LSAT For Dummies, 2nd Edition (2014)

Part V. The Writing Sample: Penning a Persuasive Argument

Chapter 14. Practice Writing Samples

In This Chapter

arrow Trying out two LSAT writing sample topics

arrow Looking at possible responses

Now you have your chance to try writing LSAT-style writing sample essays. Grab some ruled, double-sided paper and plan to use about a side and a half of the sheet. Remember, there's no right or wrong answer. Just pick a side and defend it well. After the two sample topics, we include two possible responses for each. The essay positions aren't right or wrong. Read them to get an idea of how you could organize your essays.

Topic 1: Choosing a Law School

This first topic deals with picking one law school over another. Don't forget to set up your argument before you start writing. Begin by reading the prompt:

·        Gael is a senior in college who plans to attend law school the following year. She has been accepted by several law schools and has narrowed her choice down to two of them. Write an argument for selecting one law school over the other, keeping two guidelines in mind:

o   Gael wants to go to a friendly school where she can pursue her main interest, environmental law and the preservation of resources.

o   Gael wants to borrow as little money as possible and to find a lucrative job as soon as she graduates.

·        Law School A is a small school attached to a state university in a fairly undeveloped state known for its liberal tendencies. Because of the school's small size and relaxed atmosphere, students and faculty get to know one another very well. It has one of the best environmental law programs in the country; graduates of this program usually find jobs with agencies dedicated to protecting the environment. Securing employment sometimes takes several months, and the jobs usually do not pay as well as those with private law firms. Because Gael comes from another state, she will not receive an in-state tuition discount and will have to take out a substantial loan to pay for her law school education.

·        Law School B is a larger law school that is part of a well-known and prestigious private university. The tuition is about the same as the tuition at Law School A, but Law School B has offered Gael a partial scholarship that would cover about one-third of her costs. This law school is known for its cutthroat environment; students compete with one another viciously, and professors devote little time to socializing with students because they are busy working on their own research. Law School B has an excellent job placement record, and nearly all its graduates accept high-paying jobs at private law firms. Law School B offers courses in environmental law but is not especially known for its environmental program.

Sample answer: Choosing Law School A

Here's a possible argument for choosing Law School A:

·        Law School A would be a better choice for this student. Gael wants to specialize in environmental law and to attend school in a collegial atmosphere. These priorities should come before her desire to economize and should not interfere with her wish to find a lucrative job. Because Law School A has one of the best environmental law programs in the country and is well-known for its friendly atmosphere, Gael would be much happier in the present and more satisfied with her career in the future if she chooses to attend this smaller law school.

·        Law School A has one of the best environmental law programs in the country. Gael is very interested in a career that would let her help protect the environment and preserve natural resources, and attending Law School A would make it very easy for her to spend the rest of her life doing this. Although she could study some environmental law at Law School B, the program there is not nearly as concentrated on the preservation side of environmental law, and she may feel somewhat isolated if she tries to pursue her interest in an atmosphere that does not value environmentalism.

·        Law School A also has a friendly feel that would make Gael's law school experience more pleasant and ultimately more satisfying than Law School B. At Law School A, she could form deep relationships with both students and faculty that would make it easier for her to learn more about her chosen field and find compatible colleagues for her future work life. Bonds that she forms during law school will benefit her for the rest of her career.

·        It is true that Law School A is slightly more expensive than Law School B because Law School A has not offered Gael a scholarship. That small difference in money is not enough to justify choosing a law school that will not offer her the opportunity to pursue her goals. It is also true that Law School A does not place nearly as many of its graduates in law firms that pay high salaries, so Gael may take slightly longer to pay off her student loans. Nevertheless, it is more important that Gael be able to study and find a job in a field that interests her than make a lot of money quickly.

·        Both schools have advantages, and Gael probably would be successful at either one. Nevertheless, because it would provide her a pleasant law school experience, allow her to study the field that most interests her, and secure a satisfying career in that field, Law School A would be a much better choice for Gael than Law School B.

Sample answer: Fighting for Law School B

If you prefer Law School B, here's an example of how you can state that argument:

·        Gael should choose Law School B. Law School B is much more prestigious than Law School A, which will provide Gael with more opportunities after she graduates. It has offered her a partial scholarship, which will decrease her financial burden upon graduation and is more likely to provide her with a lucrative job after she completes school. Because Law School B offers this prestige and financial advantage without preventing Gael from pursuing environmental law, Gael should choose to attend the larger law school.

·        A degree from a well-known law school is a valuable commodity. Future employers are extremely impressed with credentials such as a degree from Law School B. A degree from this school will allow Gael to pursue employment anywhere and in any field and will not restrict her to specialized environmental employers. Gael wants to find a job that will pay her well, and a degree from Law School B would be the best way to ensure that she does.

·        Law school is very expensive. If Gael accepts the partial scholarship from Law School B, she will be able to pay off her loans in a much shorter period of time than she would if she had to take out loans for the full amount of tuition she would have to pay for Law School A. Attending Law School B would mean that Gael would be financially free much sooner and would be able to leave her lucrative law firm job to take a lower-paying job in an environmental agency later if she wanted to. Attending Law School B allows Gael to combine financial success and career satisfaction.

·        Although Law School B is known for its competitive atmosphere, spending three years in a less enjoyable law school is a small sacrifice to make for a scholarship and a degree that will allow Gael to pursue employment anywhere and in any field. Even though Law School B's environmental law program is not as complete and well-known as that of Law School A, Gael will still be able to specialize in environmental law if she chooses. She may find that her interests lie elsewhere, and she will be in a better position to pursue them if she attends a school that does not specialize entirely in one area of the law.

·        Although Law School A does offer some benefits, Law School B would be a much better choice for Gael. It would provide her with prestige, financial independence, and an excellent job, without taking anything away from her environmental aspirations. She should therefore choose Law School B.

Topic 2: The Sporting Goods Store

This topic deals with whether the state should fund a large sporting retailer to come to the area. Read the prompt and pick your side.

·        A small southern town is trying to decide whether to provide financial incentives to a large national retailer that wants to open an outlet there. Town business leaders are considering offering funds raised by state taxes to pay for the store's construction. Write an argument either supporting or protesting offering the financial incentives, keeping two guidelines in mind:

o   The town wants to create jobs by bringing tourist dollars to the area.

o   The town wants to avoid putting local merchants out of business.

Town business leaders want to use state taxes to pay for the construction of the national retailer's multimillion-dollar facility right next to an exit from an interstate highway. The facility would include a giant sporting goods store, several restaurants, and a hotel. It would create at least 300 new jobs, and the town hopes that it would also attract tourists who otherwise would not bother leaving the highway. If the town does not provide the tax funds, the retailer will probably take its business elsewhere.

·        Local merchants in the town do not want to use state funds to finance the facility's construction. They claim that local retailers already provide all the goods that would be available at the new store, and they fear that the new store would deliberately cut its prices to drive them out of business. They believe it would be wrong for the state to fund the construction of a store for an out-of-town retailer when it does not provide the same service to local businesses. They insist that the town should treat the out-of-town retailer the same way it treats local merchants, and if the national retailer takes its business elsewhere, so much the better for local businesses.

Sample answer: Use state funds

Here's a sample answer that argues for using the state funds:

·        The benefits of bringing this large national retailer to the town are tremendous, and the town should do whatever is necessary to persuade the company to come. If that means the town's leaders must offer to pay for the facility's construction with state tax funds, then they should do it because the benefits of having the retailer move in far outweigh the cost of using state money to build the store.

·        The retailer would build a huge, multimillion-dollar facility just off an interstate exit. That exit would become a major destination; people who would otherwise never consider stopping in the town would now have a reason to get off the highway and spend their money there. After these people have stopped, it will be easier to convince them to stay a while and spend even more money, perhaps on amenities that already exist in town, away from the interstate.

·        Introducing the retailer would create hundreds of new jobs. First, construction workers would have ample employment. Second, all the facilities that would be part of the retailer's complex — the sporting goods store, the several restaurants, the hotel — would require a large number of employees. These would be good, stable jobs, and the local economy needs that.

·        The town already has several sporting goods stores and of course hotels and restaurants, but all are not located in one convenient place; people must drive around to get to them, and they will never attract anyone from out of town. The local merchants already have a loyal local clientele, and it's not likely that that will change; regardless, it is unfair to force local customers to pay high prices for goods that the major retailer can sell for less.

·        Bringing the retailer to town would be a win-win situation for nearly everyone. The town should bend over backward to persuade it to come; spending tax money to build the facility would be an investment with huge payoffs in the near future.

Sample answer: Don't use state funds

Here's a sample answer for the other side:

·        Offering to pay for the construction of this retailer's facility is a terrible idea. Because the potential consequences to the town's local merchants are horrific and the likely economic benefit to the town of the retailer's locating there is unproven at best and negligible at worst, the town should definitely not subsidize the store's construction with state funds.

·        The town should not pay to construct the national retailer's monstrous facility because to do so would be extremely unfair to local merchants. Local merchants have to pay their own way; no one has ever offered to build facilities for them. To add insult to injury, if the town does decide to use state taxes to build the complex, then local merchants will in effect be forced to finance the construction of a major competitor.

·        Countless towns have proven that introducing large national retailers with big-box stores is devastating for local merchants. The national retailers carry a larger variety of merchandise with prices set specifically to drive local merchants out of business. There is no reason to assume this retailer would be different. If this retailer comes to town, customers will flock there to do their business, abandoning the merchants who already operate in the heart of town. As for tourists, perhaps a few interstate travelers will get off the highway to do a little shopping or have a quick meal, but they are unlikely to stay very long or venture into town. Nothing about a big-box sporting goods store will impress them with “local color.”

·        Although this retailer would provide a certain number of jobs, they would be low-paying jobs in an isolated area around a remote interstate exit. They would come at the cost of the jobs that already exist with the town's local sporting-goods merchants. All profits would leave the state to go to corporate headquarters, leaving the town with a hefty construction bill and 300 minimum-wage jobs with no security.

·        If the national retailer is serious about coming to this town, it can pay its own way like any other honorable vendor. There's no sense in the town's subsidizing its own economic destruction.