Thursday, June 21, 2012

Assault v. Battery

I am always surprised when I am listening to the radio how often people mix up assault with battery. In my torts class, we studied assault and battery by the elements. We had the elements drilled into us, to the extent that one of the torts teachers said we should be able to wake up in the middle of the night and recite the elements from memory. I can just imagine sleeping peacefully, and suddenly, my eyes popping open. I would sit up in bed and, in a zombie-like haze, start announcing:

1) act
2) intent
3) imminent apprehension of the harm or offence
4) the harm or offence

1) act
2) intent to touch
3) intent to harm or offend
4) the harm or offense

The elements look the same, right? Well, the difference is that assault is just the apprehension of a harm or offence, so it doesn't require contact. Battery usually involves contact while assault only involves thinking you will get hurt. It's the difference between someone faking a punch (assault) and actually punching someone (battery).

Of course, you don't have to take my word for it. Any good lawyer would say it depends on the circumstances. And of course, when you are a law student, you get to say that anything you do or say should not be construed as legal advice.

So there you have it: the difference between assault and battery.

Sweet dreams!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Writing Your Personal Statement

Writing your law school personal statement can be daunting, but it isn't difficult if you follow a few simple guidelines. Law school admissions committees are looking for three basic things: who you are, why you are applying to law school (and why now), and what will make you complete the program.

  1. Give up on trying to write the perfect personal statement. Several drafts are standard. Your first draft can be a "freewrite" where you just brainstorm whatever is on your mind, and what made you consider applying to law school.
  2. Revise. Show some of your later drafts to a few people you trust. I ran my law school personal statement by 20 students in an English class. If at least three people recommend the same improvement, make the change. Some comments are useful, but the author always knows best. Trust your instincts. The last person you show your draft to should be the person whose opinion matters most to you.
  3. Do a final edit before you submit. Nothing looks worse than an admissions essay that has typos. Admissions committees can tell if you drafted your personal statement for the first time as you were filling out your application. Trust me. I participated on an Admissions Committee as part of the Honors Program at UNR. A panel of professors, myself, and the Honors Director read through every essay and letter of recommendation and then met multiple times to debate which applications would go into the "accept," "reject," and "maybe" piles. Standardized test scores and grades determine which initial pile your application gets put into, but after that, especially if the committee is on the fence about your materials, your personal statement and letters of recommendation get scrutinized.
There are several books out there on how to draft a good personal statement. Sometimes it is helpful to look at sample essays that were successful. But remember, your personal statement is about you. In the end, those example are just examples. Admissions committees want to know who you are, so give them enough detail so they can visualize you in the graduation processional.

Good luck!