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Be sure to read my Key Posts on the admissions process. Topics include essay analysis, resumes, recommendations, rankings, and more.

September 14, 2007

Harvard Law School Essays

There are no LL.M. essay books available, so if you want to get a sense of what kind of essays get someone into a top LL.M. program, there is no text to really look to. This is not the case with J.D. In fact, 55 Successful Harvard Law School Application Essays: What Worked for Them Can Help You Get Into the Law School of Your Choice By The Staff of the Harvard Crimson, is a useful guide for seeing the variety of essay topics that J.D. applicants write on.

Keeping in mind that the J.D. application essay is premised on the idea that the applicant may not necessarily know anything about the law, it is clearly quite different from LL.M. An LL.M. applicant should be able to demonstrate their knowledge of the law and be quite specific about what they intend to study. Therefore looking at book of J.D. essays is mostly useful for getting an understanding of (1)the ways in which applicants describe their initial motivation to study the law, (2) the ways in which applicants effectively demonstrate their intelligence through what they write, and (3) how applicants make their essays very personal.

Given that LL.M. applicants will most certainly find that they will need to describe their motivations to study law and demonstrate their intelligence, reviewing 55 Essays will certainly reveal a variety of methods for doing so. Regarding the issue of personality, effectively communicating something about who you are can really make a signficant impact on admissions.

While many LL.M. applicants take a very basic template-like approach to writing their essays, if you are willing to put in the time to really show what motivates you as a legal professional, what kind of legal thinker you are, and who you are as a person, you can really improve your chances for admission. To that end, I would recommend reading 55 Essays.

I do have one major criticism of the book: I found the analysis of the essays by the Harvard Crimson to be relatively inconsistent. I was especially annoyed when I read some of the analysis that was simply negative about essays that did what they were supposed to do: Got the applicant into Harvard Law. I suppose if one ignored the obvious- the essay worked because the applicant got in- it is possible to be critical about these essays, but for what reason?
I think most readers will find that in general it is better to skim or skip the analysis and just read the essays. Given the low cost of 55 Successful Harvard Law School Application Essays: What Worked for Them Can Help You Get Into the Law School of Your Choice and its potential benefit, I feel quite comfortable in recommending to applicants looking to get greater insight into law school admissions essays.

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com.
-Adam Markus
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