How To Write A “Why This Law School?” Essay

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How To Write A "Why This Law School?" Essay

Why this law school?

It’s a good question, and you should already be answering it, at least in part, in your personal statement by tailoring that essay to each school you apply to (or at least your top choices). That tailoring consists mostly of doing research on schools and finding coursework and extracurricular activities that match your talents, interests, and experience. In your personal statement, you should say which you plan to participate in and how your experience shows that you’ll be a valuable and successful participant.

Nonetheless, some schools invite applicants to submit, along with a personal statement, an essay explaining why the applicant decided to apply to that particular school.

What Not To Do

A lot of people treat these essays as an opportunity to regurgitate the school’s Wikipedia entry and gush about all of the amazing things the school and its alumni have done. While it can be appropriate to name-check impressive alumni as inspiration, you should do so only if you can connect it with your goals in law school and as a lawyer.

So, for instance, if there’s an alum that’s a free speech attorney that you really admire, it would make sense to name that alum as an inspiration if you plan on focusing on First Amendment Law as a law student and lawyer. But if you’re really into Environmental Law, then talking about that alum would be a mistake because it doesn’t really matter to your choice of school.

How To Write A Good One

  • Tell them your application strategy (if it’s smart).

I happen to think that these essays operate on two levels. The first is explicit: They want to gauge the actual compatibility between the applicant and the school. The second is to see if you made your application choices strategically.

For instance, if you were to tell them in your essay that your strategy was to apply to the top ten law schools in the US News & World Report rankings and that you chose this school because it was #8, that would show you didn’t have a real strategy when it comes to applying. And lawyers are strategists, especially those who go to court. This would cast doubt on your suitability for law school. 

On the other hand, if you told them that you had always had a sense of environmental justice and that you interviewed an environmental attorney in your city who talked you through her knowledge of the various environmental law programs at a number of law schools, that she mentioned the school specifically, and then you went and did more research to really understand what environmental law offerings the school has, that looks strategic. It makes you look like a lawyer already because you’ve identified some goals and created a rational, long-term strategy to achieve them. 

  • Add any applicable experience that’s not elsewhere in your application

It’s helpful to have an interesting fact or story about yourself to anchor one of these which doesn’t appear elsewhere in your application package. If you left anything on the cutting room floor of your personal statement, it might be useful to consider if it can be used here. 

If you don’t have any relevant experience beyond what was in your personal statement, you can refer quickly to experience that’s described more fully in your personal statement if it makes sense, but you shouldn’t repeat large tracts of material that’s in your personal statement or other essays, even if you reword it.

In short, these essays want to know what experience you will bring that matches the interests and culture of the law school

  • Talk about specific programs, how your experience matters, and what you plan to do.

It’s helpful to have a career vision so you can talk about what programs at the school prepare lawyers for the career you envision. For example, if you are interested in being a Family & Divorce Law attorney, it would be good to find out if there are child custody litigation clinics or a Family Law journal at the school. You may not have experience with child custody law, but if you’ve done a mock trial, that would be quite relevant to the clinic.

Here’s one that works:

Admissions Committee:

I have had my sights set on attending [LAW SCHOOL] ever since I joined [UNDERGRADUATE SCHOOL]’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and began to learn about how the law does and does not protect animals.

We had an attorney from the national ASPCA speak to our group, and he told us about how the lawyers in the organization work not only to stop perpetrators of animal abuse in our country but also to work with government agencies to draft legislation and regulations to protect animals from mistreatment.

I was eager to learn more, and when I researched the practice of animal law, I found a treasure trove of recent news articles about Kathy Raines, a New York-based animal law attorney who graduated from [LAW SCHOOL] fifteen years ago and had successes ranging from shutting down a chain of puppy mills in North Carolina to stopping the smuggling of exotic animals into Florida.

Knowing that Ms. Raines was trained at [LAW SCHOOL], I did my own research and met with my career counselor to learn more about the school and animal law programs around the nation. I quickly came to understand that [LAW SCHOOL] was the leading light in the nation in this area of law and that it was no accident that someone like Ms. Raines was trained there.

Once I learned of [LAW SCHOOL]’s animal law-related offerings, like a regional chapter of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund and a ten-year record of placing in the National Animal Law Competition, I knew that I had found the right place to bring my enthusiasm for animal rights as well as my growing experience in standing up for those rights.

As a dedicated participant with the SPCA over the past three years, first as a member and then as an executive, I’ve organized adoption drives for abandoned pets, assembled a peaceful protest at city hall encouraging officials to decline donations from corporations that sponsor animal abuse, and worked to raise funds for the national SPCA.

I did not do those things on my own, of course, and my ability to collaborate with others and help resolve conflict at the moment makes me certain that I can find success – and help others find success – as a student at [LAW SCHOOL] starting this fall.

Posted in
Branden Frankel, Esq.

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