October 12th 2004

something else I forgot to mention last week…

I finished my personal statement. Oh joy!

October 5th 2004

post-LSAT prolificness

Something’s going on here. I’ve been hammering away at my personal statement, kneading and reworking things, and it’s getting better and better.

So why did it sit on my back burner for so long?

One of two things has caused this remarkable transformation:

1) the LSAT is over and my brain knows this.

or

2) the last vestiges of the evil project that I completed at work two weeks ago (and didn’t really post about because I was too preoccupied with the LSAT) have finally leeched from my blood.

Either way, I feel like I’m back in the writing saddle. Thank God, because I was starting to worry that I’d lost my touch. Since a big portion of my statement is about writing, losing my touch would have been a major problem.

October 4th 2004

The first day of the rest of the fall

So here I am, back at work, realizing that I don’t have to go to the local coffeehouse this evening to run through practice LSAT sections. I have errands to run, and I can actually run them without feeling like a slacker. I have a personal statement to finish, and now I have time to work on it.

Oddly, I found I could not study effectively for the LSAT at home, but I find I can’t really write effectively anywhere BUT home (and work, but my work computer and my home computer are corrollaries, really). So tonight, I’ll go home and pound away at the ol’ personal statement. I’m on draft 2.x and my continuity needs some serious work. Transitions, really.

I wish I could write my statement as a series of lists, since, as Ambivalent Imbroglio so correctly states, “Lists make it easy to jump from topic to topic w/out transitions or excuses or explanations.” That is exactly what I need in my statement—an easy way to present a bunch of information without needing to do any explaning or transitioning, or, well, any real writing. ::::sigh:::: I usually like writing, but this personal statement thing may convince me I don’t.

September 18th 2004

The end is in sight

My meeting to go over my personal statement went swimmingly. My prof thought what I’d written was “300% better than the others.” It has nice structure, some lovely sentences, and lacks commentary on two or three things. (I expected to be told it was missing certain elements. But I didn’t want to keep writing and writing and writing unless I knew it was going in the right direction. My writing confidence needs a boost, I guess.)

The meeting went so well that the discussion of my statement lasted only about 15 minutes. Maybe that’s not good, now that I think about it—it probably indicates there wasn’t anything substantial enough to work on yesterday. In any case, I have a draft to work on, instead of trying to start something new again. Whew!

After we’d discussed my statement, the appointment devolved into my giving him some computer advice. We discussed fonts, putting pictures in Word effectively, and a number of other tidbits. Sometimes I think this particular professor likes me because I help him with his iMac.

At any rate, my mood—which for most of last week was wretched—is dramatically improved. I slept the good sleep last night, and I’d been missing that. Something must be going right for me.

September 16th 2004

OK

I reread the statement again, after thinking last night that it dwelled too much on “this” or “that.” After all, my other statements seemed great when I wrote them, but on revisiting were just wretched.

But, no—it’s still something I’m proud to have written. Sure, it needs some good old-fashioned editing, but it’s essentially the statement I wanted to write. I’m proud of it.

Whew! What a relief!

September 15th 2004

the time wasn’t right

I sat down last night and started a new draft of a new personal statement.

This time, I think I got it right.

As a sign that I wasn’t meant to write it before now, the first sentence that appeared on my screen related to something that happened to me last weekend.

Finally, finally, I have gotten past the need to explain myself, to almost apologize for not “getting it” until now. And I found the words to express what’s really been going on in my overheated brain. I even found a structure that works really well for what I’m trying to say.

In other words, I’m glad I walked away from the damn thing for close to a month. It helped. Of course, this is a lesson I’ve learned a million times before: walk away from your writing when you can’t see it clearly anymore. Distance=perspective.

I think this is going to be a good month.

September 7th 2004

the power of positive thinking?

Now that my LSAT prowess has increased, my fear of the evil test has decreased. Following my big backtrack, I stopped thinking of anything related to law school admissions except the test. Study study study. Practice practice practice.

Now that my studying seems to be back on track, and my confidence is up, I think it’s time to return to the dreaded personal statement.

I’m beginning to see the process of writing this little essay as a series of stages. Sort of like the grieving process. I’ve passed
through, first, the “explanation” stage: Oh, I know I’ve been out of school for a while, but here’s why and here’s what I hate about my life now and see how I want to change it?

Then there was the “description” stage: I’m a good writer and like research and oh, yeah, I love to argue and all of these things will make me a really excellent lawyer, don’t you think?

Now, finally, I think I’m at a place where I can write something more honest and true. The fact is, there are many other careers I could consider, other educational opportunities I could pursue, other lifestyles I could focus on. Why am I choosing the law school path?

Because it’s interesting to me, it will allow me to do things I enjoy (like write and research), I’m definitely qualified, and there’s a chance—a pretty big one—that when I’m out, I’ll actually be able to get a job related to my graduate education.

Sure, I could try for an MFA in writing, or go after an academic Ph.D. But I don’t want to go into several years of schooling without any idea how likely I’ll be to get a job in my field when I’m done. I don’t want to run after three little letters just because of the prestige. Any letters after my name better make me more marketable.

I’m at a place in my life where stability is pretty important to me. That’s not to say that running off to law school with a grad-student husband in tow is choosing stability; but when we’re done with our educations, I don’t want to have to keep moving around in search of research assistantships, grants, and the possibility of academic tenure. I want to know that, if I like the city we land in, I can probably stay there and get a job that uses my $100,000 degree.

I want it all, I admit. I want to live where I want to live, afford relatively nice things, have a happy, healthy family, and go to work every day to do things I am not only good at but that I also enjoy. I want it all, and I kind of want it on my terms. So, yeah, I have other options. But law and law school are the most attractive.

August 28th 2004

I had a very bizarre

I had a very bizarre dream last night. I don’t entirely remember the whole thing, but the main gist of it was that I had, somehow, committed a crime—or had been present during the commission of a crime—and then, in self-defense, I had to shoot someone.

[This, in itself, is weird, because I despise guns.]

Then I was having to get ready to go to jail, and cleaning out my father’s Cadillac, which he hasn’t owned in five years and which, apparently, I had been using as an escape vehicle. And everyone was being very nice to me, helping me clean out the car so they could then take me away to jail. Then, in my dream, it finally hit me: Oh no! I’m going to jail! And, then, I thought, Now I’ll never get to go to law school! THAT made me cry. And I cried for a while.

So everyone tried to comfort me, saying things like, Oh, you’ll just have to explain things to the bar, but you can still be a lawyer, it’ll be OK, it really will… And I thought, Oh yes, I’m still going to go to law school. Oh my gosh, I can write the BEST personal statement about this!

“I stood, gun in hand, not knowing what I had done, but sure that I could never be a lawyer now, not after I’d killed a man…

Oh yeah. Law school, here I come.

August 24th 2004

Yeeeee-owwww-zaaaa!!!

Oh goodnesss gracious me-oh-my…I just finished typing up my mental outline for my “new” personal statement. This one is SO MUCH BETTER than everything else I’ve written down so far. I cut the negativity and removed the “identity crisis” theme. I introduced a bit of my slightly odd upbringing, my quirky, artistic tendencies, and really punched up my deep, overwhelming need to write all the damn time.

Yes indeedy, my confidence has been boosted by about 200 percent. You see, not only did my words come out cleanly and clearly and with a definite focus and direction, but I also did an LSAT games section tonight, properly timed at 35 minutes only, and I got 16 out of 24 correct. In fact, I finished all but three questions. This means that I only missed five questions out of stupidity. Those are numbers I can deal with, particularly when you consider those numbers are about the same as my numbers taking 40 minutes to do a section. I. e., I’ve reduced my time but not reduced my performance. Now I can focus on speeding up and getting some of those trickier missed inferences.

Oh, and I ROCKED the grouping game on that particular section. Obviously, the study I’ve been doing on conditional logic is having a positive impact.

::::::big sigh::::::

I feel so much better. Life is good. Law school is on the horizon. All is well.

August 13th 2004

What the hell is a personal statement, anyway?

Slithery D writes this in reference to an earlier post of mine.

I admit, based on what I wrote, D’s analysis is spot on. He says:

“I’ve never been an admissions officer, but I seem to recall they want a picture of you as a person. They know you want to go to law school. They know that many people who get in find they made a mistake. I don’t think they worry too much about prescriptively fixing this problem for you. Instead, they want an “interesting” or “diverse” class.”

My personal statement that my personal god of editing shredded, though, did none of these things. All it did was talk about how unsatisfied I am with my current career. And then, there was a little blurb at the end about how law sounded perfect for me. Ooooh, she’ll make a great lawyer! In reality, I was making excuses for myself, complaining about my life, and stating that I needed a change. Why law should be that change wasn’t really clear. As my editing god said, “This sounds like you just need a better job—why would a law prof on the admissions committee think you were particularly suited for law instead of, say, for an editorial job at a magazine?”

Good point.

So, when I said, “Admissions committees just want to know why I will make a good lawyer—and why I’ll do so now,” I didn’t mean that I’m planning an opus on how passionate I am about justice and public service and fixing the wrongs of our evil world, and how that will make me a damn fine attorney. I meant, instead, that my statement needs to focus on me and what it is about me that will make me a good lawyer. Being unhappy with my job does not particularly suit me for any one profession.

What does suit me for law? Well—yes, it’s trite, and talking about it is embarrassing—I really enjoy working for more than the bottom line.

I like the idea of having a vocation that actually, somehow, matters. I talked about this in my earlier post—law makes a difference. Even BIGLAW lawyers are making a difference. You know, my current career is in a visual medium, and I can make a difference by choosing who and what I work for. But my career in itself does not provide any guarantee of making the world a better place. Only, perhaps, a better-looking place. Face it—everything we do is touched by law, which makes lawyers the plastic surgeons of society. Some are there for purely cosmetic procedures; others repair congenital defects; still others come in behind the big blowups and try to make scars and wounds less noticeable and less painful. Some move around and do a little of everything. But they all touch the law, change it, alter it, modify it, and that affects our future.

But I digress. Why will I make a good lawyer? My profile says I want to teach—and that means I want to publish—and that’s important, because I really enjoy getting down into the nitty gritty of an issue or subject or even the use of a particular word and figuring out what’s wrong with it, right with it, how it matters, and what can be done to make it better. Then I like to tell people about it. I also like to argue. I like to tell people they’re wrong and then explain why. I hate being wrong, but when I am, I will admit it—grudgingly. Still, being wrong won’t stop me from trying to figure out why the other person isn’t right.

I like to read and write, but I don’t write fiction. I couldn’t write a short story for a million dollars—at least, not a good one. I pen the occasional poem, but those are usually wretched, too. I love to edit. I can’t even say how gratifying I find the entire process of picking apart someone’s work and putting it back together so they can make it better, more precise, more clear, more real. If you’re pre-law, or in law, I hope you understand.

I’ve never been a huge fan of lawyers—the kind that advertize on the back of phone books or during daytime television. But I deeply admire the lawyers who work for something they believe in. The process of developing a key case, in the hopes of affecting major change, is fascinating to me. I’m thinking right now of Mary Bonauto and GLAD (and, for that matter, LAMBDA Legal Defense) who worked very hard for over a decade, choosing the right time and place to bring a critical case to trial in order to win a favorable decision. This is the kind of law I’d want to be involved in, the kind of law I hope I can be involved in.

The kicker is that I have to tell the admissions committee about all those things that will make me a good lawyer without being boring. Because D is right—there’s the safe-and-boring brand of personal statement, and there’s the get-me-noticed-and-admitted brand. I’m a big fan of the latter. I just have to write the damn thing.

August 9th 2004

Another personal statement shredded

….but at least this time, he said that if the particular piece of writing I shared today did nothing else, it proved at least that I can really write. That’s good to know—I just can’t write an effective personal statement.

Never fear, though, I have plenty of time, and am really only on draft number two. Well, now I’m on draft number three, since draft number two is garbage. Or at least, not personal-statement-worthy writing.

A big part of my problem in writing a statement is that I still feel that I need to explain myself. I’m still mentally excusing myself for the last five years spent “finding myself” when, in reality, I don’t need to say anything at all about them. OK, perhaps I need to acknowledge them, but I don’t need to take more than fifty to one hundred words to detail my disillusionment with what I thought was my chosen career, right? Admissions committees just want to know why I will make a good lawyer—and why I’ll do so now.

So, the five years I’ve been out of school are of no importance except as a learning experience. I don’t need to make excuses for the jobs I’ve held. (Although, I might want to make the titles sounds nicer; it sort of stinks when you work for an employer that considers anyone without several technical certifications to be an “administrative associate.” Seriously. There are pretty much no other titles, even if you do nothing remotely “administrative.”)

What I do need to talk about is why, in particular, law. After all, if I were just bored with my current job, I could take some community college courses and try and do something else. (I’ve done that before, why not again?) And if I just want to get an advanced degree, why a law degree? Surely there are other graduate programs that would be satisfying, right?

But deep down inside me, I really feel drawn to law. I don’t think I’d be fulfilled in an MFA Writing program; I’m almost positive the people in any theatre graduate program would drive me batty. I don’t want to have to learn any languages or take any remedial undergraduate coursework—I want to move forward and learn new things, rather than looking backwards or sideways and playing catch-up.

Why law? I keep coming back to this question, and I think I’m finally starting to articulate it with some success.

Thusly, my reasons for law are twofold:

  1. Learning the law, legal practice, and legal scholarship all serve the greater good. Yes, yes, there are slick, shady lawyers who are only out to make the money, but law, as a discipline, inherently serves the public. You can serve the public by being someone’s attorney and writing out contracts, wills, estates, and other defining documents; you can serve the public by representing an accused person; you can represent the public by prosecuting criminals. You can serve the public by simply practicing law and helping society to refine the fabric of our lives. (I don’t mean cotton, of course.) So, I am drawn to law because I like that it is a discipline that actually matters—it has an effect on everyone.
  2. The study of law, and law as a discipline, is intellectual. It requires a brain. You need to be able to read critically, write clearly, edit precisely, and argue effectively. While I am sure there are law practices where you really can just phone it in, I suspect most lawyers do a lot of learning for the rest of their lives. (I know for a fact that most must complete continuing legal education classes yearly.) To be a good lawyer, you really should possess a mature intellect, and be interested in continuing to expand your knowledge. Law is a constant education, and requires a willingness to constantly be educated.

So. There are my reasons for law. On to the personal statement.

July 29th 2004

personal statement hell

Yesterday, I met with one of my professors (took a class with him post-BA) who will be writing me a rec and helping me edit my personal statement.

He was not nice about the stuff I showed him yesterday. It was sort of discouraging. He was absolutely correct, of course, but not at in the least bit pleased with anything I had written down to show him. This makes me a little sad. Not that he was honest, but that everything that flows from my pen isn’t automatically wonderful!

I always wanted to be an artist. I just never had the right skills for it. I could never be a creative writer, because I can’t come up with stories. I thought I wanted to be an actress, but then it turned out that I stunk at acting. So I starting doing set design, which I was decent at, but only in a nurturing, educational environment—which professional theatre is not.

But surely my personal statement can be artistic, right?

What my wonderful, supportive prof told me was spot on:
“Law professors will be reading this. They do not care about extended metaphors, nor do they care about the literary-ness of your work. They want to see who you are, why you want to go to law school, and what you have to offer. Do not tell us how your desire to go to law school is like learning to cook. Do not compare this search for your passion to ‘finding your personal oyster.’ Just put on paper who you are, why you want to go to law school, and what you have to offer. It does not have to be boring, but it needs to be straightforward.”

Good advice for the wanna-be artist in me. Particularly since my strengths are in sensible, clear, easy-to-read writing. Why do I always try to make things harder on myself?