A while ago, I wrote an article listing some clichés to avoid on your personal statement. And yet I still read statements all the time that include these, and other, clichés.
To put it simply, do not include any cliché in your law school personal statement. If you can imagine it on a fortune cookie or greeting card, it has no place in your personal statement. No, you don’t get around this with the phrase, “I know it’s cliché, but…” Why not? Because that, itself, is a cliché.
Not all clichés are phrases repeated through the ages. Some are just topics that have been beaten to death, on top of not being that compelling to begin with. Let’s look at a few more.
“I’m becoming a lawyer because I want to help people!”
You and everyone else. There are very few professions out there where you actively try to hurt people (and, ironically, certain types of law practice fall into that category). Even then, it’s mostly desperate people and sociopaths who take those jobs (and business majors. I kid).
On top of that, most of you don’t have the type of bankroll needed to attend law school free of charge. Public service jobs are almost as, if not more, competitive than private practice jobs, so you need a sterling résumé to get them. Add that together, and you’re graduating with enough debt to make a few years at a Big Law firm almost necessary. While Mitt Romney might have you believing corporations are people that you can help, most of America disagrees. Especially those bleeding hearts who want to go into public service to begin with.
“Life has taught me that, like everything in life, the law isn’t black and white.”
Congratulations, you’ve just figured out the basic premise of Law & Order. After a combined 67 seasons (that’s an estimate).
Of course the law isn’t black and white. If it was, then the entire profession would be out of a job. You could resolve any lawsuit with a computer. Apple would have an app for that.
Law schools will assume that you’ve acquired this basic piece of information, hopefully much earlier in your life than most law school personal statements suggest. They like to think that they only admit highly-observant people. Don’t undo that assumption by basing your law school personal statement around a cliché that everyone should know.
“The law is a fascinating subject!”/“I find the law fascinating.”
Three problems with this:
1) The person reading your essay knows. They’re working at a law school. They wouldn’t do that if they didn’t find the law fascinating.
2) They assume this about you. If you weren’t interested in law, you wouldn’t be applying to law school (I say, snickering, as dollar signs flash across a few of your eyes).
3) Your interest in the law is as a concept, not as a practicality. Pre-law law classes don’t really do a great job of covering the material. As such, you’re probably more interested in the concept of law than the practicalities of it. Law school is going to have you dealing with those practicalities. You may lose your interest in the material when you stop talking about justice and instead focus on 12(b)6 motions.
Almost any story you can tell about the generation of your interest in law would be better served with a different ‘moral’ at the end of the story. That moral should be something personal about yourself, not a cliché.