Law School Sample Essay

Essay 1

Yale University: Accepted

   "Qué barbaridad!" he exclaimed, in the Spaniards' quintessential expression of disgust. I had braced myself for a harangue as soon as O.J.'s image flashed onto the television screen. I had become attuned to José's mental processes. How could the acknowledged leaders of the modern world allow their own legal system to be so blatantly compromised? The jury system? The courtroom cameras? I could see the words forming on his lips. He knew that I had no answers and that he had finally trounced me.

   Throughout the entire semester, José, the patriarch of the family with whom I resided in Madrid, had incessantly carped at American social practices; and, time and time again, I had felt it my patriotic duty to defend my native culture. However, the present plight of the American legal system was a unique case. While, in the past, I had contrived complex arguments to debunk José's criticism, I suddenly felt paralyzed and ill-prepared for the counterattack. I saw no logical justification far the courtroom circus, and was embarrassed by my tacit admission of so dramatic a flaw inherent in American society.

   After returning from Europe, I spent the summer in Washington, DC, working for the government relations division of an information technology corporation. While covering a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, I observed Attorney General Reno assessing the status of the Department of Justice. She was barraged with a number of pointed criticisms that reflected the varied concerns of our Senators and their constituents. I then realized that the recognition of the many flaws within the American legal system was not solely restricted to foreigners, but had also permeated the consciousness of many vigilant Americans.

   By late August, I was back home in New Jersey, packing for my final year as an undergraduate. While cleaning my desk drawers, I happened across a printed copy of an essay I had submitted as part of a college application four years earlier. Interested to see if my writing skills had been sharpened by 75,000 dollars' worth of higher education, I began to read: "I gently lay my glasses down on the black marble desk and turn towards the large window behind me. The glowing sun is slowly setting over the vast expanse of the New Jersey Meadowlands, and, looking west, I can see the infinite city lights reflecting off the Hudson River. How did I get here? How did I, Joe Smith, become one of New York City's most esteemed attorneys?" Immediately, I thought of José in all his glory.

   Although the essay seemed harmless on the surface, the underpinnings brought to light a nagging concern. Why had I wanted to become a lawyer? Granted I was only seventeen, but the fact remains that I was allured by the black marble desk, the view of the city skyline, and the attendant prestige of the legal profession. American pop culture has ingrained in us the myth of the "successful lawyer." Study the law, the myth urges, and the fruits of your education will suddenly ripen into material rewards. Television glorified the profession with weekly dramas such as Perry Mason and L.A. Law. However, were people interested in the actual legal questions presented or merely the personalities and intrigues involved?

   This same problem continues today. In many instances, courtroom proceedings have degenerated into pedestrian entertainment. Therefore, I will employ my legal education to reverse this condition. I envision graduating law school and securing a position within the Department of Justice. I will strive to channel my education and concern for professional integrity to help burnish the tarnished edges of our legal system. My ultimate goal would be to help reestablish the image of the American lawyer as an efficient public servant.

   I do not have a vindictive personality, but when beaten, I feel the pressing need to redeem myself. I often imagine, fifteen years from now, confidently knocking on the door of José's apartment. We would have corresponded sporadically over the years. He would know about the many legal articles published in my name, and would be well aware of the controversy they had sparked. More importantly, José would know that the judicial system he mocked fifteen years earlier had markedly improved. He would be happy to see me, but his smirk would be a tentative and fading one. Over a festive Spanish lunch, anchored by a pitcher of sangría, he would make numerous attempts to once again vanquish me. However, this time all my flanks would be well-covered.


This candid, vivid essay is working on multiple levels. While on one hand a reflection on the state of the American legal profession, it is also a portrait of an individual learning to question the world around him-be it the law or, in this case, even his own motivations for pursuing a career in law. The compelling introduction sets up this notion of looking at things through a new set of eyes-here, those of a foreigner-and throughout the essay the writer develops the themes of criticism and reassessment.

The writer organizes his paragraphs well and offers a conclusion that, although not entirely relevant to his main train of thought, does serve as an effective bookend for the whole essay. And since there are no loose ends at this point in the essay-the writer has essentially concluded his argument at the end of the previous paragraph-the ending does not take away from the overall effectiveness of the essay.