Law School Essay
Law school is popular and it's getting more popular all the time. Every year the number of applications for admission to law school goes up, especially as more and more women and minorities apply. On the other hand, the number of law schools hasn't kept pace with the number of prospective law students, so the competition for admission is becoming fiercer. If you want to get into law school, you'll need to write a very persuasive, intelligent law school essay to convince admissions that you are that one student in a thousand that they absolutely need to have in their school. Of course, if you have what it takes to be a good lawyer then you have what it takes to persuade. Think of the law school essay as the place where you'll argue the case for why the school should make you a lawyer.
Here are some questions that you're likely to find on a law school application and some suggestions about how to approach them.
Why do you want be a lawyer? Certainly you have your reasons for wanting to go into the legal profession, but this is one area where you don't want to be too honest. Don't say that you want to be a lawyer because you want to be rich and famous, or because you want to drive an expensive car. Sure, that might be the actual reason, but it's not going to impress the members of the admissions committee, who probably aren't as rich and famous as some of the lawyers you read about in the newspaper. Instead, talk about the importance of the legal profession, about how lawyers uphold the rights of the common people, protect the innocent, and defend the oppressed. And don't write only flowery words about what an idealistic lawyer you're going to be. Talk about the experiences that made you want to fight for truth and justice. These should be experiences that you've had yourself, not that you've seen acted out on Law & Order. Don't say that your parents are lawyers and you want to grow up to be just like them. Talk about something that's happened to you or that you saw happen firsthand. Describe how a lawyer helped a friend of yours or a relative when he was treated unfairly. You can also talk about the work of famous lawyers, like Clarence Darrow or Alan Dershowitz, who have inspired you, but try to keep the story as personal as possible. Talk about how the legal profession has touched your life. Be sincere when you tell your personal story. Don't lay on the idealism too thickly, but make it clear that you're not in it only for the money. That's the sort of essay that will get you into law school.
Why do you feel that you're qualified to be a lawyer? One way to answer this is by talking about personal qualities that would make you a good lawyer. Say you that you're compassionate, that you have an analytical mind, that you love to study. An even better answer, though, is to talk about your experiences, if any, in the legal field. Have you volunteered for a legal aid organization or been a summer intern in a district attorney's office? By all means, mention that. Any experience that you've had relating to the law, especially if you've worked in a law office of some kind, will give you an edge over other applicants who lack that experience. If you have good grades and high scores on standardized tests, talking about real-world legal experience may be enough to put you over the top with the admissions committee. Let them know that you understand what law is about and that you have the experience to prove it. However, don't turn your essay into a resume. If you have a long list of legal experiences, mention them briefly and then focus on one or two. Describe what you learned from them and how they helped you understand what lawyers do. If you have no such experience, don't panic. Focus instead on the personal qualities that will make you a good lawyer. Either way, use the essay to demonstrate that you can write with intelligence and perceptiveness. Let your personality come through. If you can hold the attention of the readers and impress them with your writing, you'll have done exactly what a law school essay is supposed to do.
Write an essay about an issue or controversy that you feel strongly about. There are two ways to approach this topic. Find a legal topic that means something to you personally and write about it. It can be a political dispute, such as the recount of the Florida ballot in the 2000 presidential election, or a social issue such as abortion or displays of Nativity scenes in public parks. Choose a side of the issue and argue it well and passionately. You'll show that you're aware of important matters, that you're capable of thinking about these matters logically, and that you feel strongly about them, all good qualities in a lawyer. On the negative side, you run the risk of coming up against a reader who disagrees strongly with your position on the issue and who may reject your application out of anger. Don't think this can't happen: In a perfect world, the admissions committee would judge your law school essay fairly and impartially. But we don't live in a perfect world, and sometimes it's difficult for committee members to leave their personal biases at the door. You'll probably be okay unless your positions are way out of the mainstream, but be aware that this danger exists, especially if the issue you've chosen is one that arouses strong emotions. A safer way to handle this topic is to argue all sides, or at least several sides, of the issue. This shows that you're open-minded, aware of all aspects of the issue, and that you can put yourself into the shoes of someone who is quite unlike yourself, another quality that's valuable in a lawyer. Regardless of whether you take the former approach or the latter, don't be insincere or wishy-washy. If you come across like someone who is afraid to take a stand, it's not likely you'll get into law school.
Last Updated: 05/25/2014