Personal Statement # 2
Explaining a Change in Careers
Most applicants don't need to explain why they chose law school. It is a logical next step for many undergrads, and for people who have worked for a few years. When you've already developed a successful career, however, admissions officers may wonder why you're abandoning it for a different one.
This client does a wonderful job of showing a full and happy life in which law school is the logical next step. He also talks about why he had chosen his first career based on bad advice, without a whisper of complaint. He was accepted about 10 index points off median.
"If I had it to do over again, I would go to law school." That has been my response for the last fifteen years whenever I was asked if I felt fulfillment in my chosen profession. The truth is, I never felt fulfilled because I never really chose a profession.
As did many working-class people with no advanced education, my parents believed that the road to success was through education. Hence I was encouraged to pursue an academic education in high school and to attend college. Beyond that point, there was no plan. My career planning process resembled the path that a pin-ball experiences during its descent through a maze of bumpers, obstacles and flippers.
Considering my financial status (I had no money for college) and my vocational preference or suitability (I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I was mechanically-oriented and "good with my hands") my guidance counselor, using all the diagnostic skills and insights he could muster, advised that I consider either engineering or dentistry. His list of candidate institutions included Drexel Institute of Technology and Temple University, each of which was local and had arranged a program so that a student could work full-time to earn tuition while attending college.
Upon receiving letters of acceptance from both schools, a flip of a coin at the counselor's desk cemented the lifetime decision: engineering it was! Almost immediately after starting Drexel, I was certain that I had chosen incorrectly. My father was of the strong opinion that one completed what one had started, however, and being a reasonably obedient son, I completed five years of arduous undergraduate engineering school.
After undergraduate school, my new bride and I went on to enter and complete a highly selective cooperative M.B.A.-Organizational Behavior fellowship program which had recently begun at Drexel. I was appreciative of the preparation for either consulting or teaching which the curriculum afforded me; however, neither profession beckoned me strongly.
After graduation, my employment as a systems analyst with a large aircraft company led to a variety of jobs in project engineering, with my final assignment involving the design and planning of a regional shopping center. It was here that I had my first contact with the legal profession.
Zoning ordinances, leases, nonrestrictive cross-easement agreements, municipal development agreements, design and construction contract agreements -- I loved it! I was fascinated by the precision and thought required to capture and define the exact understanding between "us and them" (to whom I now refer as "the parties") along with the provisions for the "what ifs," (to which I now refer as the "remedies"). Delving further into the real estate development process with a complete sense of how the physical pieces of a project fit together, I realized that the energy and glue were provided by the documents, which crystallized the understanding of the players so the game could proceed. As I moved from engineering to development and became more involved in the drafting, revision and negotiation of the documents, I found that I was able to make a significant contribution to the forward momentum of a deal. My refinement of these abilities enabled me to start my own development company less than six years after completing school.
I am forty-seven years old, still married to the same marvelous woman I met over 25 years ago, have two wonderful daughters in college, and have created and sold a successful real estate development and management firm. I never had a business or project repossessed by lenders or creditors, and I never experienced any bankruptcy or debtor's action against me. Along the way, I found time to fit in twenty five years of active Barbershop Quartet and Chorus singing which allowed me to serve in every major chapter officer's position, make enough significant administrative contributions to be elected to the honorary fraternity within our singing society (100 out of 6000 men), earn medals in several international competitions and appear on the stage at Carnegie Hall. So I guess in today's world I would be considered successful; however, something has been missing.
If I had it to do over again, I would go to law school. Now that my children are grown and my family's finances are secure, I have the opportunity to do it over again.