Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Ann K. Levine gives prospective law school applicants valuable advice on how to write the most effective personal statement.
If you’re sitting down right now, trying to write the most brilliant, persuasive, powerful personal statement ever written, but your fingers are paralyzed on the keys, you’re not alone. “I hate to write about myself,” some tell me. Others say, “My life has been pretty boring/sheltered/standard/privileged.” Still others say, “I went through hard times but I don’t want to write a sob story.” How do you hit the perfect compromise and create a personal statement you can be proud of?
Here are a few ideas to get you started on brainstorming topics:
1. It’s very hard to go back to the drawing board after writing an intro and conclusion, so just start writing your ideas down and sharing your stories and experiences. Start writing like you would a journal or blog post, using a conversational tone. Write how you speak. You can fix the grammar and spelling later. Fine-tune conclusions and themes later. Right now, get your stories on paper and see what themes naturally emerge.
2. Yes, your final personal statement will be between 500 words and four pages depending on each law school’s specifications. Most law schools want two-to-three pages. And yes, this is double-spaced. But don’t think about that. When you first get started you should write at least four pages so you have room to cut.
3. Don’t try to weave together everything you’ve ever done. Find things that are similar, either in subject matter or in exhibiting a trait you’re trying to demonstrate, and only weave them together if it really works.
4. Don’t reiterate things from your resume. Leave job descriptions to the résumé, and if you discuss résumé items in your personal statement, be sure to take a more anecdotal and lessons-learned approach rather than describing your duties and accomplishments.
5. Going in chronological order can be a trap. There is no reason to start with the day you were born, no matter how dramatic the birth might have been. Start with the most interesting thing about you — get the reader’s interest by sharing information about you that will be likable and interesting and as captivating as possible. Don’t try to “warm up” to your story with childhood memories, no matter how cute. You can always reflect back on those memories later in the essay if they were essential in formulating your goals and ideals and if they provide real context for your later achievements.
With LSAT takers down to a 30-year low, and with law school applications dwindling by the day, law schools are hoping that only the best and brightest will choose their institutions. Schools will do anything to protect their coveted yield rate, the percentage of admitted students who actually choose to enroll.
Last week, we shared a story with our readers that had to with with the lengths that law schools will allegedly go to to protect their yield rates. A tipster notified us that UVA Law withdrew his wife’s application after she informed them that she’d be attending another school. That sounds shady, but UVA calls it “standard practice,” and we’re sure other schools have resorted to similar measures given the sad state of the current field of applicants.
We mentioned in Morning Docket: U.S. News recently released a list of the schools that had the highest yield rates in 2012, referring to them as the “most popular law schools.” Chalk it up to schadenfreude on our part, but it figures UVA didn’t make the top 10 on this list — even though a fair share of surprising schools did….
100% of kids who got into this box were in this box!
Earlier today, we talked about the brain drain as law schools have to compete for a dwindling pool of high-scoring applicants. In this market, hitting your targets for your entering class is a tricky business for deans of admission at our nation’s law schools.
It’s an issue of yield: law schools need to make offers to enough applicants to fill their seats, without becoming overwhelmed with matriculating students. If schools that are ranked higher than you start admitting applicants with slightly worse qualifications than usual, you end up with not enough students — and your yield rate (the percentage of students you make offers to that actually accept the offer) goes in the tank. Poor yield rates look bad, and make it harder to predict how many people you need to admit in the first place.
Man, if only there was a way you could know whether or not people would come to your school before you admitted them….
We’ve reported a lot on the declining number of applications to law school. And we’ve also talked about how the people who do better on the LSAT are more likely to not apply to law school (most likely because they have better options), while poor LSAT scorers are still eager to go to law school.
Maybe the LSAT really is an accurate test of logical reasoning skills.
Fewer applications overall but a higher share of them from people with poor LSAT scores should lead to a drop in the median LSAT score at top schools. As the smart people flee law school (“smart” as a measure of LSAT score, for whatever that’s worth), it should mean that better law schools have to grab more low-hanging LSAT fruit.
* Dewey was quick about getting its Chapter 11 plan confirmed, but all of these unfinished business claims are taking a little longer to resolve than previously hoped. But hey, at least Paul Hastings settled. [Am Law Daily]
* Because sometimes profit sharing isn’t enough: Theodore Freedman, a former Kirkland & Ellis partner, pleaded guilty to tax fraud after underreporting his partnership income by more than $2M. [New York Law Journal]
* Imagine a land filled with millions of little Honey Boo Boos. That’s what the great state of Arkansas is going to look like if the legislature passes the most restrictive abortion law in the country. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]
* Not only do the Mavericks suck, but Mark Cuban’s luck in court does, too. His bid to toss an insider trading case was denied. He’d probably jump over the bench and have a fit if he could. [DealBook / New York Times]
* Dawn Clark Netsch, beloved Illinois pol and one of the nation’s first female law profs, RIP. [Chicago Tribune]
* Save for an unintelligible joke made last month, it’s been seven years since Clarence Thomas has spoken during oral arguments, much less asked a question, but with no offense to his colleagues, he’d rather “allow the advocates to advocate.” [Washington Post]
* Sorry, members of the American public, but something like 95 percent of you are too stupid to understand what’s going on during Supreme Court hearings, so there’s no point in having cameras in the courtroom to film them. (Sotomayor, J.) [New York Times]
* “Having an empty bench means people don’t get their cases heard,” but it seems like Senate Republicans could not care less. Obama’s facelift for the federal judiciary is going to have to wait a little while longer. [San Francisco Chronicle]
* A lawgasm for prestige nerds: the Harvard Law Review received federal trademark protection, and with that, the number three law school in the country gained some bragging rights over Yale. [Daily Report (reg. req.)]
* Oh my God, you guys, law school applications are down, no one can find jobs, and recent graduates are in debt up to their eyeballs. This is totally new information that no one’s heard before. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
* Turning to your parents for law school advice is perhaps the worst idea in the world — after all, they’re the cause of your “special little snowflake” syndrome in the first place. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]
We’ve been following the decline in law school applications as prospective law students figure out that the pot of gold at the end of the law school rainbow isn’t available for everybody.
Today, we have a look at new numbers that show an even more precipitous drop in applications for the class of 2016 than many had expected. So far, applications are down 20 percent from where they were in 2012. Law school applications are down 38 percent from where they were in 2010.
If you’ve been wondering why we’ve seen this proliferation of law school deans and professors making spurious arguments in favor of going to law school, this is why.
But maybe instead of trying to win the media battle, these numbers will inspire some in legal academia to address the underlying problems with legal education. Because trying to argue the problem away with nonsensical op-eds doesn’t seem to be working out….
If you show us the ability to be an attorney, we’ll give you the opportunity to be an attorney. It’s not like we let anybody in the door. We don’t. But we’re much more inclusive in our admissions policy than most law schools are.
Mitchell has been slammed — by me, by Professor Paul Campos, by Alison Monahan, and by many others. If you’ve been looking seriously at the state of legal education, it wasn’t hard to eviscerate Mitchell’s arguments.
But Mitchell seems to believe that looking critically at the value proposition of legal education is a media-driven phenomenon. As he wrote in his op-ed, “For at least two years, the popular press, bloggers and a few sensationalist law professors have turned American law schools into the new investment banks.”
It seems that Mitchell has forgotten about the students. Bloggers and law professors don’t really have any skin in this game. But actual students feel like law school deans have taken advantage of them, and telling them “everything is okay here” isn’t a winning argument.
These kids are tired of law deans, like Mitchell, who continue to act like law schools can keep doing what they’re doing while recent graduates don’t have jobs and are crushed under a mountain of debt. They’re really sick of the subtle implication that they only reason the “great deal” of law school didn’t work out for them was that they were “lazy” or somehow undeserving.
In short, they are sick and tired of the very kind of arguments Mitchell made in the New York Times — and yesterday they spoke out about it, loudly….
If your firm is in ‘go’ mode when it comes to recruiting lateral partners with loyal clients, then take this quiz to see how well you measure up. Keep track of your ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses.
1. Does your firm have a clearly defined strategy of practice groups that are priorities of growth for your office? Nothing gets done by random chance, but with a clear vision for the future. Identify the top practice areas for which you wish to add lateral partners. Seek input from practice group leaders and get specifics on needs, outcomes, and ideal target profiles.
2. In addition to clarifying your firm’s growth strategy, are you still open to the hire of a partner outside of your plan? I’ve made several placements that fit this category. The partner’s practice was not within the strategic growth plan of my client, but once the two parties started talking with each other, we all saw how it could indeed be a seamless fit. Be open to “Opportunistic Hires.” You never know where your next producing partner might come from, so you have to be open to it. I will be the first to admit that there is a quirky element of randomness in recruiting.
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
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