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Law School Admissions

Demon Team Apr 1, 2024Admissions Cycle Takeaways (Micah McCreary)

Micah McCreary is an LSAT coach and law school admissions consultant through his company JurisPrep. He’s also a former LSAT Demon student and current 2L at Harvard Law School. Micah joins Ben and Nathan to share insights about the current admissions cycle, emphasizing the importance of a well-crafted diversity statement. The guys also discuss Micah’s experience at Harvard, the challenges of working in big law, and their shared focus on an accuracy-first approach to the LSAT.  3:51 - Harvard Law School Micah attended Harvard Law School virtually for his 1L year. He now appreciates the networking opportunities that come from attending law school in person. 8:52 - Big Law Micah plans to work in corporate law, but he’s wary of the grueling hours and unrewarding assignments often faced by junior associates at big law firms. 17:32 - Don’t Pay for Law School Micah shares the history and mission of JurisPrep, his LSAT and law school admissions consulting business. The guys explain the nuance behind the tagline “don’t pay for law school.” 27:13 - Ignore the Clock Micah agrees with Ben and Nathan on their accuracy-first approach to the LSAT. They brainstorm ways for students to practice ignoring the clock when taking timed sections. 40:13 - Admissions Cycle In an unusually slow admissions cycle, Micah has noticed that applicants with strong diversity statements have fared better than those without. 56:17 - Working While in Law School Micah recommends that law students avoid working other jobs until after their 1L years. 1:05:49 - Words of the Week Ben and Nathan proscribe LSAT gimmicks. They prescribe a commonsense approach that focuses on careful reading. 1:11:39 - Application Timing Micah advises law school applicants to apply as early in the cycle as possible.

Demon Team Dec 9, 2021Interested in Applying to Law School in Canada?

Hey Demon family, Francesca here. There’s lots of information out there about applying to law schools in the US. How much of it applies to Canadian schools? As a Canadian student, I wondered about this when I studied with the Demon. Here’s what you need to know about applying to law school in Canada. How do Canadian and American law schools differ? Price: One major difference is that law school tuition in Canada is about half the full price of most American law schools (friendly reminder: don’t pay that). The flip side is that Canadian schools don’t offer as many scholarships—more on this later. Application process: Canadian law schools don’t use LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service. Most schools have their own admissions portals. If you’re applying in Ontario (University of Toronto, Osgoode, or Queen’s, for example), there is a centralized application system called OLSAS. The application requirements in Canada are similar to those in America. Generally, you need to submit your undergraduate transcript, LSAT score(s), letters of recommendation, and personal statement. Here are some things to keep in mind: Most law schools in Canada don’t accept the GRE as a substitute for the LSAT. Quebec law schools don’t require the LSAT. But if you’ve taken it, they will consider your score(s), for better or worse. Some schools have language requirements. If you want to go to law school in Quebec, you must be able to speak French. Each school has specific essay guidelines. Some schools specify word limits, formatting requirements, and even guidelines about structure and content. Applicants fall into different categories. These include general, international, transfer, Indigenous, access, joint-degree, and part-time applicants. Make sure you’re providing the right documents for your category. Some schools may also request corroborative documents, resume, evidence of eligibility, letters of good standing, and more. TL;DR: Read the guidelines on each school’s website! Classes and student life: Like in the US, many law schools in Canada use long final exams worth 100% of your grade, particularly in your 1L year. Grades for most classes are determined on a bell curve. Your 1L courses will be mostly predetermined, while your 2L and 3L years will allow more flexibility and electives. The content of these courses obviously differs from the content of courses in the US: Canadian law schools teach Canadian law. If you want to practice law in the US, you should study law in the US. There are ways to transfer from one country to another, but this often involves another course and/or another bar exam. The process and regulations vary depending on the province/state you are leaving and the one you’re entering. Moving between provinces is much easier than moving between countries—more on this below. Canadian and American law schools alike usually offer law clinic experiences. They also have Black Law Students’ Associations and other diversity groups, student journals and law reviews, degree specializations (like Indigenous law), and other extracurricular opportunities. Class sizes can be smaller than those of big US schools, but student life is usually comparable. Rankings: Canadian law schools are all of similar educational quality and reputation in the job market. American law schools, on the other hand, vary much more in terms of the opportunities they will offer you. Macleans, the Canadian equivalent of US News & World Report, offers a much-discussed ranking of Canadian law schools, but don’t give this too much weight. Consider the difference between the highest- and lowest-ranked schools in each country. In the US, the difference between Yale and Willamette University College of Law is life-changing. (Have you heard of Willamette? If so, be honest, are you from Salem?) In Canada, the difference between the University of Toronto and the University of Victoria is unremarkable. They both have excellent programs. They have comparable employment outcomes. As we’ll discuss below, you should go to school where you want to practice. How does Ben and Nathan’s usual advice apply to Canadian students? Let’s look at some of the Demon’s most crucial pieces of advice and consider the extent to which they apply to Canadian law school applicants. Don’t pay for law school—not applicable It’s pretty rare to get a merit-based full-ride scholarship to law school in Canada. Don’t go into the application process with this expectation. You can, however, get a great scholarship, and some schools offer significant financial assistance in 2L or 3L even if you didn’t get any in 1L. Even though tuition is lower in Canada than in the US, 10–30k a year still isn’t cheap. Just like in the US, a better LSAT and GPA in Canada means better scholarship offers. Most law schools offer need-based bursaries, which require a separate application. Canada’s tuition assistance model is, in this way, similar to that of Harvard, Yale, or Stanford. Apply in September or don’t apply—not applicable The deadlines to apply to Canadian schools are much earlier (school-specific details can be found on our Canadian law school comparison spreadsheet), and many admissions offices don’t begin their review process until after the deadline. The most important thing is to follow the guidelines given to you by the school. Take the LSAT as many times as it takes to get your best possible score—applicable in some cases Different schools have different policies for interpreting multiple LSAT scores. Some look only at the highest score (U of T and Queen’s are examples). Others (like McGill) take an average of your scores. So you should think twice before taking the test on a whim. Again, this information will be on each school’s website. Go to school where you want to practice—generally applicable No matter which country you’re in, law school will help you build your professional network. Build this network in the region where you hope to practice, as local connections will help you find job opportunities. Canadian law schools also gear their curriculum toward helping students be called to the provincial bar. If you go to law school in Nova Scotia, you will be more familiar with the legislation and processes that show up on the Nova Scotia bar than will someone who went to school in Saskatchewan. Many provincial bar societies offer province-specific prep courses instead of a bar exam. You can choose which bar exam or course you want to take after graduation. You can find more information on the Canadian Centre for Professional Legal Education website, on the employment pages of law schools, or on the website of the law society of the province in which you’re interested. These considerations don’t preclude you from going to another province to article or to write the bar exam, but you may need to brush up on specific provincial legislation and case law. If you’re a practicing lawyer in one province and want to transfer to another, you can apply for permanent mobility under the National Mobility Act (or Territorial Mobility Act if you’re in the Northwest Territories). Transferring to or from Quebec practice is more challenging because Quebec law is based on the Napoleonic Civil Law tradition rather than on the British Common Law tradition. The Interjurisdictional Practice Protocol exists to govern these transfers. Get the best LSAT score you can—100% applicable The LSAT is a major component of your application in Canada, just as it is in the US. Many Canadian schools are transparent about the weight attached to each component of your application, and unsurprisingly, the LSAT always carries a lot of weight. For instance, at UVic, your GPA and LSAT are each weighted at 50%, and your personal statement “may also be taken into account.” This doesn’t mean you should neglect your personal statement, but it does mean that if your undergraduate GPA is out of your control at this point, knocking your LSAT out of the park is the best way to increase your chances of admission. A strong LSAT score will also greatly increase your chances of getting a merit-based scholarship. Still have questions? If you’re looking for specific information about a school or program, each law school has a comprehensive admissions page on their website. Most also have FAQ pages. If you can’t find an answer to your question, consider asking the admissions office directly. This is the start of your relationship with the people who will be reading your file, so remember to be professional and thoughtful in your correspondence. By and large, if you find a great resource for American law school admissions information, it’ll apply to Canadian schools, as well. If you’re unsure, reach out to one of our Canadian teachers for more information.  We’ve also written up a spreadsheet comparing all the different law schools in Canada in terms of tuition, stats, deadlines, and more! We did the research so you don’t have to. Special thanks to our teacher and tutor Michael Poirier for compiling many of the resources in this article. Hope to see you in the study group!

Nathan Fox Sep 23, 2021The 2022 Law School Scholarship Feeding Frenzy Has Begun

Last week, the first scholarship offers for the 2022 law school admissions cycle started rolling in. Savvy applicants who applied with their best LSAT score in the beginning of September already have their first offers in hand. You’ll hear us tell the following two stories on the LSAT Demon Daily podcast in the next few days: LSAT Demon student Ronnie reported that his dad, “an old-school Puerto Rican guy from the Bronx,” got a little emotional on the phone when Ronnie told him about his full-ride offer from Penn State Dickinson. Ronnie has until April 15 to decide whether to accept this offer. He’ll have many more to choose from by then. LSAT Demon student Brandon has a half-tuition offer at a top-20 school, plus a full-ride offer at the next-highest ranked school on his list. Brandon’s stats: an abysmal 2.5 UGPA alongside four official LSATs of 152, 164, 158, and 168. Both applicants improved their LSAT scores dramatically. Both applied at the beginning of the admissions cycle. Both will attend law school for free. Our mission statement at LSAT Demon is “don’t pay for law school.” You don’t have to be a perfect applicant to make that happen. But you do need to understand the game you’re playing and play in a way that takes advantage of its rules. Law schools use rolling admissions. This means they open their applications in the fall for the following fall’s entering class. And they immediately start throwing scholarship offers around in an attempt to poach the best applicants. Law schools give full-tuition scholarships—and sometimes even stipends—to applicants with LSATs and GPAs that will lift the numbers on their American Bar Association 509 profile and, in turn, lift the schools’ rankings. To see what kind of scholarships you might expect with any GPA/LSAT combination, visit our Scholarship Estimator at LSATdemon.com/scholarships. (The Estimator aggregates publicly available 509 data on tuition, scholarships, and LSAT/GPA percentiles to make its predictions.) Law schools care about only your highest LSAT score because that’s what they have to report to the ABA. If some random school tells you otherwise, then they are mistaken, lying, or making applications decisions that lower their public ABA 509 profile, which will undermine that school’s ranking. (Why would you want to go to a school that does that?) The LSAT is learnable. Excited students tell us about 15-, 20-, and even 25-point improvements every time scores are released. Law school in the United States is wildly overpriced. One big reason that tuition is so out of whack is the scholarships. Simply put, law schools are charging everyone a different price. If you’re not getting a scholarship, you’re paying for someone else’s. The reason we say “don’t pay for law school” is that you simply don’t have to. In the coming weeks, Ronnie and Brandon will continue receiving offers. These offers will have deposit deadlines sometime in the spring. Ronnie and Brandon will have the option to accept whichever offers they like best—and they’ll have time to negotiate even better offers before settling on anything. If you’re thinking about applying in October or beyond, you’re already standing in line behind applicants like Ronnie and Brandon. Yes, you could still get into great schools. Yes, you could still get great scholarship offers. I’m not saying these things are impossible. But I am saying your plan is suboptimal. The later you apply, the more offers will already have been made. Those seats and scholarship offers will be unavailable to late applicants while the Ronnies and Brandons of the world make their decisions. Our advice is to apply with your best LSAT score. Our advice is to apply in September, or next September, or the September after that. Or not at all. The reason we say those things is that they serve our broader mission. Don’t pay for law school. People who follow our advice—people like Ronnie and Brandon—will save themselves $150,000 or more in law school tuition. People who don’t follow our advice will foot the bill. We didn’t create these rules. We’re just telling you how to take advantage of them. None of this is new or shows any sign of changing. In highly competitive cycles, and in down cycles, students who apply early with their best LSAT scores get the best offers. If you’re considering applying in October or beyond, just don’t. Wait until September 1 of next year. Keep working on the LSAT—you can take multiple shots at it between now and then. And by this time next year, you may already have your first offers in hand. Come see how easy the LSAT and law school admissions can be. Email us at: help@lsatdemon.com.

Nathan Fox Sep 9, 2021Three More Commandments for Personal Statements that Don’t Suck

It’s September, and wise law school applicants are trying to follow our advice to get in early on rolling admissions. Offers of admission and scholarships tend to be much more generous for those who apply in September than for those who apply in any other month. Good on you, if you’re applying right now. Thank you for listening to us. It’s gonna work out well for you, I promise. Unfortunately, most of the personal statement submissions we receive don’t follow the bulk of our advice. Maybe you’re new. If so, welcome! Check out our previous personal statement lessons and podcast episodes here, here, here, here, and here. It’s a bit discouraging to constantly read personal statement submissions that seem to flout all our advice. I’m not saying anybody should feel sorry for me. I love what I do, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. But going forward, if you’re going to submit a personal statement to the Thinking LSAT podcast, you’re going to have to run a bit of a questionnaire gauntlet. By all means, please do submit. But make sure that you’ve taken advantage of our pre-existing resources before asking for custom advice. It’s a bit rude not to, don’t you think? Or maybe you don’t think. That’s cool too! Email us at help@lsatdemon.com if you want to tell me I’m full of shit. Or, if you’re enjoying these columns and you’d like to suggest a different topic—I’d be delighted to have a mental-health break into almost anything else—please propose something. I read every email, even if I don’t have time to respond to them all. I’ve got a couple more hard-and-fast rules for you. The first one’s really simple: Commandment: Two pages, double-spaced, max Most law schools expect a two-page statement. We expect that you’re going to use the same statement for almost all of the 10–20 schools to which you apply. So when you submit for consideration on a future episode of Thinking LSAT, that’s what we’re going to require. One page is too short. Three pages is too long. Anything between one and a quarter and two full pages is acceptable, and that’s a pretty damn wide target to hit. Use 11- or 12-point font, with double-spaced lines. While we’re at it, please left-justify (not full-justify) and choose a normal font, like Times or Arial. This is a professional document, so it’s not appropriate to let your Comic Sans flag fly. This commandment is non-negotiable if you want us to read your shit. We will not read it if you don’t follow this rule. Why am I such a hardass about this? Well, you’re too young to remember Van Halen, but Van Halen was a rock band in the ’80s. Allegedly, Van Halen had a rider in their tour contract that specified all sorts of complicated stuff about how they wanted their mics and speakers and instruments and whatever other rocker shit. Anyway, one of the things they specified was a bowl of M&Ms backstage. This bowl of M&Ms was to have all the brown M&Ms removed. Allegedly, if Van Halen showed up to play their bitchin’ rock show in Fresno or wherever and there were no M&Ms—or there were M&Ms with the brown ones not removed—Van Halen would leave the building. No bitchin’ rock show for you, Fresno or wherever! This wasn’t because Van Halen hated brown M&Ms. It was because they wanted the venue to follow all the other requirements in their damn rider! If I see a statement that’s one page, or three pages, or not double-spaced, I will know immediately that you’re not following our guidelines. No bitchin’ personal statement advice for you. Commandment: Use a damn period sometimes. Y’all gotta stop it with the colons and semicolons and ellipses and other artsy bullshit. Even when you use them correctly, they’re annoying distractions. But putting all that artifice aside, your sentences are too damn long. Look: Throughout my time working and volunteering in community service, I have been a part of several impactful events and programs, such as being the ambassador at the Capitol One’s Race for the Kids charity event, vice-president of my community centre’s Youth Council, and running virtual programs during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to connect and stay in contact with youth during a difficult time. Come on man. There are 64 words in that sentence. Anyone who tries to read that sentence out loud would pass out from asphyxiation before they finish. It’s just not that hard to use a damn period once in a while, to allow the reader to catch their breath. Nobody’s going to get anything out of that crazy list of vague and unrelated items. Make them separate sentences! If you’re proud enough of these achievements to include them in your personal statement, then give them their own stage on which to shine. Stop crowding them into long-winded lists that your reader is probably just going to skip. I don’t know where I learned it, but someone somewhere told me that 35 words should be a hard cap on words per sentence. I myself violate this at times, but I shouldn’t. When I take the time to go back and edit myself, I find it’s hard to justify even getting close to the cap, let alone breaking it. If I just use a damn period sometimes, I can find ways to cut each of these sentences into two or three, without ruining the style. You should do the same. Even 35 words is too many for most of us. I suggest 25 words per sentence, max. Commandment: Omit most days, times, months, and years. Applicants stuff their personal statements with references to times of day, days of the week, months and seasons of the year, and years themselves. These details aren’t crucial parts of your story, so they should be omitted. Look: Wednesday, April 13th, 2011, started like any other humid day during Nigeria's rainy season. As it turns out, the date is very important to this applicant because of something very bad that happened to them. The entire story violates our commandment to put your best foot forward, and so the entire thing’s gotta go. But even if we were going to keep the story, we’ve gotta lose the date. It makes no difference to the reader whether this happened on a Wednesday or a Saturday, in April or in November, on the 13th or the 32nd, in 2011 or in any other year. It doesn’t get you any closer to making the reader think, “Wow, this guy’s gonna be a kickass lawyer—we have no choice but to admit him,” so it has no place in your statement. It’s especially egregious when months and years are included to make reference to when someone was hired. This information is on your resume. If I cared, which I don’t, I could look it up there. (I won’t.) Sometimes applicants push back like, “What’s so bad about including this? Do law schools really not want to read about thoughts and feelings, or my job interview, or high school, or specific dates?” This objection misses the point. We have only two pages, max, to put our best foot forward. To make the most of our opportunity, we must ruthlessly omit things that are neutral to our story. If it’s not moving the story forward, it’s gotta go. Every sentence, starting from the very first one, needs to draw the reader toward the conclusions that you’re a badass, that you’ll be even more of a badass after law school, and that the reader will have a terminal case of FOMO if they even consider denying or waitlisting you. With all these don’ts, maybe you’re confused about how to get started. That’s okay—just start putting words on paper. Good writing doesn’t just appear out of the ether, perfectly formed. It’s the result of shitty first drafts and merciless rounds of editing. The finished product needs to be somewhere between one and two pages. The first draft can be four pages, or more. Don’t edit yourself too much, just get it all out there on the page. Then use these commandments to cut, cut, cut, leaving only the good stuff behind.

Nathan Fox Sep 2, 2021Horrifying Examples of Why Your Personal Statement Doesn’t Need an Ending

This week’s lesson was prompted by Demon student Kenzie, who writes, Would it be possible to discuss in one of your upcoming lessons how to end a personal statement? I have my story and my facts. I understand your commandments and plan to use them. But when it comes to tying everything together for the ending, I think way too much weight is always put on the “conclusion” paragraph of writing. Granted, it is the end—and could tie everything together or cause the paper to fall apart—but I don’t believe in tying my story into how I will “succeed” in law school because I think anyone who does that is just creating fluff and more bullshit. I simply want to be able to end my personal statement in a way that is strong but not too over the top. Thanks, Kenzie. Ben and I recorded a new episode of the Thinking LSAT podcast just this morning, and with your email in mind, I paid particular attention to the ending of each statement. They were very bad. Just desperately, extremely not good. Terrible enough, in fact, that I’m going to put this in bold: You probably don’t need an ending. Seriously, just omit. You don’t need it! Where does it say in the personal statement prompt that your statement must have a beginning, a middle, and an end? Where does it say, “This is seventh grade, and you need to learn how to write a five-paragraph essay, so you better damn well introduce what you’re going to write about, then write about it, and then write about it again in a lame, obvious conclusion”? It doesn’t say that. So you don’t need to write that way. One of the most common pieces of personal statement advice Ben and I have given over the years is “cut your first paragraph.” A close second is probably “cut your last paragraph.” Most endings suck and just don’t need to be there. Here’s an example: Thank you for taking the time to read my application, and I look forward to discussing my future opportunities at your school. The thank-you part is polite, I guess, but it’s also a waste of time. Schools need applicants. They advertise, waste money on glossy brochures, and literally travel around the country giving candy away, trying to trick people into applying. You do not need to thank them for reading your application—they should be thanking you. You might have even paid them an application fee! As far as the “I look forward to discussing…”—what? Most schools don’t offer interviews, so this will look naive. Even if they do offer interviews, it’s presumptuous to assume you’re going to get one. So just don’t say this. The statement would be stronger without this ending, no matter what came before it. Here’s another one: I admire the work I am involved in but feel limited in providing additional support to the immigrant community. I will obtain the legal knowledge to polish my client advocacy skills by attending law school. I am confident that (LAW SCHOOL) immigration (programs/clinics) will provide me the education to provide quality service and put me on the best path to becoming an immigration attorney, an attorney that shares the lived experiences of their clients. The first sentence of this ending starts by undermining the applicant. You’re supposed to be selling me on the badass work you’ve done, not complaining that you are “limited” in what you do. Your reader sells law school for a living, so they already believe that your options will be broader after law school than they were before. Please don’t shit on your current job. Omit this. The second sentence does the Captain Obvious “I will learn skills in school” thing, which, no shit! That’s what school is for. What’s the point of including this? The third sentence is a transparent attempt to make the applicant look more interested in a particular school than they actually are. This sort of blatant copy-paste job isn’t going to fool anyone. Don’t waste the space, and don’t take the risk that LSAC might send the wrong essay to the wrong school! Name-dropping the right school has no upside, but name-dropping the wrong school has a significant downside. Just don’t do it. Omit. Brace yourself; here’s another one: As you can see, based on my experience, I think I would be a strong candidate and make a positive contribution to your law school. My preference would be in transactional law, where I’m making deals, not breaking them like litigation. The first sentence crosses boundaries with the overly familiar “as you can see.” No. Please don’t presume to tell your readers what’s in their own heads. Worse, the thing that this applicant believes the reader can see is something that’s in the applicant’s own head! You’re thinking that I’m thinking that you’re thinking that I’m thinking… No. Stop it. And even if we put this mental state-sturbation aside, the reader already knows you’re applying to law school, so obviously they know you think you’re a strong candidate. No shit. The second sentence takes an unnecessary potshot at litigation, which will come off as both rude and naive. Your reader knows a lot more about litigation than you do. This idea that transactional attorneys make deals and litigators break them is a holier-than-thou—and also incorrect—assessment of the legal industry that you’re not qualified to make. Omit. Next! I am grateful for the guidance and resources afforded to me as a Big Law patent agent, and I am anxious to step up as a patent attorney who has the authority and capability to counsel large clients on their intellectual property. Gratitude is lovely, but this reference to your mental state should be omitted. The next mental state reference, “I am anxious,” is even worse. It both shits on your current role as a patent agent and invites your reader to see you as an impatient, worried applicant who is experiencing actual anxiety in a rush to take this next step. It’s not the look we’re going for. Finally, as far as “authority and capability to blah blah blah”—yes, law school will allow you to do more things. Stop selling law school to law schools! The personal statement is supposed to be about you, not about trying to convince law schools that their product will be good for you. They already believe that more than anyone else does. This ending is particularly unnecessary because patent agents are extremely attractive to law schools. They know that you’re already employed in the legal field. They know that you will be able to continue getting paid as a patent agent throughout school. They know that you’ll be even more employable after graduation than you are now, because of the experience you will continue to build. You had them at the words “patent agent,” so use this space to talk more about your work. Instead of forcing a conclusion, just shut up—they’re already itching to reach favorable conclusions on their own. One more stinker: I choose to pursue law school now as a natural step toward my family’s future. My goal is to open an anesthesia practice with my husband when he retires from military service, and we hope to continue to serve veterans in the healthcare field. Experience in health and contractual law will be invaluable to the informed development of this endeavor. For me, this is the worst of the bunch. Law school is not a natural step in anyone’s “family future.” You’re going, not them. And it will probably be the worst thing that’s ever happened to them, assuming they actually like having you around. Law school is intensely stressful and time consuming. Unless the kids are desperate to get you out of the house, the three-year law school stress-bomb that you’re about to drop on the household is going to feel totally unnatural and bad. As far as the goal of opening an anesthesia practice with your husband, and “experience in health and contractual law will be invaluable to the informed development of this endeavor”—no it won’t. I’m both a law school graduate and an entrepreneur, and I promise that the only useful thing I learned in law school was “holy shit, there is no way I would ever dare to counsel myself about anything.” If you don’t intend to practice law, don’t go to law school. Just start the business! You can hire whatever lawyering you need. Especially in an area as fraught as healthcare, you’d be insane to take your own legal advice instead of hiring an expert in the field. You become an expert only through the training that comes from working in this practice area for some years after school. By all means, read Wikipedia or check out some books at the library and dive in. You don’t need a JD to do this. And I promise that, even if you do go to law school, the second you start talking to an actual lawyer in the field, you’ll realize that no amount of school or reading would ever substitute for wise, experienced counsel. Simply put, fresh law school grads don’t know shit. Five for five—all these endings suck, and all of them should be omitted. I didn’t even cherry-pick, by the way. These were just the next five statements in the Thinking LSAT podcast queue. Of course, at this point, I can hear you all furiously typing “BUT HOW DO I END IT THEN?!?!?!11!” Yeah. When in doubt, just don’t. The personal statement is only a page and a half long. It doesn’t require a beginning, a middle, and an end. Fill up the available real estate with good facts about yourself, and leave conclusions out of it. If you present the right facts in the right way, the reader will be making positive conclusions about you well before they approach the end of the statement. Ideally, they’re going to stop halfway through and chuck you into the “admit” pile because they’ve already made their decision and they’ve got a huge stack of applications to get through. If they do make it all the way to the end without making a decision, do you really think that any of the endings above would swing the needle toward “admit”? Or would they actually start edging it toward “deny”? Occasionally—on maybe one in ten statements—the theme is something like, “I totally kill it right now as a concert pianist.” In those rare cases, a very brief statement of what you hope to do as a lawyer might be justified. I’m talking one or two sentences, just to let the reader know that you actually wrote this for a law school application and you aren’t recycling something you wrote for an MFA program. Consider something along the lines of, “In law school, I hope to explore a career in commercial bankruptcy.” Or, “I am excited to explore a broad range of practice areas, but my particular interest right now is criminal defense.” Do this only if you think the statement really needs it, though. And if you do it, keep it short. I’m open to the possibility that I’m full of shit—email me at nathan@lsatdemon.com and let me know what you think of this lesson.

Nathan Fox Aug 26, 2021More Commandments for Personal Statements that Don’t Suck

In last week’s lesson, I chiseled out five personal statement commandments: Consider your audience. Put your best foot forward. Avoid passive voice. Omit thoughts, feelings, and other mental states. Stop talking about interviews and job offers. This week, I’m hauling another stone tablet down the mountain. Commandment: Make it about you. Law schools are considering whether to admit you, not anyone else. They’re not admitting your parents, grandparents, spouse, children, mentor, or whatever random guru you might be tempted to quote at the top of your statement. You. So, when in doubt, omit all references to anyone other than yourself. It’s not egotistical to omit them—it’s a personal statement! The express purpose of the document is to convince admissions officers that you’re going to succeed at their law school. You’re going to be a successful attorney. You’re going to be a high-profile alum who’s going to raise the prestige of the school. YOU, goddamnit. Before you include anyone else in your statement, ask yourself: “How does including this other person make me look good?” Name-dropping a powerful boss doesn’t count. We care what you’ve done for that boss, not that you know their name. Virtue signaling doesn’t count, either. It impresses nobody when you reference the Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa, Willie Nelson, or any other saint. If these people have actually inspired you so deeply, you’ll have done something with that inspiration. Please, for the love of god, tell us what you’ve done. Commandment: Stop selling law school to law schools. Many applicants suffer from the misconception that they have to spell out precisely how their experience will translate to success in law school. I hear this a lot: The problem is that my reason for wanting to go to law school, and the reason why I think a school should accept me, is because I’m good at this type of work and it’s enjoyable. I don’t know how to convey that in a statement. This applicant, after nine years of experience at a law firm, feels insecure enough to close her draft personal statement with the following explanation: After many years in the legal field and dedicating thousands of hours to improving my skills and knowledge, I have reached a “knowledge wall.” This figurative wall cannot be ascended without law school. To reach my career goals and continue my growth in the legal industry, law school is the course of action. I have demonstrated skills, knowledge, willingness to adapt, and solid foundational abilities for becoming an attorney through the actions and accolades described above. This is strong grounds for predicting a favorable probability of success as a law school student. Putting the frivolous and clumsy “knowledge wall” metaphor aside, the point of this paragraph is the obvious, and thus boring, “law school is next if I want to be a lawyer.” It is all telling, no showing. It makes me sad. You’re flouting our first commandment: Consider thy reader. Your audience sells law school for a living—all day, every day. They, and their predecessors, have been doing this since before you were born. If anyone believes that law school’s a good idea, it’s them. You have nine damn years of experience in a law firm! No one believes more than a law school admissions officer does that someone with nine years of law firm experience is a good fit for law school. You’re their target market. They know more about this business than you do. They know about opportunities you’ve never even considered. They can fill in the blanks. If you show yourself as a winning contributor at your current firm, they will see a world of opportunity for you at their school. Let them make the connections—ones you might not even think of—instead of trying to force one on them. Especially something so ham-fisted and mundane as “this is strong grounds for predicting a favorable probability of success.” Delete this entire paragraph. Use the available space to provide positive facts about yourself. Let the facts speak for themselves. Don’t blather on with conclusion after conclusion. Ben here: I’m going to give Nathan a break. Those tablets are heavy. Here’s another one. Commandment: Stop using the vomit-inducing word “advocate.” The word advocate is nauseating because everyone uses it to sound like they’re an attorney. Oh, really, you were “advocating” for someone? Wow, you must be an attorney. It’s grating to hear that word over and over in the comparatively few statements that we see every week. I can’t imagine what it must be like for an actual admissions officer. But there’s another more substantive problem: It’s not clear what you mean by “advocate.” Did you speak in front of a crowd? Petition a judge? Write to your political leaders? What actually happened? And yet another problem: When you “advocate” for something, we still don’t know the outcome. So we’re stuck with two burning questions: (1) What did you actually do? (2) And did you even succeed? I can see it coming. When people are given a commandment, they are quick to find a workaround that’s just as bad. I’m not telling you to replace the word “advocate” with fight, defend, or any other silly synonym. I’m telling you to tell us the facts. What did you do? What steps did you take? How did you win? How did you kick ass? You got this. Back to Nathan... We’re up to eight Commandments for Personal Statements that Don’t Suck. Please, for the sake of Ben’s and my mental health, make sure your statement follows these commandments before you show us a draft. I’d love to hear what you think about this lesson—email us at help@lsatdemon.com.

Nathan Fox Aug 19, 2021Commandments for Writing a Personal Statement that Doesn’t Suck

The past few weeks of the Thinking LSAT podcast and last week’s lesson have turned into an extended personal statement-palooza as waves of listeners and LSAT Demon students have submitted their drafts. Unfortunately, they haven’t been pretty. As editors, Ben and I wield giant sledgehammers. Often, there’s not much left when we’re done swinging them. That’s okay, because the first step in construction is often demolition. But when we spend so much time on the demo crew, we’re unable to help with the finer carpentry. The purpose of this lesson is to draw out some general principles that will help you lay a better foundation. First commandment: Consider your audience. Your reader, a law school admissions officer, faces a mountain of applications every day. Let’s take a typical good-but-not-great law school like UC Hastings, my alma mater. Their 2020 ABA 509 report shows 3,319 applications. Of those, 1,283 were offered admission. So roughly one in three applications were accepted. Of those applications that were accepted, only 368 (roughly one third) actually went to Hastings. Law schools aren’t nearly as prestigious as they pretend to be. Obviously they don’t all come in at once, but imagine a stack of 3,000-something applications. Your task is to shitcan two thirds of them, accept the rest, and cross your fingers that enough of the ones you admit enroll in your school. How will you decide who to swipe left on? Keep in mind that your school can survive only if you choose candidates who will succeed in law school and in legal practice. If an accepted applicant doesn’t do well in law school, they won’t get a job. If they don’t get a job, they’ll kill the school’s employment numbers and law school rankings. You want serious, focused, winning applicants. And you’ve got a giant mountain of applications to get through. You grab the first one off the pile, and you read: Having multiple job offers right out of college is the ideal situation to have for most. However, it put me in an exceedingly difficult situation. All but one offer was for Project Manager positions for local construction companies. The other was a consultant position for a litigation consulting firm just outside of Washington D.C. I decided to move across the country to figure out if a career path on the legal side of construction was for me. This is from the first draft of a statement that I picked more or less at random—it’s from a Demon Live student who we’ll call Dub. (Thanks, Dub, for being our guinea pig.) It could be worse—at least it doesn’t have the type of blatant grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes that are immediately highlighted by Microsoft Word or Google Docs. But it does violate several of the commandments below. And I think it also violates the first commandment above. Ring… Ring… Ringgggg Imagine: Just as you finish reading Dub’s first paragraph, your phone rings. As a busy law school admissions professional, you’ve got your boss—the dean—up your ass about giving him a better class this year. If your school doesn’t stop falling in the rankings, someone’s gotta be the scapegoat and it damn sure won’t be him. You’re also harassed all day by phone calls, emails, and the usual time-wasting office bullshit. Anyway, you’re called away from your office. As you walk down the hall to some stupid meeting, do you salivate at the prospect of Dub’s application? Based on only what you know right now, does he sound like an obvious winner? As an admissions officer, will you be immediately struck with a devastating case of FOMO if you decide to pass? When you return to your office, will you be excited to read the rest of Dub’s personal statement? Or will you peek ahead to the next application in the pile? As you write your personal statement, it is critical to leave the reader with a good first impression. If they read only the first paragraph of your statement, they should already want to admit you. Second commandment: Put your best foot forward. In the first sentence, we got one positive fact: Dub had multiple job offers right out of college. Cool—that sounds like a winner. But wait, what’s this? In the second sentence, Dub starts complaining about the “exceedingly difficult” situation these job offers presented. What planet are we on, where having multiple job offers is not only difficult but exceedingly difficult? We’re looking for winners, not people who take good situations and spin them into bad ones. And we’re looking for decisive, positive doers, not unfocused kids still struggling to figure out what to do with their lives. I wrote about this at length last week: Stop including bad facts in your personal statement. You’ve got only a page and a half. Don’t waste a single word undercutting your own case. In the third, fourth, and fifth sentences, Dub takes us on a boring detour through multiple job offers he didn’t even accept, a job offer he did accept and which would thus be on his resume, and a cross-country move that we give zero shits about. No admissions officer ever said, “Wow, this guy actually accepted a job and then moved across the country—he’s destined to be a successful lawyer!” By the end of the first paragraph, all we’ve learned is that Dub had multiple job offers and chose one of them. It’s not a promising start. Third commandment: Avoid passive voice. For some reason, applicants shy away from using “I” as the subject of their sentences—even though the personal statement is supposed to be personal. Let’s break down Dub’s first paragraph one sentence at a time. Having multiple job offers right out of college is the ideal situation to have for most. The subject of this sentence is “Having multiple job offers right out of college.” The verb is “is”—a form of the boring verb “to be.” The sentence would be clearer and about half as long if it said, “I weighed multiple job offers right out of college.” As I’ll discuss below, this probably isn’t the theme I want to go for. But if I were going to write about this, I’d use “I” as the subject and an active verb like “weighed.” However, it put me in an exceedingly difficult situation. The subject of the second sentence is “it,” referring back to the tortured subject of the first sentence. The verb is “put,” which is an active verb—normally that’s a good thing, except here, it’s a situation, not our hero, that’s doing the putting. Meanwhile, the supposed star of the show, Dub, is the one being put. All but one offer was for Project Manager positions for local construction companies. The subject of the third sentence is “all but one offer,” paired with the passive “was” as the verb. The other was a consultant position for a litigation consulting firm just outside of Washington D.C. The subject of the fourth sentence is “the other [offer],” accompanied by another “was” for a verb. Where’s our hero? He has entirely disappeared. Job offers take center stage so that they can just sit there, doing nothing. I decided to move across the country to figure out if a career path on the legal side of construction was for me. The subject “I” finally appears at the beginning of the fifth sentence. It’s paired with an active verb, “decided.” Active verbs are good, but this particular active verb violates our next commandment. Fourth commandment: Omit thoughts, feelings, and other mental states. The final sentence of Dub’s first paragraph contains not one, but two references to his mental state. First he is deciding something. And what’s he deciding? Well—hold on to your hat—he’s deciding that he wants to figure something out. This kind of mental-state-sturbation wastes precious real estate that should be used to show the hero in action. Your mental states are interesting to one person: You. Nobody else cares what you thought, felt, decided, or learned. I mean, we do, but we don’t know you yet, and anyone can claim any desire, passion, or drive they imagine, so it sounds like bullshit. It’s pure telling—not showing—when you delve into your own brain and share the secrets that only you could possibly know. These statements are unfalsifiable opinions and should be omitted. After all, if you really felt that way, you’d do something about it. Your passion matters only to the extent that it manifests itself in action. So skip all the mumbo jumbo about what’s going on in your head, and instead show us what you’ve done with your life. Show, don’t tell. You can’t show us what’s in your brain, so shut up about it. Fifth commandment: Stop talking about interviews and job offers. This one will be short because I’ve already indicated my displeasure with it above. Dub has committed the common mistake of sharing boring, unnecessary details about job applications, interviews, offers, and the acceptance of said offers. These baby steps might have been dramatic in the moment, but every job on every resume implies the successful completion of each of these steps. Use the space to tell us about successes on the job—omit the play-by-play on exactly how you got it. For now, start with these five. Next time, I’ll offer another five commandments for personal statements that don’t suck. We'd love to hear what you think—email us at help@lsatdemon.com.

Nathan Fox Aug 12, 2021Why Your Personal Statement Sucks

On the last couple episodes of the Thinking LSAT podcast, Ben and I have read a half dozen personal statements. It’s that time of year. Over the next couple weeks, we’ll cover a few more. The purpose of this lesson is to give you some ideas about what not to include. Think of your personal statement as an argument in favor of your candidacy. You’re trying to leave the reader with the impression that you’re destined for success in law school and beyond. How do you lead readers to this conclusion? By providing facts, of course. It’s your life, and no one knows the facts of your life better than you do. So which facts should you include, and which facts should you leave out? Omit facts that could be interpreted against you. This point should be obvious, but many students choose to include facts in their personal statement that could be interpreted negatively. Let’s take a quick diversion into LSAT logical reasoning. Consider the following argument: Caitlyn’s leaving town for a few days and needs someone to take care of her dog. She’s looking for someone responsible to feed, water, protect, and walk the mutt. Neighbor John, right across the hall, says he will be the perfect dogsitter. If we wanted to strengthen John’s case for being a perfect dogsitter, something like “John loves the dog and will pay careful attention to her” would unequivocally strengthen his argument. If we wanted to weaken John’s candidacy for dogsitter, something like “John frequently forgets popcorn on his burning stove and doesn’t realize it until black smoke fills his house” would unequivocally weaken his case. It’s easy to see clear strengtheners and weakeners. But now consider something like this: John is a serious gamer who rarely leaves the house. If you were hoping to build John’s case for being a dogsitter, you might think this helps him. You’d point out that if John’s always in the house, he is always available to feed, water, and protect the dog. But there’s always an attorney on the other side, looking to twist your facts against you. In this case, the attorney against John would say, “But Caitlyn wants the dog walked! If John rarely leaves the house, how can he walk the dog?” On LSAT logical reasoning, ambiguous answers—ones that could be read either as strengtheners or as weakeners—are never correct. You wouldn’t want to include in your brief a fact that your opponent can turn against you. Don’t sabotage your own case. Consider the following bullet points, all lifted from real-life personal statement drafts submitted to the Thinking LSAT and LSAT Demon Daily podcasts: I was very irresponsible in college, so I earned terrible grades. I partied too much, and I failed to manage my time properly. I struggled with drugs and alcohol. I suffered from anxiety and depression. I come from an uneducated family, so I squandered my educational opportunities. I butted heads with the administration at my alma mater. I was mistreated by my former employer, and I ended up filing a lawsuit against them. I had medical issues that made me unable to study and/or work. I was in an abusive relationship. College was hard for me because I had to manage my dyslexia, ADD, ADHD, and/or Tourette’s Syndrome. The odds are always stacked against me. I worked four jobs simultaneously and never earned what I was worth. It’s difficult being a single parent. My mother/father/grandmother/grandfather/brother/sister is sick/addicted/mentally ill. I feel defeated/anxious/depressed when I see how many people in the world are sick/poor/downtrodden. Law school admissions folk are humans. I believe that humans are generally good. They are educated, modern, liberal-leaning people who genuinely want you to succeed in the world. But they’re comparing you against a stack of other applicants, all with similar LSATs and GPAs, and they can choose only some of you, not all of you. Stop putting reasons to deny you in your law school application! If all else is equal—which it almost certainly will be at one or more of the schools you’re applying to—any of the facts above is more likely to hurt you than to help you. It’s simple human nature. Do we want the candidate who we know for sure has struggled with alcohol and depression, or the one with similar stats, who didn’t mention addiction or mental health? Should we choose the applicant who wrote about a conflict with the administration at his former school? The one who sued his prior employer? Or the one who didn’t? We can offer only one full-ride scholarship. Should we give it to the guy who overshared a whole bunch of family drama? Or the gal who showed much better judgment by leaving that type of shit at home? You’ve only got a page and a half, two pages max, to tell your story. You have a whole lifetime of facts to choose from, which necessarily means that you must omit almost a lifetime of facts. Stop sabotaging yourself by including facts that could be interpreted against you. Fine, then what should I include? Think about a lawyer you admire. What makes them so successful? These are the traits law schools are looking for. Don’t tell the schools you have these traits, show them—by marshaling facts from your life that unambiguously demonstrate these qualities in action. Don’t tell them “I am hardworking.” Instead show them your 5 a.m. arrival time at work. Show them your midnight departure time. Show them statistics about how many more cases you handled or sales you made. Don’t tell them “I am trustworthy.” Instead show yourself opening or closing the store. Show yourself handling important filings. Show yourself being on call when it matters. For god’s sake, don’t tell them “I am passionate.” Instead show yourself doing things that demonstrate your passion. Nobody wants to hear how much you claim to care—we want to hear what you’ve done about it. Ultimately, law schools want winners. Before you go off on some sob story or overshare personal struggles—which we all have, by the way—ask yourself whether the inclusion of any particular detail is an unambiguous point in your favor. Your main competitors are demonstrating their ability to advocate by stuffing their personal statements with facts that can only be interpreted favorably. Judiciously, they omit details that could be perceived negatively. They’re not relying on pleas for sympathy. They’re not whining, oversharing, or complaining. They’re marshaling facts in their favor. Half of the battle is leaving out facts that could be used against them. I’d love to hear what you think of this lesson—Email us at help@lsatdemon.com.

Nathan Fox Jul 8, 2021Don’t Pay for Law School

This week’s lesson was prompted by my man Ben Olson: Hey,Do we have a lesson on the scholarship estimator?Potential applicants should be using it more.Can you go to a decent school for free? If not, keep studying or quit. Doesn’t mince words, does he? “Can you go to a decent school for free? If not, keep studying or quit.” Yes, this means you. Here at LSAT Demon, we believe firmly that you should go to law school for free or not at all. That’s because law school tuitions are wildly inflated, J.D. job outcomes are far from certain, salaries are bimodally distributed, and most law schools—including schools in the T-14, the T-100, and outside the T-100—give lavish full-tuition or greater-than-full-tuition scholarships to students who are smart enough to take them. You don’t even have to be particularly overqualified to get a scholarship. You just have to decide you want one. No matter who you are, no matter where you live, no matter what type of law you want to practice—don’t pay for law school. Either you’re getting one of these scholarships or you’re paying for them. If you don’t believe me, please follow Ben’s advice and check out our LSAT Demon Scholarship Estimator. I’ll run through a few examples, but there’s no substitute for plugging in your own numbers and finding your own target schools. Can I still get a scholarship if I’m a good, but not great, candidate? You bet your ass, you can. Applicants with 3.5 GPAs and 165 LSATs are a dime a dozen—but law schools across the country throw money at them nonetheless. Put 3.5/165 into the estimator, hit “update,” and scroll down until you start seeing green. Look: A school within the top 30 probably isn’t going to offer a full ride to this good-but-not-great candidate. But before we exit the top 50, we start seeing green. Green means full ride. And when we scroll down a bit further, we start seeing not only green but purple—that’s when schools start paying you. That’s right—not only can this fairly unexceptional applicant go to law school for free, they can actually get paid to go. And it’s not just one or two fluke schools, either. Sort by total cost of attendance and you see this: There are dozens of schools all across the country—even Hawaii!—falling all over themselves to give this moderately good applicant full tuition, plus a stipend, to attend their school. Can you imagine getting paid to go to school in Hawaii? But what if I have bad grades? A good LSAT can cover a lot of undergraduate sins. Let’s imagine a bad undergraduate GPA like mine—2.54—along with an excellent LSAT of 170. Can this splitter go to law school for free? Yup. But what if I have a low LSAT? Let’s try a good undergraduate student—3.75 GPA—with a bad LSAT of 150. Can this student go for free? Yes, but their options are more limited. This applicant really needs to improve their LSAT score. Your LSAT score is the one thing in your application that you can really change. Let’s imagine a typical 10-point improvement—this is the minimum that we expect from our students at LSATDemon.com. How do the scholarship estimates change? Dramatically for the better: A 10-point improvement on the LSAT would expand this high-GPA/low-LSAT student’s prospects significantly. More full-ride-plus-stipend offers, more full-ride offers, and at much better schools. It’s not a stretch to say that 10 LSAT points are worth $100,000 or more in free tuition. Study harder! Retake the LSAT! Get every single point you can. Each point is worth about 10 grand in scholarships. But what if I have bad grades and a low LSAT? Improve your LSAT, or just don’t go to law school. The scholarship estimates for a 2.5-GPA/150-LSAT applicant are grim: The money for those scholarships we were salivating over has to come from somewhere. At every school, everywhere along the spectrum, there are suckers lining up to pay for law school. Don’t be one of those suckers. Get good grades in your remaining classes if you’re still an undergrad—grades absolutely do matter. But whether you can change your GPA or not, you need to get the best LSAT score you possibly can. Schools all across the country back up the Brinks truck and shower cash on high-LSAT applicants in every single cycle. And yes, this does happen at the very top of the pyramid as well. What if I’m a baller? Let’s see the options for an elite applicant—one with a 3.95 GPA and 175 LSAT: Now we’re talking. A 3.95/175 applicant is very likely to get in to the Yales, Stanfords, and Harvards of the world. The rest of the T-14 know this, so they use money to entice these students away from the elite-of-the-elite law schools. This student takes their pick from a ton of amazing options. Should they pay for Harvard? Or take a full ride to Columbia? It’s a good problem to have. Ben and I, of course, would always default to “don’t pay for law school.” Take the money. You’ll do just fine. Your results will vary, of course. The estimator is just an estimator. But we’ve sent thousands of students to law schools across the country. These students had widely varying GPAs and LSATs, and they’ve racked up millions of dollars in scholarships. Try the LSAT Demon scholarship estimator and see for yourself. If you have questions about this lesson, please email us at help@lsatdemon.com, 

Nathan Fox May 6, 2021A Sample Structure for Your Law School Personal Statement

Over the past 12 weeks, I’ve written a series of LSAT lessons that should be enough to get novices up and running. These lessons will also disabuse refugees from other LSAT programs of any bogus notions—race the clock, read the question stem first—they picked up elsewhere. Today I’m going to shift gears a bit. Applications open in early September at most law schools, and forward-looking students have started asking questions about their personal statements. “Where the hell do I get started?” is by far the most common of these. Last Wednesday, I guest-taught the Admissions Hour with LSAT Demon tutor (and soon-to-be Yale 1L) Carl Lasker. In that session, we brought back our “Personal Statement Woodchipper,” wherein we read one brave applicant’s draft personal statement. And, well, we shredded it. Like always. The biggest problem with this one, like so many others, was that it left us with no real picture of who the person is or what they do. There was too much cinematic scene-setting, too much industry jargon, and too much Tarantino-style timeline-skipping. There was not enough of the actual applicant we were supposed to be learning about. In short, the personal statement wasn’t personal. We each have a dozen different stories, any of which could make the foundation of a strong personal statement. So it’s less important that we pick the perfect topic, and far more important that we get our bad first draft out of the way ASAP. Until we have a draft, we can’t start cutting the worst parts and teasing out more of the good stuff. The purpose of this lesson is to help you get started. This isn’t the only way to get started—it’s just one way. If you’re stuck, this might be a good way to get the words flowing. The basic formula: I am. I did. I do. I will. Ben and I talk endlessly about showing, rather than telling, any time a personal statement comes up on the Thinking LSAT Podcast. The point is to demonstrate your strengths and achievements via facts, rather than forcing conclusions down the reader’s throat. Fact-driven writing is far more powerful than conclusion-driven writing. So the bulk of your statement needs to consist of sentences that follow the basic formula of “I did X.” We want your statement to be stuffed with sentences that feature you as the star of the show—don’t be shy about using the word “I” as the subject of your sentences—with active verbs. Here are some examples: I wrote. I managed. I researched. I reorganized. I developed. I created. In short, I killed it. Generally, you should avoid passive construction using forms of the verb “to be.” Steer clear of be, am, is, are, was, were, being, and been. When you see these verbs, replace them with something active. Why, then, do I suggest starting with “I am”? As Carl and I discovered in the Admissions Hour last Wednesday, the emphasis on active verbs can sometimes fail to give readers the necessary footing. We dive right into an action scene, without any background. So in this formulation of “how to write a personal statement,” it’s okay to start with a very brief statement of who you are, to help us understand the action to follow. Then skip back in time, just once, to discuss some background. Then progress into the modern day. Finally, if necessary, talk about the future. We’ll start in the present. I am. Ben Olson doesn’t let me use italics any more, but if I were allowed to use them I would italicize the “very” in “keep this section very brief.” I’m talking one or two sentences. See how it looks as a short, standalone paragraph. Using myself as an example: I am the co-founder of LSATDemon.com, an LSAT preparation program with students and teachers from around the world. I’m also the co-host of the Thinking LSAT Podcast, which published its 296th episode last week. This tells the reader who I am today, priming them for the story arc I’m planning to take them on. Don’t do more than a sentence or two of this, because it’s telling rather than showing. But the reader now has a picture of who I am in the world, which will help them comprehend the following sections. I did. Immediately, we transition back in time to provide some background. We’ll only do one such shift in the timeline—generally, chronological stories are much easier to digest. Readability is key, so we’ll only go forward, never backward, from here. After graduating from Babson College in 2006, I began moonlighting as a GMAT teacher. My employer at the time needed an LSAT teacher, so I started teaching that as well. In 2008, in the summer between my 1L and 2L years of law school, I started Fox LSAT. I rented the back room of a Mission District cafe for my first class, which struggled to enroll a dozen students. But strong Yelp reviews and word of mouth filled subsequent classes. From here, I’d continue to progress through my career. I’d talk about books I wrote, my in-person classes, the podcast, and founding LSAT Demon. This section can be anywhere from one paragraph to a page, depending on how much history is relevant. I do. Law schools are keenly interested in the person you are today. If they admit you, that’s the you who’s actually coming to class—not the you from five years ago. So we’ll shift to the present tense here to show the reader the strong, positive, winning applicant they’re looking for. I now teach LSAT classes three days a week, and I love teaching now more than ever. I am especially proud of our free resources, including the Thinking LSAT Podcast, which have reached tens of thousands of students. I hire and manage a staff of two dozen freelance teachers, writers, and editors. Together, we offer multiple live classes seven days a week. Here I could write about favorite students, or interactions I have with the teachers I mentor, or the laughs I have recording each week with Ben. You don’t have to choose the one perfect story, and each anecdote doesn’t have to be wildly impressive. Just demonstrate that you are capable, reliable, creative, thoughtful, resourceful—in other words, someone with their shit together. Many excellent personal statements—especially for anyone who already works in anything even tangentially related to business or law—can end right here. You’ve shown who you are, what you’ve done, and what you currently do. Your reader is in the business of selling law school. They can put the pieces together between what you’re doing now and the opportunities they believe their law school can offer you. They already know you’re applying to law school, so don’t waste time with “I am applying for matriculation at your fine law school blah blah blah.” But if you’ve been a musician for 15 years, or you studied chemistry in college, or your history-to-present doesn’t exactly scream law school, you may want to add a fourth, extremely brief section: I will. If it’s obvious that you’re changing career paths completely by applying to law school, try closing with a very brief statement about what you plan to do. One or two sentences is plenty, as you haven’t actually done any of this stuff yet—and it’s all just kind of BS until you actually do it. But you want your story to make sense (and hopefully it does, in fact, make sense), so go ahead and tell them what you’re trying to do. I hope to gain experience in trade secret and copyright law. Eventually, I might explore a legal practice in the licensing of digital educational materials. Boom, that’s it. Shitty first draft of personal statement complete. I am. I did. I do. (And optionally, I will.) That’s one or two sentences to introduce yourself. Then a paragraph to three-quarters of a page of what you did, leading up to three-quarters of a page of what you do now. End it there, or, if necessary, add one or two sentences of what you hope to do. This isn’t by any means the only way to write a personal statement. But it’s at least a framework for getting something on the page that isn’t a complete mess. From here, if you find the glimmer of something you like, it’s all about the rewrites and editing.

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