What’s With the LSAT Writing Sample?

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LSAT Writing Sample

The LSAT is scored entirely on your performance on three multiple-choice sections: Logical Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, and Logic Games. But did you know that there’s an unscored written portion? Yes, and every law school you apply to will receive your written response. So, while it doesn’t affect your LSAT score, it can affect your chances at admission, so you want to make sure you do it right.

What is it?

Every written section is structured similarly. You’ll get a prompt, usually a few paragraphs long, that describes a person or organization that is trying to decide between two courses of action. The prompt requires you to decide which course of action that person or organization should choose and to present arguments in favor of that course of action as well as arguments against the other course of action.

But you can’t just make any arguments Instead, the person or organization always has two criteria, and you have to argue that whichever option you choose is going to do a better job of satisfying both of those criteria than the other option.

An example could look something like this:

John is a freelance clown who, for the last five years, has earned about $50,000 per year by performing solo at children’s birthday parties and other events. He has had some recent successes and has two offers of employment as a clown. Because the time commitments for these offers overlap, John can only accept one of the offers.

The first offer is to star as the evil clown Nickeljack in the film adaptation of Stephanie Queen’s famous slasher novel, “That.” “That” will have a Restricted or “R” rating because of the gore and other adult themes. Filming will take a month, and John will earn $500,000. There is no guarantee of further work after this star turn.

The other offer is to take the role of Clown #15 in a small clown car as part of a traveling circus act. While John will be making the same hourly rate he was making as a freelance clown, this job will provide more and steadier hours. He will make approximately $65,000 over the next year if he takes this job and does not miss any shifts. It’s possible that someday he could be promoted to Head Clown, which would pay $100,000 per year and feature him prominently in each show.

Write an essay in which you argue for one offer over the other based on the following two criteria:

Criterion #1: John wants to improve his financial security in the longterm
Criterion #2: John wants to become a world-famous clown who is beloved by children

There is no “right answer”

You are going to law school to be an advocate. And just about every lawyer at some point has to argue on behalf of someone or something they don’t believe in, but it’s part of the job. And that’s the point here: to see if you can advocate. It doesn’t matter which side you choose in any of these, and usually, they’re expressly written so that there are arguments to be made on either side. If, however, you present all those arguments objectively without advocating, congratulations because you’ve stumbled upon one of the very few ways to fail the writing sample.

The example here is of a piece with that. And what you should do before deciding is to quickly chart out the pros and cons for each option regarding each criterion. That might look something like this:



Pro: The quick infusion of cash will allow John to save and invest some money, and if he makes more movies, he could make a lot more.
Con: He could end up with no more movie roles and destroy his freelance clown business by playing a scary clown that frightens little kids.


Pro: This is a steady job, and he’ll be earning more than he is now.
Con: It’s not much more than he’s already making, and there’s no guarantee he’ll get more in the future.



Pro: There is no better way to become famous than be a movie star.
Con: There is no better way to become feared and despised by children than to scare the bejeezus out of them.


Pro: John will get to interact in person with the children at the circus, and there’s a chance that he could end up being the head clown, which would help him gain notoriety.
Con: He’s one of at least 15 clowns, and there’s no guarantee that anyone will even notice him, much less catapult him to fame.

Write It Succinctly

Once you’ve got your thoughts lined up, figure out which arguments you think are most convincing and then decide on an option. Once you have, you must argue that your option does a better job regarding both criteria, so argue for your option *and* against the other. Let’s choose Option #1. A solid answer would go something like this:

In his quest to gain fame, adoration, and long-term security in his chosen profession, John should accept the offer to start as Nickeljack in “That” rather than taking the job as clown #15 in the traveling circus.

Regarding the first criterion, choosing to star in the movie is the better avenue because a quick and large infusion of cash can go a long way toward providing financial stability. Given that John has survived on a fraction of this amount each year, he’d be able to invest the vast majority of his payday. That money would grow over time while he found other work. It’s also likely that starring in the movie will lead to other roles or work as a clown, and his notoriety will allow him to charge more for his services.

If John were to choose the traveling circus job instead, he would not be in much better of a position than he is now, and there’s no guarantee that the circus will remain popular or that he will keep his job, let alone be promoted to head clown. Instead, that option is a recipe for languishing financially.

Regarding the second criterion, starring in the movie is a superior choice because it will lead to overnight notoriety. Yes, some might argue that being a scary clown will interfere with John’s quest to become beloved by children, but the R rating means that most young children will never see John, and to slightly older children, this scary role could actually make him more beloved. Lots of people like a good scare.

If, instead, John were to choose the traveling circus job, he’d be competing for the attention of small crowds with at least 14 other clowns and a Head Clown. There’s no reason to believe that John is any more likely to be promoted to Head Clown than any of the other clowns. It’s likely that John will actually become less well-known and beloved than before because, at least as a freelance clown, he was the star of the show.

Posted in
Branden Frankel, Esq.

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