The Essays Generally Are the method by which the

candidate introduces himself to you because, for the most part, we know nothing about them except what the LSAT score is and what their academic record is like. Additionally, you may have a resume in front of you or a series of questions [whose answers] approximate what they would put on a resume. One of the first things you look for is who the person is and some sense of where they've been, what they've done, why they've done it, and some sense of why they're interested in going to law school. Second, 1 think law schools are interested in knowing what sort of contribution outside of the norm—that is, being hardworking, bright students—a particular candidate might bring to the legal education enterprise. Are they different in a way that is significant from other candidates and, if they are, how is that relevant? That may speak to race and ethnicity, the nature of their life experiences, their academic or socioeconomic background. We look in these essays for something that might tell us about them—how they're going to contribute in a way others might not. Third, you look for people who are able to communicate their thought process in a coherent, reasonably sophisticated manner. You have the LSAT score and their academic record, which give you some sense of what their intellectual abilities might be, but the essay ought to supplement that by showing they can think and write in a way that's fairly nuanced and sophisticated.

Mistakes? Applicants tend to make these essays long-winded resumes; in other words, their resumes might be an outline of what their essays are. When you get to law school, they don't pin a badge on you with your name and a list of all the things that you've done, so putting these things in a personal statement doesn't make any sense. [Within the application] you have a resume or a series of questions that elicit that information, so to recap all that again is redundant and often boring.

The essay should follow the directions in the application; if it asks for one page or 250 words, the applicant should try to stay within those boundaries. We have a reasonableness standard. Whoever sits down to read the applicant's file has probably, if they're lucky, half an hour to do it. So the candidate needs to make judgments about what's most important [to include]. Submitting a Ph.D. thesis, honors papers, multitudinous newspaper clippings [or other materials not requested] is something they shouldn't do. What candidates need to present is something that can be read carefully and digested in 15 to 30 minutes. Also, they ought to be themselves; they ought not to try to sway the reader by their apparent vocabulary and [use of] multi-syllable words. They're much better off being direct and succinct. The people who are reading these files have read a lot of other files, so they have a frame of reference with which to think about this [your statement]. You need to stay within this frame of reference: they know you have a college degree or are about to get one, that you might have some work history and they expect you to talk about things in that general vein. You don't want me to be reading your senior honors thesis on physics because I don't know much about that. So applicants need to get to the point and make sure that whatever they write is well-written, free of typographical errors, tailored to what the school asks for. They ought not to simply word-process their essay and send the same one to even- school to which they apply. A fundamental judgment they have to make concerns what is a reasonable number of law schools to which to apply—four, five, six, seven, maybe as many as eight. Each essay ought to fit the parameters of what a particular school asks for. It's easy for me to pick up a file and know that Yale got the same essay that we did. You don't want to create a new one for each school from whole cloth but each essay should be a little more different than which law school it mentions by name. At Michigan, for example, we have three separate essays an applicant can write that address the concerns 1 mentioned in the beginning. So 1 think it's worth an applicant's while to pull those out and separate them.

One or two people read each essay at Michigan. Some schools have full committee deliberation on every file; at the other end [of the spectrum] you have the dean of admissions who essentially makes all the decisions. All law schools are somewhere on that continuum between those two poles but we're more toward the end where the dean of admissions essentially makes those judgments. I have a couple of professional staff members who aid me in reading files and making recommendations to me and then I ultimately make the judgments.

0 0

Post a comment