Every law school application requires a personal statement. It allows you to explain why you want to go to law school and, more importantly, why the law school should let you in. There are three reasons a person attends law school: (1) make money; (2) change the world; or (3) they simply don’t know what else to do. However, all the advice is that you not write about how you want to change the world after law school and the other two don’t look good on paper.
I hated the personal statement. I found it intimidating. First because, despite present evidence to the contrary, I do not like writing about myself. However, the larger reason was I wanted to go to law school to change the world.
When you are born gay, there is always part of you that wants to change the world. The world, when I applied in early 1999, was vastly different from today. LGBT people could be fired from their jobs simply for being LGBT. Lesbians and gay men could not marry their partners or inherit from their partners under intestacy laws. Families could deny LGBT partners access to hospital rooms or any role in planning funerals. Hate crimes and rape shield laws did not apply when the victims were LGBT.
LGBT couples could protect themselves only through complex legal planning. They needed to make sure they had wills to ensure they could pass their property to their partners when they died, a health care proxy to ensure their partners could make medical decisions, and durable powers of attorneys to ensure their partners could make other financial and life decisions. I wanted to help plan and draft the documents they needed to change their worlds.
But I also wanted to go to law school to change the larger world. Being involved in government and politics since high school, I wanted to combine that experience with the knowledge gained in law school to change the laws we live under. Thankfully, other people felt the same way and lawyers have played large roles in some states recognize same-sex marriages, extending hospital visitation and health care protections to same-sex couples, and adopting anti-discrimination laws at state and local levels.
Are we done? No. There is more to do. My personal statement – no, our personal statement – is a work in progress.