So you have decided to make a career change and apply to law school. Now, you just have to become an expert in marketing in order to get yourself into the target program.
It is all about positioning, and it is all about how you’re going to make your argument. For career changers, the argument that you make (in terms of the content) is immaterial. It is a question of how well you make the argument.
Taking into account that you should always be governed by the prompt, the question is often this: What are the themes that I can develop as a career changer if I cannot offer much legal experience or training? There are many approaches that you can use, and I want to talk about the advantages of two approaches and the dangers of two approaches. As always, keep in mind that there are exceptions to every rule.
Great Topics when Making a Career Change
The three greatest strengths you offer the program.
Again, the key is how well you make the argument. The best arguments are clear and concise, and they stay positive. This is why I almost always encourage candidates who want to offer a simple, three-pronged essay about their three strongest qualities as aspiring lawyers. The reason for this is because the content lends itself perfectly to the classic, five-paragraph approach.
In the first paragraph, you talk about the three qualities.
In the three body paragraphs, you talk about each quality in particular, ideally with an example.
In the fifth paragraph, you offer your conclusion.
The unique family background that you offer the program.
By all means: If there is a family legacy with the school, explain it and play to it.
Also, if you have a family background that is truly unique, it can be to your advantage to describe this. Keep in mind that while coming from a remote country and speaking several languages certainly can distinguish you, getting even more specific is what really can help you in this department.
If you come from an important family, say so, albeit with humility. If your experience has been shaped by a particular cultural phenomenon or historical event, especially if this is one of the factors that led to your status as a nontraditional candidate, by all means talk about this. If you did not apply to law school for several years because you were busy working in a family business, you can say how working in the family business gave you insights that will help you as a lawyer. And you can share what you learned in the business with your reader.
Dangerous topics for career changers
Again, keep in mind that there are exceptions to every rule. But there are two themes that seem to get candidates into more trouble than they’re worth, and these are the themes:
The “I am a survivor” essay.
This is the essay that talks about all of the challenges you have overcome, pointing to your success in the law. The only problem with this approach is that it can be hard to maintain an upbeat tone in such an essay. Even if you are pointing to an incredible work ethic and to remarkable achievements, it can be difficult for such an essay to sound enthusiastic and not “labored,” no pun intended. That’s why, regardless of how great your work ethic is, it may not be a great idea to talk about what a hard worker you are, since this can backfire.
The “I am an altruist” essay.
This is fine if you have already demonstrated this quality in your service and if you are able and willing to point to a goal in the law that is clearly an altruistic goal (working for a nonprofit organization, for example). But it can be a problem to talk about your altruism in your law personal statement if you are not at the same time offering a goal that backs this up. This is the only thing to keep in mind if you want to use this angle. Even if your past activities depict a great level of altruism, you will want to point to a goal in the law that focuses on service if you want to use this theme in your law personal statement.
You might also like to read Discussing Strengths in Law School Personal Statements