Friday, February 16, 2007

Pants on fire

Hypo: A MBA-wannabe is applying to business school, lets say at Darden or Wharton or Anderson here at UCLA. He does well on his GMAT. He has work experience. He has good recommendations. He writes his personal statement about how he wants to go to business school so that he can help the poor and the underserved so that they can get better community economic development.

I'm no expert on MBA admissions, but I would think that a) this student would be a rarity as most put something to the effect of "I want to leverage my past experiences and combine that with a business education to increase shareholder value and increase productivity and profitability," and b) this idealistic student probably would get typed by the MBA admissions people as being too idealistic and not cut out for the business world.

Forward to law school admissions. How many of us wrote our personal statements about wanting to go to law school in order to help the poor and underserved so that they can get adequate legal representation or about how some volunteer experience has opened up my eyes of the legal injustices that face the disadvantaged? Probably most. Better yet, how many of us wrote our personal statements about wanting to go to law school in order to be a partner at a V100 law firm and to make bucketloads of money by representing companies that screw over the poor? Probably few.

Why the difference between these two applications? Perhaps it is due to our belief that law applicants will be typed as greedy bastards if we say that we want to be lawyers only for the money whereas it is okay to be a greedy bastard in B-school. Or that saying something about wanting to "help people" is the right thing to say on a law school application. Or saying that I'm only going to law school because I'm a 21-year old English major with absolutely no employment prospects and is bad at math and science and can't stand the sight of blood is a little too honest.

I'm sure law school admissions people understand and expect that most go to law school to make money, so why do we feel that we have to hide our true motivations for going to law school?

Anyway, the 1L job hunt has put this facade and charade to rest. We have, to quote a 1L I know, made liars of our personal statements. And we wonder where lawyers get a reputation for being lying sharks.


Blogger Jenn said...

I partially agree with you. I think while that a lot of people obsess over what to put in a personal statement and including the "right things" that will get them admitted, there are some idealistic folks who are truly genuine when they say they want to be an advocate for one cause or another.

I'm planning on entering law school (UCLA, I hope) after I graduate from undergrad next year, and would like to think that I'll stick to my dream of becoming a civil rights attorney, and maybe teaching a race and law/minority politics course later on. Then again, I do like money, as most people, so, I might sell out.

Just a random thought. I like your blog, btw.

3:02 PM  
Blogger ScottyB said...

I never put any BS in my personal statement that I wanted to help anyone. While I didn't come right out and say "I want to make a lot of money," I did stress that I wanted to be successful and I felt law school was the proper channel for me to achieve success. I went to law school because I enjoy solving disputes, I'm fairly good at it, and I can get paid well for doing it.

Not everyone came in with that benevolent attitude crap. I sure didn't.

6:35 PM  
Blogger The Fox said...

Jenn: I'm not saying that everyone who writes that they want to help people winds up selling out. Just most (from my experience). My hats off to the real public interest ones.

Scotty: Nor am I saying that no one writes that they want to be rich and successful, just that these frank folk are vastly outnumbered by the "helping people" crowd.

9:06 PM  
Blogger Counsellor in Cultivation said...

ha this is amusing. i had the same realization the other day when i was sitting in one of my school's public interest meetings. there were, like, 20 people there out of 1200 and i GUARANTEE at least 20 times that wrote their entrance essay on the perks of being a public interest lawyer. *guilty as charged.

also, in writing a personal statement for a scholarship application, i stressed my dedication to public service and what not, then realized... what have i REALLY done in furtherance of this? Who am i kidding? When someone hands me a job with salary in the range that i anticipate I am capable of receiving upon graduation, i'm gonna take that shit and run.

But at the same time, I realized that my SCHOOL really stresses their public interest program in brochures/viewbooks/websites/applications/etc.... so it almost seems like a vicious cylcle. Kids think they have to say that stuff to get in, and schools think they have to put it out there to recruit applicants (although, you think they would realize from the lack of participation in programs that most people just want $$$).

In all honesty, though, i would LOVE to do public interest law. civil liberties (or the lack thereof) turn me on.

but with thousands of dollars in debt over my head upon graduation, it probably just won't happen.

there's always the MRS degree i suppose.

9:44 PM  
Blogger Strange Bird said...

C in C hit the nail on the head for me. I wrote about community service and public interest (etc.) in my personal statement because it was the only thing I could write that rang true to me. But I probably won't do it as a career because I can't afford to.

9:25 AM  
Blogger Meagan said...

Interesting comments here. I didn't write much about public interest for my essays because I already had a clear track record of something else (Middle East/national security interests), so I wrote about that. Turns out that I'm far more interested in trade and business relations, and not necessarily in the ME. So maybe a lot of it has to do with people *thinking* that public interest stuff sounds cool or seems cool, and then getting into it and realizing they're not really interested in it after all?

I do wonder how many people say they want to get into it for cash though. Maybe law school admissions people know we all devolve into soulless bottom feeders anyway, and so people who evidence as starting out at the bottom already really have nowhere to go and become like that lawyer who got Anna Nicole Smith pregnant.

1:46 AM  

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