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Personal Statement Anxiety


CndnViking

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CndnViking
  • Applicant

Hey all,

I'm in a bind that's practically giving me panic attacks every other day just on the topic of personal statements.

First of all, I have moderate to severe ADHD, and a common symptom I 100% suffer from is the tendency to over-explain or get verbose, so even getting down under the word limits is EXCRUTIATING... but then there's the issue of what to write about vs. what not to, which is its own nightmare.

On the latter topic, for example, I've had multiple sources (including admissions officers from 2 schools) tell me that the go-to formula is to tell "who you are, why you want to go to law school, and why their school in particular." Another common thing I've seen is to use it to "tell your story", which essentially just seems like focusing on part 1, but had examples that certainly addressed point 2. Then, recently, I came across LSAT Demon on YouTube, and got watching some of their videos and their advice not only contradicted that, but basically urged viewers not to even think about addressing the latter two questions, and only even mention what got you interested in law school if you feel it's absolutely necessary.

To make matters worse, the rough draft I had written that I thought seemed pretty good based on the previous advice I'd seen, hit several of the points on their "types of personal statements to never write."

I feel like qualified outlets are giving such conflicting information that I'm feeling utterly directionless, and stressing out way too much that this is going to be what torpedoes my applications.

And to make matters worse, I'm a more mature applicant without a lot of academic friends or others to turn to for editing advice, etc.

It's driving me nuts because I know my GPA is above the averages of almost every school in the country and my practice LSATs look good, but now I'm terrified of this, seemingly trivial aspect of the application process.

If anyone has any advice, or resources to point me toward, that would be amazing.

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CleanHands
  • Lawyer

You do realize that you're applying to be part of a profession where concise verbal and written communication is one of the most important and utilized skills, correct?

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Naj
  • Law Student
28 minutes ago, CndnViking said:

I feel like qualified outlets are giving such conflicting information that I'm feeling utterly directionless

Just stick to answering the questions each school provides, those are the directions you should be following. I don't think you need to consult any more resources than you already have. Don't trauma dump, don't lie, don't be a hero, and then you should have no issue sticking to the word count and you won't torpedo what otherwise is a good application. 

If I'm not mistaken, Canadian law schools are unlike the U.S. in that they prefer a more straightforward personal statement, hence the prompts tend to be directed questions and not open invitations to submit something overly creative like a poem. 

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CndnViking
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Just stick to answering the questions each school provides, those are the directions you should be following.

That's the thing: several of them DON'T ask questions. The ones that do, I'm less worried about, but there are a few that give very little to no direction on it whatsoever, and the advice I find elsewhere repeatedly contradicts each other.

For example....

  • Queens just says to use your statement to "highlight your academic, personal, professional and extracurricular accomplishments."
  • Toronto gives two sections:
    • The main Personal Statement, the only instruction for which is "Tell your story."
    • A shorter "Optional Essay" that doesn't give directions at all, but gives a few example topics, all of which seem like they would be important parts of "your story", so it's hard to even figure out what to pull out for this piece.

It's these sort of very vague, and often incredibly broad to cover in the word/character count, prompts that leave me stressing about what to include/leave out.

 

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Naj
  • Law Student
24 minutes ago, CndnViking said:

Queens just says to use your statement to "highlight your academic, personal, professional and extracurricular accomplishments."

So do exactly that? It's not vague here, it's just giving you some discretion. Personally, I'm pretty average so I had no issue sticking to the word count when addressing all the above while keeping it straightforward. If you're built different then just pick what's most important/relevant for each aspect. 

24 minutes ago, CndnViking said:

"Tell your story."

IMO this is one of those "tell your story, but only if it's a good story."

I'd stick to what is tried and tested, which is something more along the lines of what the Queens prompt would produce, consider taking whatever you end up writing for Queens and adjusting it to suit UofT. 

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CndnViking
  • Applicant

I guess we just read these differently. To me, they essentially say the same thing. That first prompt lists pretty much every type of accomplishment I can think of, and what is "your story" if not running through the things you've accomplished in your life? I mean, perhaps its a big more vaguely worded and more encouraging of discussing the context around them, but they really don't seem that different, IMO.

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Naj
  • Law Student

That's sort of what I just said.

20 minutes ago, Naj said:

consider taking whatever you end up writing for Queens and adjusting it to suit UofT. 

Seems like you've got it down tho, so good luck. 

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scooter
  • Law Student

Ok... you are trying to solve this problem by asking for more advice and resources. But the issue here is that you are listening to too many different people, so more advice is not going to help, it will just make things worse.

Think critically about who you want to listen to. The admissions officers you spoke to are the most credible sources. LSAT Demon (besides having a stupid name) is an American resource and you should be wary of American sources - admissions practices in the US can be quite different in many ways. 

What stood out to me was where you said your personal statement "hit several of the points on their "types of personal statements to never write.""

That is potentially a red flag but you are going to need to be more specific... if the LSAT Demon video directly contradicted the two admissions officers you spoke to, then ignore LSAT Demon. If, for example, the video said "don't write about someone else" and your statement spent three paragraphs speaking about someone who inspired you rather than speaking about yourself... well OK that is a valid criticism.

 

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CndnViking
  • Applicant
50 minutes ago, scooter said:

Ok... you are trying to solve this problem by asking for more advice and resources. But the issue here is that you are listening to too many different people, so more advice is not going to help, it will just make things worse.

Think critically about who you want to listen to. The admissions officers you spoke to are the most credible sources. LSAT Demon (besides having a stupid name) is an American resource and you should be wary of American sources - admissions practices in the US can be quite different in many ways. 

What stood out to me was where you said your personal statement "hit several of the points on their "types of personal statements to never write.""

That is potentially a red flag but you are going to need to be more specific... if the LSAT Demon video directly contradicted the two admissions officers you spoke to, then ignore LSAT Demon. If, for example, the video said "don't write about someone else" and your statement spent three paragraphs speaking about someone who inspired you rather than speaking about yourself... well OK that is a valid criticism.

As for a stupid name, I agree, but they came highly recommended from a number of sources I looked at, and seem to know their shit, so.... 🤷‍♂️

Point taken on the American aspect I suppose.

As for being more specific about using things a lot of advice says not to write, examples would be....

  • "Why I want to go to law school"
    This is the biggest one, and informs the others to a degree. A lot of people I've seen suggest addressing it, and a couple schools even specifically prompt for it (so including it for those ones is a no-brainer), but then other credible sources I've seen have vehemently recommended against it, so when a school's application doesn't prompt for it, that contradiction is hard to reconcile.
     
  • "The Sob Story"
    To put a long story short, I'm an older applicant, in large part because I've lived a pretty difficult life involving a disability that wasn't diagnosed until quite recently and serious poverty, both of which directly inform why I'm applying so late in life. A lot of sources I've seen say that if there's something very abnormal about your application, like your age, a spot of inconsistency in your grades, etc. that you should address it, but then other sources are pretty vehement about not telling "sob stories."
     
  • "I always wanted to be a lawyer"
    I get this to an extent, cause it does sound like a cliche and kind of cheesy... but in fact it is actually a through-line in my life where it's something I was always interested in, and have tried to dabble around in from the outside because I didn't think I was capable of actually getting there (due to the aforementioned struggles) so it's hard to tell my story effectively without including that.

So, yeah, that's the kind of thing I'm talking about.


 

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scooter
  • Law Student
5 hours ago, CndnViking said:

"Why I want to go to law school"

It's safe to say you should address why you want to go to law school in your personal statement, particularly if you are a mature applicant. Going back to school is a big choice and the reader will be curious as to why you've decided to take that step. I don't see how you would even write a personal statement without addressing this. Of course, it shouldn't be the only thing you speak about - you also need to convince them you'd be successful in law school, and as a lawyer.

As for "sob story" and "always wanted to be a lawyer" – it's all in how you present the information. "Sob story" has a negative connotation and seems to imply that an applicant is bringing up their experiences to say "I have experienced disadvantage, therefore accept me into your program". But there are many ways you could talk about your life experience without making it a sob story in that sense - speaking about disadvantages you've faced is definitely not off limits, and in fact is encouraged as long as you do it appropriately. Relate your experience to why you want to practice law and why you would be a good law student and lawyer.

Same with "always wanted to be a lawyer". There are ways you could say that without it being super cliche. I think "always wanted to be a lawyer" is also more of a meaningless cliche for students who went straight from high school to undergrad to law school. In the context of your situation it could be a more meaningful/relevant.

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Diplock
  • Lawyer

Okay, look. @scooter has made an important, basic point already and I don't want to beat it to death. And @CleanHands has raised concerns with your stated desire to go to law school combined with your stated inability to write concisely. The truth is, many lawyers get away without writing all that much. I'm not one of them, but until my practice bent towards the sort of work where I do write a lot - probably because it suits my skill set - I actually did a lot of work where I wasn't writing at all. That work certainly does exist. That said, there are almost no areas of law where resolving nuanced rule sets where tensions exist - not the same thing as contradictions - and recognizing how to do that is really just an essential part of all legal practice.

What I'm saying, again, is that you can talk about poverty, disability, etc. without making it a sob story. Is there a line between the two? Of course there is. Can anyone tell you exactly where it is drawn in the abstract, divorced from some real product? No. That line is individual and to some degree subjective. But a reader can and will still be able to tell the difference and say "here's where they have talked about their poverty and disability in a reasonable way" and "here's where they are just throwing a pity party for themselves and inviting me to join."

You've got to get comfortable with following lines of distinction that aren't drawn for you like a colouring book. You just have to. Because if you think this stuff contains contradictions, try reading the Criminal Code and surrounding case law sometime.

Anyway, good luck.

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kollykibbler
  • Applicant

Not going to address any of the other stuff going on here but ignore LSAT Demon advice on personal statements. I remember them saying stuff like "emphasize all the badass stuff you did before law school" which is quite honestly not applicable to the vast majority of undergrad applicants, unless you consider having a good GPA and LSAT to be badass (it isn't). OP I can send you my personal statement if you want, but I'm guessing the rough draft you wrote is fine content-wise and now your task is paring it down to hit the word limits.

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18 hours ago, CndnViking said:

That first prompt lists pretty much every type of accomplishment I can think of, and what is "your story" if not running through the things you've accomplished in your life?

That wouldn’t be a compelling personal statement. At least not to me. 

Have you ever listened to the president read the State of the Union to congress? That’s a speech, delivered by an above average speaker, and crafted by experienced speechwriters. It should be good. But it stinks pretty well every year, because it’s just a list of plans and accomplishments. And while lists are useful for remembering what you need to do at work or buy at the store, they are tedious to read. Don’t write a list.

A personal statement should be personal. But that doesn’t mean it has to be all of you as a person. That would be too many things. Instead, you just want to pick a couple of values, qualities, or experiences that you want to convey, and then you explain why those motivated you to apply. That’s the whole exercise.

Your statement doesn’t even need to be profound. I just wrote that I like analysis — breaking things down and understanding the core issues.  I said I wanted to get better at it, and then use it in service of others. Law school and legal practice are good for those goals. That’s why I wanted to go, and that was what I put in my statement. Super mundane. And I got in everywhere I applied. 

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CndnViking
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2 hours ago, realpseudonym said:

Super mundane. And I got in everywhere I applied. 

I imagine your "stats" were probably pretty solid then. If I were coming in with a 4.0 and likely to hit high 170s, I probably wouldn't be so worried. Given that I'm on pace for around median stats for the kinds of schools I'm interested in, it's possible that's adding to the pressure around statements.

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CleanHands
  • Lawyer
9 minutes ago, CndnViking said:

I imagine your "stats" were probably pretty solid then. If I were coming in with a 4.0 and likely to hit high 170s, I probably wouldn't be so worried. Given that I'm on pace for around median stats for the kinds of schools I'm interested in, it's possible that's adding to the pressure around statements.

Nobody in any admissions office is going to care about your personal statement as much as you do, and it won't make a difference unless you come across as as much of a neurotic lunatic in it as you do on these forums.

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CndnViking
  • Applicant
22 hours ago, CleanHands said:

You do realize that you're applying to be part of a profession where concise verbal and written communication is one of the most important and utilized skills, correct?

First of all, in the interest of maintaining a friendly conversation I'm going to try and give the benefit of the doubt that this reads more condescending and snarky than it was intended. Though, with the regularity of that tone popping up, it's not easy.

Second, yes, obviously I'm aware. I haven't spend 15 or so years obsessed with law and 6 months devouring law school application advice, LSAT prep content, and other such materials, and somehow completely avoided knowing that effective writing is important. I'm not an idiot. And because I assume you're not either, I would imagine the difference between keeping a general preference toward efficiency and a hard word limit with the potential to significantly change the trajectory of ones career.

14 minutes ago, CleanHands said:

Nobody in any admissions office is going to care about your personal statement as much as you do, and it won't make a difference unless you come across as as much of a neurotic lunatic in it as you do on these forums.

I dunno, you seem to have done alright for yourself despite several times, despite a seeming inability to go two comments without being insulting, condescending, arrogant, or otherwise just grossly unpleasant, so I can't imagine a bit of anxiety around admissions is going to be huge career barrier. 😆

Terribly sorry if I upset or offended you by being a bit anxious. It's been a really rough, confusing, stressful week and I thought this seemed like a good place to find some guidance. My mistake. 

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CndnViking
  • Applicant
14 hours ago, scooter said:

It's safe to say you should address why you want to go to law school in your personal statement, particularly if you are a mature applicant. Going back to school is a big choice and the reader will be curious as to why you've decided to take that step. I don't see how you would even write a personal statement without addressing this. Of course, it shouldn't be the only thing you speak about - you also need to convince them you'd be successful in law school, and as a lawyer.

As for "sob story" and "always wanted to be a lawyer" – it's all in how you present the information. "Sob story" has a negative connotation and seems to imply that an applicant is bringing up their experiences to say "I have experienced disadvantage, therefore accept me into your program". But there are many ways you could talk about your life experience without making it a sob story in that sense - speaking about disadvantages you've faced is definitely not off limits, and in fact is encouraged as long as you do it appropriately. Relate your experience to why you want to practice law and why you would be a good law student and lawyer.

Same with "always wanted to be a lawyer". There are ways you could say that without it being super cliche. I think "always wanted to be a lawyer" is also more of a meaningless cliche for students who went straight from high school to undergrad to law school. In the context of your situation it could be a more meaningful/relevant.

Good points. I also appreciate that you managed to make them in a supportive way. Thanks.

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6 hours ago, CndnViking said:

I imagine your "stats" were probably pretty solid then. If I were coming in with a 4.0 and likely to hit high 170s, I probably wouldn't be so worried. Given that I'm on pace for around median stats for the kinds of schools I'm interested in, it's possible that's adding to the pressure around statements.

The dean at Dal remembered my personal statement and complimented me on it! That had more to do with her being Kim Brooks than it did with my statement, but it was still a perfectly good statement. 

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All right.

My advice might be terrible on this; I sent in about three hundred unsuccessful law school applications in the decade before last, followed by getting my shit together and sending in about five successful law school applications ~12 years ago, followed by deciding not to go to law school, followed by...still hanging out here for some reason that's not clear to anyone at all, especially me. Tons of things might have changed in the lifetime since the experiences I'm about to describe.

My stats in my prime were 161/0.6/a great personal statement. And I filled out everything right on the OLSAS biographical sketch. And I was the vice-president of several campus clubs. And so fuckin' what? My GPA was 0.6, so I didn't get in anywhere.

I gather that York is claiming to be more holistic than it used to be. Windsor was always a little bit holistic. But almost all applicants, at almost all schools, in almost all circumstances, admissions are about your grades and your LSAT. Your grades and your LSAT. "But I was the captain of the junior varsity---" Your grades. And your LSAT. Everything else is ephemera, vestiges of the day when the world ran on, "Oh, well, his father knows Chet's father, and Chet is sure a sound fellow." If somebody who's successfully gotten into a Canadian law school, recently, wants to tell me it's not 2009 anymore, I'll believe them. But I've been on this board and its predecessor for fifteen years, and there've always been applicants who got het up about shit that didn't matter.

(To be clear, "whether you can write well" matters. Your personal statement? Just put the commas in the right place and you're fine.)

One fight I once had on this board is seared into my brain. Some guy was having trouble understanding the advice he was getting, and I said, "Look, jackass [ed: I was 3% more abrasive back then], you're going to want to work on your reading comprehension." And he came back with something akin to, "I'm PTing -1 on RC right now, which is way better than I bet you're doing on logic games!" But I was not using "reading comprehension" as a term of art to refer to a section on the LSAT. Who does that? Even on a law applicants forum, who does that? I was referring to one's ability to understand what one reads. I tell this story because there's a danger, when you get into any system, of losing the forest for the trees, and because anxious law school applicants have a tendency to say, hey, this tree, this tree here, this tree is the key to everything, I'm finally going to get into Oz and my dad's going to say he's proud of me. And, like, nope. It's just a tree.

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theycancallyouhoju
  • Lawyer

You can do one of two things in a personal statement that make it noteworthy.

One is to tell a story that is not evident from the rest of your application and makes you stand apart from the pack - were you an Olympian? war refugee? national champion at something? overcame a very unusual barrier? Most applicants aren’t any of those things.

The other is to write very well and tell any coherent story on why you should be given the shot above others.

Most people should aim at the latter. Most students aren’t good enough at it that it significantly moves the needle.

These are the takeaways I have from being friends with people on the relevant committees at three schools. 

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Scrantonicity2
  • Law Student

Disclaimer: YMMV and my only expertise comes from the fact that I was admitted to three law schools when I applied.

I, like you, applied as a mature student (I gather you're a mature student from your other posts). I think this gave me a leg up for my PS because I had already spent quite a bit of time (probably more than the average K-JD applicant) thinking about whether law school would be worth it for me. Specifically, I had to think a lot about why I wanted to go to law school and whether I thought I could hack it. I framed all my personal statements around those questions. Essentially: 1) what were the reasons that going to law school made sense for me (personal narrative and experiences) and 2) why I thought I would be an asset to the school and the profession (aka: all the awesome stuff I'd done before😏). This might be a helpful way for you to think about it. I did the same thing for every school, even with different prompts. Just adjusted the word count. 

Also, I think you may have an unrealistically high expectation of the stats you'll need, which is good news! My GPA was also above average for the places I applied and my LSAT was strong but not amazing (mid 160s). 

I suspect, based on reading some of your other answers, that you have been reading advice geared towards an American audience. For the love of God stop doing that. I did the same thing before applying and it is deeply unhelpful. There is so much about law school in the US that so different from Canada (including the relative importance of attending "top" schools and the scores you need to get into "top" schools). Please yeet this unnecessary source of stress from your life 🙂 

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CndnViking
  • Applicant
14 hours ago, Scrantonicity2 said:

Disclaimer: YMMV and my only expertise comes from the fact that I was admitted to three law schools when I applied.

I, like you, applied as a mature student (I gather you're a mature student from your other posts). I think this gave me a leg up for my PS because I had already spent quite a bit of time (probably more than the average K-JD applicant) thinking about whether law school would be worth it for me. Specifically, I had to think a lot about why I wanted to go to law school and whether I thought I could hack it. I framed all my personal statements around those questions. Essentially: 1) what were the reasons that going to law school made sense for me (personal narrative and experiences) and 2) why I thought I would be an asset to the school and the profession (aka: all the awesome stuff I'd done before😏). This might be a helpful way for you to think about it. I did the same thing for every school, even with different prompts. Just adjusted the word count. 

Also, I think you may have an unrealistically high expectation of the stats you'll need, which is good news! My GPA was also above average for the places I applied and my LSAT was strong but not amazing (mid 160s). 

I suspect, based on reading some of your other answers, that you have been reading advice geared towards an American audience. For the love of God stop doing that. I did the same thing before applying and it is deeply unhelpful. There is so much about law school in the US that so different from Canada (including the relative importance of attending "top" schools and the scores you need to get into "top" schools). Please yeet this unnecessary source of stress from your life 🙂 

That's actually a better comparrison stat-wise than you might suspect.

Depending on the school's formulation, my GPA runs mostly around the low 3.9s (3.74 GPA, but most of the bad was super early so all the most recent/best schemes tend to cut them) and I don't take my official LSAT until next week, but my last few practice tests have been around 164-165, with a 168 outlier.

On the negative side I don't really have much "awesome" to discuss, as most my life up until I went back to university 6 years ago was kind of just one harship after another, but I think I've got a rough idea what I'm using as a "story" (it's not super impressive, but it's something.)

Yeah, potentially unneeded stress is kind of the theme of this whole process for me. If it's not stress about the LSAT, it's stress about the personal statements/essays, and if it's not that it's whether my reference letters are good enough, etc. Weirdly I do better with academic stress than I do with this more amorphous, satisfying super vague criteria type stress, so I keep finding myself thinking "I can't wait until this is over and all I have to stress about is law school. 😆"

18 hours ago, theycancallyouhoju said:

You can do one of two things in a personal statement that make it noteworthy.

One is to tell a story that is not evident from the rest of your application and makes you stand apart from the pack - were you an Olympian? war refugee? national champion at something? overcame a very unusual barrier? Most applicants aren’t any of those things.

The other is to write very well and tell any coherent story on why you should be given the shot above others.

Most people should aim at the latter. Most students aren’t good enough at it that it significantly moves the needle.

These are the takeaways I have from being friends with people on the relevant committees at three schools. 

Yeah, unless you consider "I've been through a lot of really negative shit and am somehow still standing" as particularly awesome (and I don't) I think I'm looking more at the latter. It's just difficult sometimes to suss out what some schools are looking to hear about and where, especially when the prompts overlap, like "tell your story" then "tell a story, with the example of these 3 prompts (all of which sound like key elements of 'your story'." 😆

Thanks though.

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thrill
  • Law Student

On the issue of overexplaining, I will usually write too much on the first go-through without paying strong attention to word count, and then when I've written everything I need to, I'll condense it down. You can really shrink those sentences and paragraphs and still maintain the key pieces of info/takeaways. Might not be the most efficient system, but that's how I handle essays without worrying about missing anything or overexplaining - I just cut the overexplaining part out of the final product. This also comes after getting opinions from others, it helps to have people who you trust who can take a look at your work and eventually get a feel for how you write

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11 minutes ago, CndnViking said:

Yeah, unless you consider "I've been through a lot of really negative shit and am somehow still standing" as particularly awesome (and I don't) I think I'm looking more at the latter. It's just difficult sometimes to suss out what some schools are looking to hear about and where, especially when the prompts overlap, like "tell your story" then "tell a story, with the example of these 3 prompts (all of which sound like key elements of 'your story'." 😆

Thanks though.

Hoju made the point more clearly than I did, but they're right, and I was trying to say the same thing with my example. A logical, well-written personal statement is a good personal statement. You don't need great facts. You just need to do a decent job with what you have.

Also, if you intend to go into litigation, that will be most of your job, FYI. If your client has a particularly awesome story, the case tends to settle pretty easily. Most of the hard work of lawyering is making do with not particularly awesome facts. This is good practice for that.

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theycancallyouhoju
  • Lawyer
1 hour ago, CndnViking said:

Yeah, potentially unneeded stress is kind of the theme of this whole process for me. If it's not stress about the LSAT, it's stress about the personal statements/essays, and if it's not that it's whether my reference letters are good enough, etc. Weirdly I do better with academic stress than I do with this more amorphous, satisfying super vague criteria type stress, so I keep finding myself thinking "I can't wait until this is over and all I have to stress about is law school. 😆"

Yeah, unless you consider "I've been through a lot of really negative shit and am somehow still standing" as particularly awesome (and I don't) I think I'm looking more at the latter. It's just difficult sometimes to suss out what some schools are looking to hear about and where, especially when the prompts overlap, like "tell your story" then "tell a story, with the example of these 3 prompts (all of which sound like key elements of 'your story'." 😆

Thanks though.

Taking the last part first since it was actually in response to me.

Rags origin story is a fine story to pick, I think, it just isn’t especially unique. Lots of folks are trying to get into law school from some variation of a shitty starting point. What you’ll find in law school is that there are people with absolutely astoundingly rough starts who still were A students, and you can assume some others didn’t make it in. I’m not saying this to be dismissive of whatever mountain you climbed, I’m just stating the reality that moderately few people get into good law schools and so the bar for when a rags-and-up story counts as so special as to move a needle is very high. On the other end of that spectrum, we used to see people ask if their (frankly impressive, to me) athletic accomplishments counted, and I’d always say I knew a world class dancer and two Olympians who went to law school, so the bar for impressive enough to move the needle is freakishly high.

All of which is to say, how well you write is what needs to be the focus here if you’re hoping to bump your odds. Most lawyers need to have that skill, whereas most don’t need to be Olympians or have come from a certain socioeconomic class, so it goes a long way. Focus on trying to write well and demonstrating persuasive skill and you’ll have checked the box.

To return to the first paragraph…

I think I saw you mention somewhere that you’re above median applicant age. I don’t know what kind of work you’ve done in the past, but one thing you will find one day as a lawyer is that the amorphous type of “who the fuck knows” stress of becoming a professional is way closer to lawyer stress than anything academic is. This is usually a point more acutely frustrating to kids who went straight from high school to law, because their whole line of accomplishments was like school stress. Being a lawyer is often like being dropped in a lake where you can’t see the shore and just having to figure it out as best you can without letting the fear of drowning waste energy. The reason you see so many commenters here giving what sounds more like personality advice is because we’ve all seen it - dozens of people with the intellect to do the job (frankly, I don’t think the floor is that high), but who flame out quickly because they don’t acquire the disposition needed. I’m a biglaw M&A guy and have seen more junior associates than I can count over the years. A small percentage just don’t have the brain power to handle it. A significant number just don’t have the patience, stress management, comfort in the unknown, calm, energy, etc to make it. I’m not your psychoanalyst so I don’t know where you fall on this, but given you’re talking about and evidencing stress over a desire to get to certainty on an inherently uncertain thing, I just wanted to flag to you that refining your disposition and approach to problems is 90% of the battle once the floor level stats are out of the way. 

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