A Compelling Narrative

If you followed my original post, you should be well on your way to compiling the components for your application and getting them sent to your dream schools. With many of the top schools, such as Harvard, having deadlines in just over a month I thought I would put out a new post. This post deals with what candidates need to have to stand out: a compelling narrative.

A Compelling Narative

One prospective LL.M. student whom I provide admissions consulting to asked “how am I going to get into Harvard and Stanford”? He proceeded to proclaim that after looking at the class profile there were “judges”, “chief justices” and former “supreme court clerks” vying for the limited spaces. My response to him was simple: “you need a compelling narrative”.

Lets be clear: what that narrative is does not matter. Whether its saving orangutans, a weird fetish for aviation law, or some bizarre interest in the Second Amendment, the admissions committees at these top schools want to see a clear, committed, and compelling narrative that jumps out of your total application. What do I mean by this? You need to craft and position your materials in such a way that shows you have been committed to this interest/passion, how the LL.M. is going to further this passion and interest, and what you think the next few chapters of your life are going to look like.

Why is developing a compelling narrative difficult? Because, to be frank, very few people have a single, burning passion; in other words, must of us are bobbing around through life trying different things, seeing where the wind takes us, and just getting jobs that can pay the bills. However, you need to sell to the admissions committee that you have a single, burning passion and the only way to quell this fire is with an LL.M. from their school.

So, you’re asking: “LL.M. Sherpa, if I don’t have a compelling narrative, how do I create one?”. Obviously, you cannot create one from nothing, but you should take a deep look at what kind of narrative can you create from your résumé. Essentially, it will be about emphasizing some parts of your resume, and minimizing others, to try and draw out the narrative you are trying to sell. Thus, your resume, your essay (if applicable), your personal statement, and your recommendations should all tell a story.


Thus, if your resume has all human rights work experience, you write your essay on an animal law topic, and your personal statement states your interest in criminal law, and you get your commercial law employers/professors to write your references, you are not likely to convince the LL.M. admissions committee that you want to be a top human rights lawyer. Instead, you are going to look like a person who has no clue what they are doing with their life (while most of us have no clue what we are doing with our life, the admissions committee does not need to know that!).

Instead, ideally: your resume would highlight (not embellish) your human rights work (and minimize other work that would detract from it, such as working for a tobacco or firearms company); you would write your personal statement on a fascinating human rights topic; your personal statement would explain your interest in human rights law; and, ideally, your recommendations would come from human rights professors or someone that supervised your doing human rights work.

Concluding Remarks

Obviously, a compelling narrative can be hard to create. There is a fine line between embellishing (for the avoidance of doubt, very unethical) and emphasizing certain parts of your resume to create a certain, compelling narrative. If you need help creating a compelling narrative or telling your unique story, get in touch: I offer competitive packages and can help your application stand out.

Prepare for the Journey, LLMSherpa lolololol.png


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