Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

How many tactical errors can you find in the following exchange?

"We're going to go around the circle and have everybody introduce themselves to the group. We'll start with you."

"Hi. My name is Joe. I'm originally from Chicago. I graduated from the University of Cleveland three years ago, majoring in Comparative Literature. Since then, I've been helping underprivileged youths in third-world countries by serving in the Peace Corps. The reason I'm at law school is because I want to learn how to work within the legal system to really effect change for children in these countries and make their lives better. I also enjoy beer pong and softball. In my spare time, I hope to get involved with the university orchestra and also work for a professor who's studying some of these international problems I'm really passionate about. I'm also looking forward to making lots of great friends."

If you found at least 13 mistakes, great job. If not, here's what you may have missed:

1. "I'm originally from Chicago." What he ought to have said was "I'm from a suburb just outside of Chicago." I don't know Chicago very well, but I have noticed that no one ever claims to be from the city itself. Everyone's always from a suburb. So I assume there's something awful enough about Chicago that admitting to being from the actual city is a definite no-no.

2. "The University of Cleveland" is not an Ivy League school. So it's really better not to mention it at all. Try just saying "I graduated from college," or "I graduated from school in the midwest," or, what might work best in this case, "I graduated from UC."

3. "...three years ago." Makes you sound too old. Try "...a couple of years ago," or something hard to calculate, like "...about 3% of the time that elapses between Halley's comet visits... ago."

4. Comparative Literature is not a law-school-approved major. "The humanities" may be general enough that you won't be actually lying. Or if you don't mind lying -- and you're in law school, so you probably don't -- "government" is a much better answer.

5. "...helping..." That's an awfully weak verb. Check out some of your classmates' resumes. No one ever "helps" or "assists" or "collaborates," even if all they did was make photocopies. They "fight" and "implement" and "manage." Joe should say he "managed" children in underprivileged countries, or "fought for them," or "beat them into submission." But not "helped." Besides, nobody likes a humanitarian.

6. You know the old saying, "if you weren't a paralegal, keep your mouth shut." Maybe that's not really an old saying. But it should be. Joe should get used to the following exchange: "You worked for the Peace Corps? Well, at least you did something.

7. This is an error of omission. Joe won a silver medal for his work in Uganda. That's the kind of stuff that might impress people. So he shouldn't have left it out.

8. Another error of omission. Joe's great-uncle is former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart. It's almost criminal for him not to mention that.

9. "spare time." Ha.

10. "university orchestra." Ha.

11. "work for a professor." Uh oh. Joe shouldn't be giving away his intentions. He'll soon find rumors around the faculty that he likes to molest pet goldfish, or something like that, started by his classmates who want those plum research positions he's marked himself in line for.

12. "making lots of great friends." This is Law School, not summer camp.

13. Joe should have at least another page of stuff to say. Don't waste your first chance to impress your classmates by being brief and to-the-point.

*14. This is a bonus one. Joe scored a 177 on the LSAT. He should definitely find a way to squeeze that in somehow.