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Messages - Burhop

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Hi Sisyphus99 - It also depends where you are applying. Top law schools look at writing quality, character, and thought processes - they're after soft factors because the students they are accepting already have the highest GPA and LSAT, so they can spend time building a class out of people who excel personally and professionally, and who can pen a good story. The personal statement matters in this sense: someone who is truly an excellent writer does have a shot at talking their way into a spot at a top school, as long as their numbers aren't too far from the mean. Good writing = good thinking, and can later translate to professorships, judicial clerkships, etc.

Because you allude to an undergrad GPA that may not be as stellar, I'm not sure what tier of law schools you are looking at. This is important, because some mid-tier schools specifically ask candidates to discuss "why law" in their personal statements, and they mean it. It's not enough to tell them a story, or be a good person. If they know that many of their graduates go on to handle DUIs and represent the wrong side of asbestos claims, they are hoping to see that you have a real sense of what your career might look like. Particularly in these economic times, where many lawyer can't find positions, they are quite literally looking for candidates who can say "My dad does X law, which I find interesting, and I've worked in his office and will be joining him." Or, "I want to be a public defender, and I really mean it." Or, "I plan to be a JAG." That way they don't end up in the NYT as a "bad actor" school who accepted 90% students who claimed in their application that they would go into public service but now have $200k of debt and no viable job options.

If you are applying to a mix of schools, some which request a personal statement that is meant to encapsulate your character, and some which want more of a "statement of purpose" re: your future career plans, you're going to need at least two different essays to send out.

This essay partly fills the first requirement, as it is more of a character essay. You do cut away before the essay gets truly personal, however. It jumps from probable torture to 5 years later. It's remarkably unemotional for what must have been a traumatic experience.

Sometimes a topic is "too big" for the personal statement structure. It's just too much to unpack - too much of an emotional wallop for both the writer and reader. You're sometimes better off with a smaller story - helping a kid while you were in another country; bonding with a fellow soldier who was from an entirely different walk of life; flying some totally bonkers plane in formation for the first time. The personal statement is enough room for a quality photograph; there isn't enough room for the whole album.

Best, Dani

For October test takers, it is a good idea to have all elements of your applications complete and uploaded (all essays, letters, etc) so that when you receive your LSAT score, you can simply click "submit."

The best months to apply during rolling admissions are typically Sept-Oct, because rolling = first come, first served. It usually takes adcomms a couple weeks after you apply to review your application materials. Early-mid November is also all right. Once you hit Thanksgiving, you're up against Thanksgiving and Winter vacations, so admissions review typically slows, and then picks up again in January.

If you took the October LSAT and did not receive a sufficient score to achieve admission at your preferred schools, you may be better off waiting a cycle. The prior advice about receiving waivers for application fees is excellent, but might only benefit you if you meet or exceed the 50% LSAT/GPA split for your target schools. Throwing a Hail Mary application with a low LSAT runs the risk of you not achieving admission at your preferred school, and then that school remembering that they rejected you once already if/when you apply the next cycle. Always aim for best foot forward, and don't be afraid to wait a cycle if need be. - DB

Hi Amicus - this would be a more powerful PS if you focused just on the details of what you went through to rehabilitate yourself. Writing on a theme of overcoming extreme obstacles is usually a strong PS strategy. You have too much information in here currently, and it is best not to discuss grades etc. in the PS.

For recommendations, the best are, ranked (if they actually know you)

Renowned professor
Full Professor
Associate Professor
Assistant Professor
Supervisor of a good job you've held who has a related background/holds a JD or LLM or graduate degree
Senior Lecturer
Visiting Lecturer of some importance
Postdoctoral Fellow
Graduate student TA (even if they now have their degree)

...without knowing the title of the person who taught the online class, it's hard to say. If it's someone without a PhD or title, it probably won't carry much weight, but if you haven't got anyone else, it shouldn't hurt.

That's the thing with recommendations - they rarely help, but can hurt. One bad recommendation from anyone hurts more than three glowing recommendations help - because most recommendations are usually pretty glowing, or at least generically positive. They aren't what will differentiate you as an applicant, except in the rarest of cases. - Dani

The personal statement is not meant to be a formal piece of writing - it's meant to shed light on your character. Avoiding contractions could affect the tone of your essay in an adverse way, depending on the topic at hand. If it is a light, or friendly topic, contraction use is perfectly okay. The goal is not to sound too serious. Don't use contractions in your resume/CV, however - Dani

The good news is I was able to follow your prose easily - it's clean. What you eventually write will probably come across well. But yes - this is too broad, too young. You need a story where A) You're an adult and B) You come across as a leader, or hero, or caregiver, or some other "type" that is easily recognizable as a type that usually succeeds in law school. Your story should show that you are smart, strong, ambitious, thoughtful. This topic shows that you are inconstant, changeable, unsure.

best - Dani

You won't go wrong if you keep it to around 750 words. Schools that want you to write more, like Berkeley, will explicitly ask you to write more. - Dani

GPA is always an issue; check Law School Numbers to get a sense of places that are willing to take a chance on a big LSAT/GPA split. Don't throw money away on applications to places that won't take the risk. Writing an addendum is only recommended if you are able to say "everything is great now because of XYZ"; a good addendum (on any topic) doesn't just explain, it reassures. - Dani

Hi! You've "buried the lede" - the reader should have a clear idea of the focus of this essay by the first paragraph. Starting in the airport doesn't add any value, IMHO. I recommend that you start your essay with the "grueling four concerts" (be sure to check yourself on adjectives and adverbs, though - too many litter this prose, which clutters its progress). Great topic, though - keep working on this - Dani

Heh heh...and it'll get harder as the months wear on, for sure...if you think you're stressed now, it gets worse if you're still working on your app in December! The optimal time to send a properly polished essay is in the next 2-4 weeks, if you haven't already.

But you can do some stuff to get those endorphins up...go for a jog or something. Call an old friend who is always ridiculously funny, or read some Calvin & Hobbes. Whatever makes ya crack a smile.


Who doesn't write their PS in a funk? You're doing it during app season, you're in a funk.

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