all six semesters. (((UPDATED
to $10,500/semester after the 161 LSAT.))) Seat deposit sent.
University of Houston: Waitlisted
on January 27th. Still waitlisted as of April 25th.
Oklahoma at Norman: Accepted
on February 1st.
Partial-tuition waiver equaling $3,750/semester for all six semesters. Merit and need-based scholarships to be awarded after start of session. Seat deposit sent.
St. Mary's University: Accepted
on February 1st. $5,000/semester for all six semesters. Withdrew.
Alabama at Tuscaloosa: Waitlisted
in late February. Still waitlisted as of April 25th.
Baylor University: Accepted for Spring 2013.
South Texas: Accepted.
Scholarship awarded only two days before seat deposit due. Little communication from school. Bit disappointed, as I was hoping they would be my cheap-alternative school...seemed unorganized and uncommitted to courting me until very near their deadline. Scholarship was $9,000/semester. Withdrew.
Colorado at Boulder: Rejected
on February 1st.
Texas at Austin: Rejected
on February 3rd.
Here is the Personal Statement sent to the ten schools.Until the age of six, home was a rented two-story farmhouse in a perpetual state of repair. Sitting on the outskirts of Myra, a rural Texas town with seventy residents, the house, barns, and other outbuildings were a playground for my siblings and I to explore, learn, and grow. The setting was by choice rather than circumstance, a product of the frugality inherent in our German heritage. While we were a middle-class family, we indulged in rather few of the traditional middle-class trappings.
I vividly recall the weekday routine of my father returning home after ten hours of work at his office. He would change into paint splattered and torn jeans and long sleeve shirt, eat a quick dinner with our family, and then proceed to work well past sundown on the seemingly endless maintenance of a house he had no intention of ever owning. His weekends were rarely his own, occupied by self-imposed obligations to a community revitalization project he had helped to create in a town we did not yet reside. Watching him work tirelessly to improve another man’s personal property and another community’s assets had two significant influences on my development. First, while many harden at the concept of labor without profit, I quickly learned that in some instances, hard work is the profit. The second result was a burgeoning interest in community service through construction and design.
In 1992, our family relocated six miles northwest to Muenster, Texas, a town of thirteen hundred people and the beneficiary of my father’s weekend labors. Given the modest size, an individual had the ability to dramatically influence both the physical and spiritual identity of the community. With my father as a role model, much of my school-age years were spent engaging projects throughout our new hometown. I reveled in the process of crafting an idea, solving the ensuing puzzles, and creating the product. The path to Eagle Scout and involvement with beautification organizations provided ample availability to exercise my interests and instilled elements of teamwork and leadership, trust, strategy, resourcefulness and critical thinking. While these invaluable traits are the pillars of success in any career field, I was certain that architecture would employ their utility most efficiently.
In my third year of architectural study at Texas A&M University, I left the country for the fall semester study abroad program in Barcelona, Spain. At twenty years of age, the departure marked my first time in a plane and my first time outside of the United States. With traditional small town values and curiosity intact, I reserved the two weeks prior to commencement of the school session for a solo trip to explore Spain before settling into the apartment that would be my home for the next four months. The account of those first days in Spain form a compelling narrative with far too many nuances to detail here, but perhaps most noteworthy, the expected culture shock from such a dramatic insertion into a new culture did not manifest itself. A seemingly sheltered childhood in rural Texas had equipped me with the resourcefulness and perseverance to navigate the obstacles encountered.
I returned to the United States in early January, just three days shy of a full five months outside the country. With twenty or more flights to nine different countries, miles of train track, and hostel stays behind me, I was now a seasoned traveler. However, regardless of this new status, the starkness of living in one of Europe’s largest cities for such duration had forcefully alerted me to the reality that my entire being was defined by my rural origin. I wanted to return to serve my community, but the rural setting could not sustain an architectural career.
After earning my Bachelor of Environmental Design, I flirted with notions of engaging a second undergraduate degree, though nothing provided the passion and substance capable of replacing my interest in architecture. Less than a year later, working in a Dallas architecture office, I had an enlightening conversation with one of my employers. He was co-owner of the design-build firm, president of the construction portion of the business, and an attorney. Over a series of engaging discussions, I became convinced that my architectural education would uniquely complement a legal career with specific interest in construction and environmental law. While I would be marketable at architecture, construction, and real estate development firms in the city, the legal credentials would allow me to eventually return to Cooke County in service to the communities that had been influential in shaping my future.
The experiences gained during my college coursework and years of employment in the construction and design industry will prove a significant resource in the progression of my legal career. Along with the character, moral values, and skills to be successful in law school gathered through my various trials and triumphs, an education at St. Mary’s University School of Law will guarantee a prosperous career in service to my community. Through my non-traditional background and unique experiences, I am confident that my enrollment at your law school will add diversity to the dialogue and learning experience for both students and staff.20/20, hindsight, and what-ifs:First
, pay for a study course for the LSAT if you have issues with time on tests....if you do well because of the course, scholarship money will pay for the course many times over. If you don't do well in spite of the course but still get in to a school, you wasted only a small chunk of change compared to what is going to be an expensive three years at law school. Most who are reading this can not change their GPA at this point, so the LSAT is all you have to re-define yourselves.Second
, pre-law courses may help make you appealing, but from one pre-law student to the next, nothing distinguishes the individual. At this point, I am going to throw out some conjecture, but it is my opinion that admitting committees at these schools see thousands of degrees in marketing, business, management, political science, psychology, etc... perhaps a change of pace is enough to catch their eye. Third
, law school is not cheap. After watching my savings account increase from $0 to $50,000+ over the last four and half years, it is very difficult to know that I am about to stop making money for three whole years....and on top of that, I am going to be spending everything I have saved...Fourth
, there are ways of saving to go back to school, even if your pay for the last four years has been VERY low because of a recession(even cut 20% for two of those years so that we would not have to be layed off.)
For instance, since July 19th 2011, I have been 'homeless'. I saw how much law school would cost when I first started researching. My lease on my apartment was ending, so I took the plunge and moved into my office. I sleep under my desk and shower at the YMCA.Fifth
, being 'homeless' is not fun.