Lesson One: Law School Essay Question Help
select from the following common law school topics:
The below essays were not edited by EssayEdge Editors. They
appear as they were initially reviewed by admissions officers.
1: Why I Want to Be a Lawyer
secret to doing this theme well is to show why you want
to be a lawyer. Don’t just say it and expect it to stand
on its own. Admissions officers want believable details
from your life that demonstrate your desire and make it
real to them. Says one admissions officer:
you do get tired of reading it, it’s nearly impossible
(and ill-advised!) for an applicant to avoid communicating
at some point that: “I want to be a lawyer.” It’s the
ones who say only that that rankle. The ones who support
the statement with interesting and believable evidence
are the ones who do it best.”
secret to avoiding the here-we-go-again reaction is to keep
an eye on your first line. Starting with “I’ve wanted to
be a lawyer since…” makes admissions officers cringe. Yes,
we know it’s an easy line to fall back on, but these poor
people have read this sentence more times than they can
count, and it gets old fast. Instead, start with a story
that demonstrates your early call to law. Look, for example,
at the first paragraph of this essay:
not fair.” Even as the smallest of children, I remember
making such a proclamation: in kindergarten it was “not
fair” when I had to share my birthday with another little
girl and didn’t get to sit on the “birthday chair.”
When General Mills changed my favorite childhood breakfast
cereal, “Kix,” I, of course, thought this was “not fair.”
Unlike many kids (like my brother) who would probably
have shut up and enjoyed the “great new taste” or switched
to Cheerios, this kid sat her bottom down in a chair
(boosted by the phone book) and typed a letter to the
company expressing her preference for the “classic”
Kix over the “great new taste” Kix.
the story, this writer demonstrates that the roots of her
political activism run deep without having to ever say it.
She doesn’t just tell us and expect us to take her word
for it-she shows us.
approach that is overdone is the “my dad is a lawyer” approach.
Some admissions officers said that when the only reason
an applicant gives for wanting to be a lawyer is that it
is a family legacy, it makes them question not only the
motivation but the maturity of the applicant. While this
doesn’t mean you need to hide the fact that your parent
is a lawyer, it does mean that you should avoid depending
on that as your sole reason for wanting to go to law school.
If a parent truly was your inspiration, then describe exactly
why you were inspired by them, and what you have done to
test your motivation in the real world.
2: Why I Am Qualified
about your experiences in the law field supports both the
Why I Want to Be a Lawyer theme and the Why I Am Qualified
theme, so it is always a good idea to spend time on the
experiences that qualify you as a potential law student.
work experience is always the best, of course, for a number
of reasons. For one, it proves your motivation to the committee.
For another, it shows that you have the potential for being
successful in the field. Perhaps most importantly, it shows
the committee that you understand the profession and know
what you will be getting into upon graduating. One type
of applicant that the committee keeps a wary eye out for
is the kind who wants to go to law school but doesn’t have
any realistic idea of what lawyers do beyond the glamorized
images seen in television and movies.
you do not need to have had an internship at a law firm
to show that you are qualified. Your experience might be
political, such as the convention you volunteered to help
organize or the campaign you helped raise funds for. Or
it can be academic or issues-based, such as the thesis you
wrote on law and the Internet. The rule here is, if you
have it, use it.
have a lot of experience, the bulk of your essay may be
spent on this theme rather than on the Why I Want to Go
to Law School theme. You should try to relate your qualifications
back to your motivation at some point, though, even if it
is only a reference. Often, people will do this in a single,
concluding sentence. This can be a powerful approach as
long as your passion is clearly demonstrated through your
description of your experiences. Look at the essay below
for an example of this. The writer spends all but the last
paragraph of his essay describing his dedication to activism,
first by lobbying to have the Confederate flag removed from
the Boy Scouts, and later by actions taken as student body
president. He doesn’t make a verbal tie-in to his motivation
until the last few sentences of his essay:
sought practical improvements through independent thinking,
perseverance, and tenacity in the face of fierce criticism.
A legal education would give me tools to better use
these abilities. I am not headed to law school on a
mission, but I see law as an opportunity to contribute
as we build our future.
Officers’ Pet Peeve: Making Lists
some candidates the problem will not be that they don’t
have enough direct experience to write about; they have
too much. The danger inherent in wanting to include all
your experience is that space is limited and you can either
end up with an essay that is too long, or one that consists
of little more than a listing of your activities and accomplishments.
Says one officer:
essay should never be merely a prose form of a C.V.
That’s dry to read, and again, doesn’t offer any additional
information about the candidate.”
all right to include all the experience you have had somewhere
in your essay but keep it short and do it in the context
of a story or a personal account using colorful details.
After all, you can attach a resume that will list all your
jobs and promotions. The essay has the much more important
job of bringing these experiences to life.
resist the hard-sell approach. The admissions officers at
top schools read so many essays written by extremely qualified
applicants that writing a self-serving “I did this, I did
that” essay isn’t going to wow them; it will simply make
them yawn. You are much better off with a humble attitude.
Let your experiences speak for themselves and focus on making
your essay personal and interesting instead. Having someone
objective read your essay before you send it in will help
you discern the kind of impression you are making.
Theme 3: Why I Am Exceptional
are different in any sense of the word-if you are an older
applicant, a member of a minority, a foreign applicant,
an athlete or musician, disabled, or have an unusual academic
or career background, use this angle to your advantage by
showing what your unique background will bring to the school
and to the practice of law. One interesting topic for foreign
students, for example, might be to talk about how the education
system differs in this country and why they are choosing
it over a course of study in their own country and/or language.
however, that there are instances where playing the diversity
card will backfire:
you are a “student of diversity” then of course, use
it. But don’t harp on it for its own sake or think that
being different by itself is enough to get you in-that
will only make us feel manipulated and it can show that
you didn’t know how to take advantage of a good opportunity.
people with significant and documentable disabilities
should bring them up in the essay. By that I mean not
the current popular overdiagnosed disability du jour,
which in my day was ADD.
secret is to tie in your diversity strongly with your motivations
or qualifications, or with what you can bring to the class.
If you can’t make a strong tie-in, then you might simply
make a brief mention of your exceptional trait, background,
or talent instead of making it the focus. This can be a
very effective approach because it shows that you have enough
confidence in your qualifications and abilities to let them
stand on their own. It is as though you are simply mentioning
the fact that you are blind or a refugee from a war-torn
land or a violin virtuoso to add shading to your already
strong, colorful portrait.
applicants, however, will have the opposite problem and
will feel uncomfortable stressing their differences. Career
switchers or older applicants, for example, sometimes feel
insecure about incorporating their experience into the essay,
thinking that they will only draw attention to the fact
that the bulk of their experience is in another field. If
this sounds like you, remember that your past experience
gives you a unique perspective and you can use your essay
to turn this into an advantage instead of a liability. Or,
alternately, you could stress the similarities instead of
the differences and make your diverse job experiences relevant
by drawing comparisons between the skills required in your
current field and the ones that will be needed in law school.
Theme 4: Issues-Based Essays
essays come in many different forms. The best kind of issues-based
essays are written by applicants who have a strong passion
for a specific cause and can show why the cause is important
to them and what actions they have taken to further it.
If there is an issue that dominates your thoughts, studies,
or activities, it is natural that this issue will also dominate
times issues-based essays focus more on analyzing all sides
of the issue rather than taking a stand from one viewpoint.
If you do this type of essay well, it will show the committee
that you are a person of reason and logic who can make mature,
educated decisions based on a thorough analysis of issues.
It is not even necessary that you come to any final conclusions-just
showing that you can see and analyze all sides of an argument
pitfall inherent in any of the above issues-based approaches
is that applicants who write about their commitment to a
social justice issue without backing it up with real evidence
or experience risk appearing insincere. One admissions officer
had this comment:
after year hundreds of applicants swear by their altruistic
motives, yet only 2% of all lawyers graduating in 1991 took
jobs in the public sector, protecting the environment, fighting
racial inequality, and crusading for rights for the homeless.
The majority (over 60%) took jobs in private firms. After
a time, you become skeptical.
beliefs are genuine, you will be able to support them with
clear evidence of your involvement in activities that demonstrate
tips on answering general application questions, click
Essays That Will Get You Into College, by Amy Burnham,
Daniel Kaufman, and Chris Dowhan. Copyright
1998 by Dan Kaufman. Reprinted by arrangement
with Barron's Educational Series, Inc. and EssayEdge.com