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Do You Love to Argue? Are You a ‘Law Zombie’? Yale Law School Is Not Impressed

Posted Oct 5, 2010 8:58 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Some applicants to Yale Law School love to argue. Some love THE LAW. Some failed a math class, but managed to carry on.

Yale Law School associate dean of admissions Asha Rangappa, however, is not impressed. In a series of posts on (203) Admissions Blog, Rangappa covers common errors on personal statements by law school applicants, including:

1) The Law Zombie, a common but not-so-impressive applicant. “This is a person who really loves THE LAW,” Rangappa explains. “He is passionate about THE LAW, loves debating THE LAW, and can spend hours reading about—yes, you guessed it—THE LAW.” But the applications office is not impressed. “In fact, when I read this kind of application, I get flashbacks to the toothpick scene in Rain Man, and imagine admitting a legal genius who shuffles around muttering Supreme Court holdings under his breath, sometimes startling bystanders by randomly shouting ‘SCALIA!’ very loudly.” Law Zombies should tone it down, she says, while being a little more specific about what, specifically, led to their interest in THE LAW.

2) The person who overcame rather trivial disappointments, in the larger scheme of things, rather than major obstacles. Obstacles, Rangappa says, “are things like serious illness, divorce, abuse, war, poverty, fleeing from persecution, etc.” Those who overcame such obstacles may go ahead and write about them. Essays about the disappointment of failing a math class or a run for class president suggest “self-absorption and immaturity.”

3) The argumentative applicant. The “I love to argue” personal statement usually begins with a description of a childhood temper trantrum. “The adult in said anecdote (usually, but not always, the mother), instead of giving the applicant a good spank, is totally impressed by the temper tantrum and says, ‘You are going to be a great lawyer!’ " Rangappa relates. “This forms the basis for the applicant's desire to apply to law school 16 years later.” The admissions office sees such statements as a red flag suggesting the applicant has difficulty working with others and is unable to relate to different perspectives. “Good lawyers don't argue, they construct good arguments,” she says. “There's a difference.”

Hat tip to International Business Times.

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