Law School Applications in Your Own Voice

There was a nice article by Alina Tugend in The New York Times cautioning business job applicants who are receiving professional help on their resumes.  While professional help is often very important in raising the quality of application materials, Tugend is quite right that people reading those documents must hear the applicant’s voice, not the advisor’s.

Tugend’s point goes double for law school applications.  Not only is it wrong for an advisor—whether a private advisor or your school’s pre-law advisor—to take over the driver’s seat in drafting application materials, it’s also counterproductive.  Law schools, of course, have applicants’ LSAT writing samples and if the voice or writing style in application materials is different, law schools have good reason to suspect that application documents are not primarily the applicant’s work.

So, what role should your advisor have?  I think of my job as analogous to a music producer’s.  Producers don’t write or sing songs; they help the musicians’ own music sound its best.  At Advise-In, we focus on three principal tasks.  First, conceptualizing the package with our clients.  What do you want to tell law schools about yourself that will make you stand out from applicant with similar LSAT scores and grade point averages?  We think from law schools’ perspective.  Why would they especially want you; what unique gifts can you bring to their incoming class?

Second, we work with our clients to determine the proper role of each segment of your application package in creating that picture.  You don’t want duplicative documents, and each document should make law school application reviewers anxious to read the next document.

Finally, execution, from highlighting the right things in the right document, guiding your recommenders and actually writing the documents.  The execution phase involves a lot of detailed work for both my clients and me and, in each draft, we make sure that, whatever my suggestions and recommendations, my client is the author and the style is his or her own.  I don’t—and no advisor should—write documents.  I do—and in my view, every advisor should—help clients refine and bring out their own voice.  Your application “song” should be clear, harmonically effective, unique, exciting to the “listener” and yours, irrespective of added production values.

~ by Kyle Pasewark at Advise-in Solutions on August 19, 2010.

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