Harvard Law School

Application Essays – marissa florio

What Worked for them can Help You Get into the Law School of Your Choice 

I am described as effortlessly astute, contagiously joyful, and cautiously spontaneous. I’m also boundlessly ambitious. It seems I am always undertaking a new endeavor, and my friends and family have slowly become desensitized in their reactions when I mention one day that I booked a flight on a whim to explore the sights of Madrid for a week alone, or that I began training to teach self defense even though I had no prior experience, or that I gave up elevators for Lent when I lived on the seventh floor of my dorm building. When I joined both College Republicans and College Democrats, however, even my closer friends had to scratch their heads. Politics isn’t necessarily a passion of mine, and they were confused as to who in her right mind would get involved in two organizations with such contrasting perspectives, members, and goals. Perhaps I’m not “of right mind”: To me, it seemed like a perfectly logical thing to do. An important election was coming up, and while I had my own ideas and perspectives, I wanted to make sure I was exposed to all sides fully before I cast my first-ever presidential ballot.

I attended the two clubs’ weekly meetings and soon befriended people in each. In both clubs, I was exposed to a combination of values I vehemently opposed and values I fully shared. I was surprised when, rather than opening my eyes to opposing ideas and changing my outlook as I had anticipated, my involvement in the clubs instead solidified my own previously held beliefs and values. I consider myself an open-minded person, but slowly I was narrowing my perspective rather than expanding it. I became more certain of my beliefs as I became more educated about them. This is one reason I see myself with a bright future in law. I am able and willing to see both sides of an argument and can respect diverse opinions, as I did at meetings, but I am also able to stand decisively in favor of one position over another.

This past spring, I worked for six months at the U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) of Massachusetts as a part of my university’s cooperative education (co-op) program. I went into the experience having always intended to go into law, but with the expectation that this internship would help me to narrow my focus and show me aspects of law I disliked. I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy working in the government compared to a private firm. Perhaps prosecution wouldn’t be for me. At the very least, maybe I would hate working with certain units within the office. A common refrain around my university’s campus about co-op is that it oftentimes is most useful in showing you what you do not want to do. My time at the USAO did limit my career options, but not in the way that I had anticipated: I fall in love with the office and the passion of the people working there. I now will settle for nothing less than to become an Assistant U.S. Attorney myself someday.

Of all my different dimensions, my ambition and desire to continually stray outside my comfort zone are those that reap the most reward. If something sparks my interest, I invest myself fully and completely and always see it through to its culmination. From my freshman year in high school when I took a business law class designed by a local university, until this moment as I complete my law school admissions applications, I have always and will always continue to challenge myself and work toward my dreams. I’m thrilled to embark on the next leg of this journey toward achieving my aspirations, and would be honored for that journey to take place at Harvard Law School.

Marissa Florio, despite unreservedly describing herself as “effortlessly astute, contagiously joyful, and cautiously spontaneous,” manages to come across as exactly the sort of person you would want to handle your case in court. Although not explicitly included in her given list of epithets, her essay also illustrates her to be humbly aggressive and enthusiastically self-aware.
The danger lies with any application essay of painting with strokes too broad, and oversimplifying one’s self. The resume already gives broad strokes—there’s no need to do so again.

Florio avoids repeating this by taking two episodes that might seem like the most typical application fodder to a critical eye, and allowing us to see the depth and complexity of experience lying beneath the otherwise unremarkable resume lines.

Florio approaches the first experience with an opened mind and leaves with a closed mind. Dual membership in the College Republicans and Democrats, which could have been evidence of childish naivete, functions rather as proof of mature sensibilities. Florio appears to be less of a dilettante and more of an adult coming into her own, as she describes how the experience “solidified [her] own previously held beliefs and values.”

The opposite mental transition happens with her second experience. Although she enters the Attorney’s Office with the very college-like “expectation that this internship would help me to narrow my focus and show me aspects of law I disliked,” Florio leaves it wanting to become an Assistant U.S. Attorney, a position that entails dealing with all aspects of the law.

Taken together, these experiences provide very convincing evidence that Florio is ready to enter professional life. She is not “open-minded” or “closed-minded,” but changes between the two and is sometimes both simultaneously, which is what real life and the legal world demand.

Her example demonstrates the importance of knowing the image she projects throughout her application—after identifying how she appears at the outset, Florio is able to use the essay as an opportunity to provide the reader with a key to decode her resume, and find within it a map of how her mind moves

-Nikhil R. Mulani

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