Personal Statement?

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Personal Statement?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 11, 2013 4:51 pm

Have you all been sending a personal statement to judges along with your writing sample/resume/etc? My school (UT) was telling everyone to include a one page personal statement, but I'm curious as to whether that's a common practice or not...

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Personal Statement?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Apr 11, 2013 4:55 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Have you all been sending a personal statement to judges along with your writing sample/resume/etc? My school (UT) was telling everyone to include a one page personal statement, but I'm curious as to whether that's a common practice or not...

Um, really? I have never heard of that. Ever. (I mean, it's a good school, so I don't want to say that's crazy, but...) To the extent you want to include the stuff you'd put in a personal statement, it could just go in the cover letter (although I'm a pretty big proponent of the short and sweet cover letter). Is that a thing at a lot of schools, and mine's just missing out?

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Re: Personal Statement?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 11, 2013 4:59 pm

Hmm...interesting. I wonder why they tell us to do that...

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Re: Personal Statement?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 11, 2013 5:07 pm

My school, a T-14, was pushing for something similar until they realized how stupid it is.

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Re: Personal Statement?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 11, 2013 5:09 pm

Ignore your school's advice. Personal statements are appropriate only if the judge explicitly requests one (and when I was applying, I think I only saw maybe a handful out of hundreds ask for a personal statement). Keep in mind that judges (or really, their clerks) have to sift through hundreds of applications before extending interviews. The relatively few applications to be pulled from the pile will usually stand out based on grades, school, or connections (i.e. professor calls). Trust me, no clerk will take the time to read a personal statement during the initial screening phase, and once you've gotten past that stage, it really comes down to the interview. To the extent a written submission will make any difference, that's what the writing sample is for (and many judges don't even read the writing sample).

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bruinfan10
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Re: Personal Statement?

Postby bruinfan10 » Thu Apr 11, 2013 9:15 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Have you all been sending a personal statement to judges along with your writing sample/resume/etc? My school (UT) was telling everyone to include a one page personal statement, but I'm curious as to whether that's a common practice or not...

Um, really? I have never heard of that. Ever. (I mean, it's a good school, so I don't want to say that's crazy, but...) To the extent you want to include the stuff you'd put in a personal statement, it could just go in the cover letter (although I'm a pretty big proponent of the short and sweet cover letter). Is that a thing at a lot of schools, and mine's just missing out?

A. Nony Mouse's restraint is admirable here; just remember that getting advice from former clerks from the particular chambers in question > speaking with former clerks in general > general internet research > common sense > anything your career services office has to say. I spoke with 50+ former clerks from circuits across the country during my search, and not one of them recommended a personal statement. I've also combed through the OSCAR postings of just about every circuit judge with an opening and I don't remember ever seeing a request for a personal statement. Any particularly salient information should be listed in your cover letter (although I've had a number of highly successful former clerks tell me the "Harvard style" minimalist cover letter is a much better choice. It can vary judge to judge and circuit to circuit - the 10th for example has a reputation for appreciating more detailed cover letters).

I come from a perfectly respectable T-14, but even I didn't fully rely on their advice and clerkship manuals - I read the clerkship guides published by Yale in particular to confirm they weren't telling me to do anything crazy...like including a personal statement in my applications. Maybe you don't have as much time as I did, but for heaven's sake, don't take your career services office's advice as gospel. It's often horrible.

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Re: Personal Statement?

Postby lolwat » Fri Apr 12, 2013 8:45 am

Personal statements = no.

I agree with bruinfan. Also, I'd write detailed, targeted cover letters to a very few select judges--especially if you know that they prefer those. (You won't have the time to write a detailed letter for all of them, anyway.) Otherwise, stick with a generic cover letter. I'm not sure I went as minimalistic as the Harvard one but it was still pretty simple.

I'd probably have auto-dinged someone that sent in a personal statement, honestly. I mean, sure, if your credentials aren't stellar enough to get you out of the pile of resumes that the judge has (or, gets you in the "reject" pile), it might not hurt to do something slightly out of the ordinary in the off chance that the clerks/judge sees it and finds it interesting, but that doesn't really sound like the case here.

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Re: Personal Statement?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Apr 12, 2013 11:34 am

bruinfan10 wrote: getting advice from former clerks from the particular chambers in question > speaking with former clerks in general > general internet research > common sense > anything your career services office has to say


This is the best advice on the forum.

I'm 90% sure that I got my COA clerkship because I spoke to a current clerk in chambers and a former clerk of that particular judge and they told me exactly how to position my application to get that particular judge's attention.

Also, in my clerkship search nobody ever told me to include a personal statement. Detailed cover letters? Yes, for a minority of judges. But personal statements? No way.

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Re: Personal Statement?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Apr 12, 2013 2:02 pm

Wow, I didn't realize UT was such an anomaly w/ this. Seems like our clerkship advisors are really missing the mark (in more ways than one). Can't say I'm surprised

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Re: Personal Statement?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Apr 16, 2013 12:18 am

I'd like to offer a brief defense of the personal statement. Unconventional as including a personal statement may be, UT manages to place students in clerkships fairly well using this approach. I think my own application benefitted from including a personal statement and helped me get a very good clerkship.

A personal statement is an opportunity to present more information and make yourself more interesting for the judge. A good personal statement can give a name and face to a resume, transcript, and writing sample. It can bring an applicant to life beyond the credentials, which can help distinguish the applicant from the pack. A personal statement can't overcome sub-par credentials, but if done well, the statement may help the judge remember your application and pique the judge's interest in you.

Of course, it is difficult to pull off a personal statement that does not sound self-indulgent, self-pitying, or worse. A bad personal statement will probably destroy an application, so the personal statement is not an opportunity without risk. But it's not total lunacy to think of including one if you have something to say.

EDIT: I should note also that UT received feedback from several federal judges indicating that they appreciated personal statements in applications.

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Re: Personal Statement?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Apr 16, 2013 9:18 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Wow, I didn't realize UT was such an anomaly w/ this. Seems like our clerkship advisors are really missing the mark (in more ways than one). Can't say I'm surprised


They may be, but you also need to put this in context. If you are at UT applying to LA judges, yes, they may think the personal statement is weird. If you are at UT applying to some Texas judges who hire from UT almost EVERY YEAR (yes, there are a bunch of these), they will likely expect the personal statement. When your application doesn't have one and the other 10 people from UT do, you may be left behind. Just something to think about.

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Re: Personal Statement?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Apr 16, 2013 9:36 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Wow, I didn't realize UT was such an anomaly w/ this. Seems like our clerkship advisors are really missing the mark (in more ways than one). Can't say I'm surprised


They may be, but you also need to put this in context. If you are at UT applying to LA judges, yes, they may think the personal statement is weird. If you are at UT applying to some Texas judges who hire from UT almost EVERY YEAR (yes, there are a bunch of these), they will likely expect the personal statement. When your application doesn't have one and the other 10 people from UT do, you may be left behind. Just something to think about.


OP Here.

Thanks, I actually did consider this and came to the same conclusion. I have/am including a PS to judges that are in Texas and hire UT grads often. I'm also applying to lots of D.C. judges in other parts of the country, though, and I'm not going to include a personal statement with those apps. I think this is a smart approach. I also toned down my personal statement to "play it safe"

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Re: Personal Statement?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Apr 16, 2013 11:02 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'd like to offer a brief defense of the personal statement. Unconventional as including a personal statement may be, UT manages to place students in clerkships fairly well using this approach. I think my own application benefitted from including a personal statement and helped me get a very good clerkship.

A personal statement is an opportunity to present more information and make yourself more interesting for the judge. A good personal statement can give a name and face to a resume, transcript, and writing sample. It can bring an applicant to life beyond the credentials, which can help distinguish the applicant from the pack. A personal statement can't overcome sub-par credentials, but if done well, the statement may help the judge remember your application and pique the judge's interest in you.

Of course, it is difficult to pull off a personal statement that does not sound self-indulgent, self-pitying, or worse. A bad personal statement will probably destroy an application, so the personal statement is not an opportunity without risk. But it's not total lunacy to think of including one if you have something to say.

EDIT: I should note also that UT received feedback from several federal judges indicating that they appreciated personal statements in applications.



UT person here. I agree with this. While I recently got a clerkship without using a personal statement (spoke with former clerk and he told me not to), I can think of someone off the top of my head that got his/her clerkship because of his/her personal statement. Judge pretty much told him/her that.


Edit: wanted to respond to something that was said above about the UT advisors. In only a few months, the new advisors have gotten more students onto the 5th circuit than Kadens did over the course of the entire hiring cycle last year. And overall, we have the exact same number of circuit clerks right now as we did for the entire year last year, so it's likely we'll improve not just in the 5th, but for circuit clerkships generally.




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