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Is it ok to criticise certain aspects of a subject in a personal statement?

I want to start my personal statement by talking about the ideals of the 'rule of law'. I want to talk about how I love this value of law which can be dated as far back as Aristotle blah blah blah...

But then I was going to talk about how in practice there are exceptions, such as the US's involvement in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo (a bunch of human rights infringements during the War on Terror)...

Is this ok to do?
I mean theoretically yes but sounds more like a philosophy or politics matter than law in terms of the content of an undergraduate degree. Much of an undergraduate degree (if not virtually all) is going to be about learning black letter law and applying that to legal problems - not discussing much grander theories of jurisprudence and moral and ethical values. So I think the issue is to me it just seems to convey a misunderstanding of the course a bit...

Obviously you can discuss relevant issues around human rights but you should embed that into a specifically legal context I think, rather than philosophical or sociopolitical. The PS is a very short piece of writing after all so you really need to be very focused in what you are saying!
Original post by gregregregreg
I want to start my personal statement by talking about the ideals of the 'rule of law'. I want to talk about how I love this value of law which can be dated as far back as Aristotle blah blah blah...

But then I was going to talk about how in practice there are exceptions, such as the US's involvement in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo (a bunch of human rights infringements during the War on Terror)...

Is this ok to do?

This approach sounds perfectly reasonable to me.
Original post by artful_lounger
I mean theoretically yes but sounds more like a philosophy or politics matter than law in terms of the content of an undergraduate degree. Much of an undergraduate degree (if not virtually all) is going to be about learning black letter law and applying that to legal problems - not discussing much grander theories of jurisprudence and moral and ethical values. So I think the issue is to me it just seems to convey a misunderstanding of the course a bit...

Obviously you can discuss relevant issues around human rights but you should embed that into a specifically legal context I think, rather than philosophical or sociopolitical. The PS is a very short piece of writing after all so you really need to be very focused in what you are saying!


Right but the usual motivation to take a law degree is its overall values and influence in society. I don't think many people are going to talk about their fascination with the nuances of contract law for example... Idk that is true though.

This was just going to be part of my introductory paragraph really - talk about how it provides a framework for all social, economic, political conduct etc... then talk about how a 'Rule of Law' is a hallmark for civilisation... then mention the book I read on it... then go into Human Rights more etc.... does this sound better?

I don't think I have a misunderstanding, I have taken a gap year to really get used to the subject and know the ins and outs of the degree, my issue is the degree is very compartmentalised. 'Law' is just a heading for a bunch of different subject areas really - public, private, criminal, contract, tort etc. So to talk about the overall degree is very difficult. I will look into more examples of law personal statements then.
(edited 5 months ago)
Original post by gregregregreg
Right but the usual motivation to take a law degree is its overall values and influence in society. I don't think many people are going to talk about their fascination with the nuances of contract law for example... Idk that is true though.

This was just going to be part of my introductory paragraph really - talk about how it provides a framework for all social, economic, political conduct etc... then talk about how a 'Rule of Law' is a hallmark for civilisation... then mention the book I read on it... then go into Human Rights more etc.... does this sound better?

I don't think I have a misunderstanding, I have taken a gap year to really get used to the subject and know the ins and outs of the degree, my issue is the degree is very compartmentalised. 'Law' is just a heading for a bunch of different subject areas really - public, private, criminal, contract, tort etc. So to talk about the overall degree is very difficult. I will look into more examples of law personal statements then.


I would argue that "usual motivation" is itself an issue because most lawyers aren't going to be doing work focusing on "overall values and influence in society". They're going to be reviewing and writing contracts and suchlike for companies. I think it's important to be realistic about this - as if you're not actually interested in that, you might find a law degree rather tedious, and you might also not really be that keen on pursuing a legal career. And since you can (and about half of all solicitors do) pursue a legal career with another degree (say, in philosophy and/or politics...) anyway, if your interests are less in the actual substance of a law degree and in those of another area, it makes more sense to look at doing a degree in another area.

The different areas of law covered in a law degree are all still "law" and will require you to read case law and apply them to legal problems and write essays on those as I understand. And my understanding is the majority of those essays are not going to be of the wider ranging philosophical kind, they're going to be focused on specific laws and the legal problems that arise from them. These are distinct from ethical or societal issues that may arise from laws and legislation, I'm inclined to think. Unless you are doing a more socio-legal studies focused module (which would probably be an optional module anyway).

In terms of the structure as a brief segue into something else it's probably ok although likely unnecessary. I would note you should be careful when discussing human rights in this context to focus on the legal aspects of them and not the humanitarian/philosophical/ethical/political/etc aspects so much. And again, if your interests skew more to the latter topics then you might find a degree in e.g. politics, IR, philosophy, humanitarian studies etc, more appealing and aligned with your interests (and would still allow you to pursue a legal career potentially).

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