In the previous section, we examined some essays that mentioned law as a natural conclusion but focused on some novel experience unrelated to law. When you don’t have interesting, fresh ideas to offer about the legal profession or the study of law, you are better off emphasizing your unique strengths rather than stating platitudes about your future career. In the tired eyes of an admissions officer, nothing is more tedious than an essay that starts off, “I have always wanted to be a lawyer,” and then cites a list of trite reasons. One obvious mistake is to focus on your parents’ experiences as lawyers without demonstrating any independent, mature thinking about your own goals.

A less obvious, more common mistake is to write about how you want to help people. The fact is that most law school graduates, especially from the top schools, go on to work in the private sector. Law school admissions officers are not out to judge the moral value of your career intentions, particularly because they know that people often change their minds. They’re well aware that most of their graduates will go on to seek financially rewarding careers. Therefore, applicants who mention clichés about wanting “to improve society” usually sound disingenuous.

Focusing on Specific Legal Areas

If you have specific goals such as working for a particular disadvantaged group that lacks advocates, then the situation is different: It’s always good to showcase a unique, focused commitment. Even better would be if you had a track record of community service to back up your objectives. For example, you may have worked with handicapped people for several years, and this exposed you to certain injustices that you want to correct. The same approach would work for topics that are not about public service. For example, this applicant describes his background in science and connects this to his current interests in intellectual property law. He recognizes that his unusual background is a strength rather than a liability. His unique reasons for attending law school are clearly grounded in relevant experience and thoughtful consideration.

Unique Personal Interests

Discussing specific areas of law is a surefire way to demonstrate a mature commitment to the study of law. However, admissions officers certainly do not expect this level of decisiveness. Another way to show your reasons for pursuing law is to tie your interest to personal qualities or skills.

This applicant shows that her interest in law is grounded in her willingness to seek “justice at any cost.” What’s important is not that she be the only person with this conviction, because that would not be possible. Instead, the uniqueness comes through her personal details, the evidence that she provides to back up her principled nature.

Brushes With the Law

Some people will discover their interest in law through an unplanned encounter. This applicant describes her involvement in an Equal Employment Opportunity suit, then ties this in with her interest in environmental law. The result is an essay that accomplishes two objectives: first, a concrete event that demonstrates her exposure to law, and second, a distinct field of law for which she has special qualifications to pursue.

In this essay, the focus is even more explicitly on the role that law and lawyers have played in the applicant’s life. Though the details of the essay still center on the applicant’s background, he uses past encounters with the law to define his current objectives.

Next: Why Qualified?

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