I've got a great new crop of LSAT students grinding away on their preparation for the June LSAT. Some of them are also working on their personal statements and sending me drafts. One draft came accompanied by this question: My long term goals include advocating for medical professionals who have assisted in "comfort care," deemed as "euthanasia," as well as working on "right to die" legislation. It is something that I believe in fully. The estate planning will be rewarding and also the way I pay my bills, but this other work is what I really care about. The reason I left it out is because right-to-die, physician's assisted suicide, etc. is controversial. I worry that if I mention that in my essay and then get a really religious person reading my personal statement I am screwed. What do you think about this?
Thanks for your question! Perhaps I'm biased because I, too, feel strongly that there should be a right to die. (My lovely fiancee and I have already made plans to move to Oregon, or the Netherlands, or some other civilized place when the time comes.) But, setting my personal feelings aside, I think you should absolutely go ahead and write your statement on this topic, and write it honestly. I can tell how earnestly you believe in this cause, even from the way you put your question. This passion is going to shine through in your personal statement. Since admissions committees are looking for passionate students who will become passionate advocates upon graduation, I think you have found your ideal theme. Congratulations!
Regarding "I worry that if I mention that in my essay and then get a really religious person reading my personal statement I am screwed"... Well, unless you're applying to the Pat Robertson School of Southern Baptist Law, this concern seems far-fetched. Academics tend to skew atheist/agnostic, and even those academics who are religious tend to lean toward the more open-minded varieties of religion. (I imagine, and I take comfort in the idea, that it must be very difficult to garner respect in academia if you base your analyses and worldviews on faith rather than on reason.)
Respect for diverse opinions might be doubly true in legal academia. All lawyers, both Republican and Democrat, understand that everyone deserves a passionate advocate in court, even those who are accused of our most heinous crimes. Now, if your passion was overturning our statutes against having sex with minors, I would certainly recommend that you choose another topic... that's a position that would shock the conscience of most readers. But a belief in legal euthanasia is going to strike a chord with many; academics do also tend to skew politically progressive. At the very least, your position will be considered earnest and reasonable by all but the most zealous and insane. Fortunately, the Pat Robertsons of the world are too busy fleecing old folks to have a say on your law school candidacy.
As always, keep your statement honest and straightforward. Tell your story plainly, and let the reader arrive at her own conclusions. Don't TELL the reader that you're passionate, using adjectives and adverbs. Instead, SHOW the reader that you're passionate with true stories about your experiences, and how those experiences have shaped your law school goals.
Thanks for your question! I'm always here to help, at 415-518-0630 and firstname.lastname@example.org.