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--------------- Print Magazine --------------
  May 2016
  April 2016
Harvard Law School
Application Essays
What Worked for them can Help You Get into the Law School of Your Choice

Michael Jacobson

I always thought my inspiration to attend law school would come from my time in the courtroom. I never could have guessed it would come from the backseat of a police cruiser.

Mock trial has been a major part of my life ever since high school. While many of my classmates avoided class presentations or speaking opportunities, I have always relished the challenge of captivating an audience. It never mattered if I was delivering a thirty-minute campus tour or a thirty-second tenor saxophone solo over a Coltrane tune; I found the pressure to perform in front of an audience both nerve-racking and exhilarating. Nothing was more exciting, how ever, than entering a courtroom, standing before a judge, and setting the tone of a three-hour case with my opening statement for the prosecution.

The first thing I did after moving into my dorm at Georgetown University freshman year was to sign up to try out for the mock trial team. From day one I enjoyed giving opening statements and playing the part of a witness, giving me the opportunity to become a more polished public speaker, to learn more about the Federal Rules of Evidence, and to experiment with my acting abilities.

Mock trial soon became my favorite (and busiest) extracurricular activity. I loved the challenges of leading the team as captain and working with and learning from a group of brilliant and ambitious freshmen and sophomores. I found an opportunity to teach both public speaking and mock trial over the summer in Washington, D.C., and my love of the mock courtroom only continued to increase through sophomore year. This inspired me to pursue an internship at the U.S. Attorney's Office (USAO) in Washington, D.C. All spring I looked forward to seeing my world of make-believe law come to life.

I was sitting in the back of a squad car: sweating, overdressed, and firmly out of my element. The D.C. version of Tubbs and Crockett sat up front, speeding down the dark alleyways of southeast D.C. Before I could catch my breath, the man who had just committed a hit-and-run was in handcuffs and I found myself in a rare state of speechlessness.

After taking part in the arrest, I was able to follow this case, along with a handful of others, to its conclusion throughout the summer. It was a great way to get to know some amazing attorneys and law students. Furthermore, I enjoyed learning about the criminal legal process.

What stuck with me the most from my summer at USAO, surprisingly, wasn't flashing lights, bright courtrooms, or compelling oral arguments. It was the hit-and-run victim, a tiny woman with her arm cut to the bone, keeping her head held high throughout the interview. It was the strength she showed during the most difficult time in her life that still resonates and inspires me to this day.

I learned a lot about the criminal legal process that summer. But what was most valuable was the human element that comes with being a prosecutor. Don't get me wrong; I still solo in the jazz band and grab every opportunity to debate or present in class. I still love giving campus tours. And I still give opening statements in mock trial. But it took a ride in a squad car and seeing firsthand how an attorney can positively change a life to truly understand why I want to pursue a legal education.


Michael Jacobson's essay traces his development from a mock trial competitor in high school and college to an intern in the D.C. Attorney's Office, to a Harvard Law School applicant. Jaconbson's interest in law is two-fold. On the one hand, he enjoys the role of lawyer, the analysis and the presentation he has appreciated since his early days. Despite this constant, the essay is a story of change, too. Jacobson explains how his almost instinctive interest in the law intersects with a newfound, more conceptual interest, an interest spurred by the likes of the hit-and-run victim. He gives the reader a window into how he has matured. There are a few loose ends in Jacobson's essay, though. For example, it is rather unclear how his various inspirations-riding in the back of a police car (first paragraph), a victim's strength (seventh paragraph), or the positive impact of an attorney relate together in forming an inspiration. And they are presented in absolute terms-"nothing was more exciting" than being in front of a courtroom, the victim "stuck with me the most," and yet the backseat of a squad car was the most influential moment. However, in spite of a few instances of hyperbole, Jacobson's essay showcases his experience and achievements excellently.

The essay's content is its greatest asset. It is personal; the reader feels like he or she knows Jacobson. He integrates his experience with mock trial, his enjoyment of speaking and presenting, and his awareness of both the human-and professional aspects of law. The essay is a little rough around the edges, but the narrative structure is a good window into Jacobson's life, and, most importantly, the essay communicates his ambition and experience.

Eliza Hale 

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