Does my post title make you feel argumentative, poised to find others who are equally well qualified to explain whatever admissions point I propose to explain? Since that is the sort of instinct that often draws people to law school, I’m guessing that a high percentage of readers would say "yes." After all, there are 200 ABA-approved law schools , all with deans of admissions—wouldn't they all be likely to be reasonably well qualified to talk about law school admissions? Isn't it hard to imagine how a claim that I am unparalleled, incomparable, singular could be persuasively established? In any event, my claiming it doesn't get me too far down the road to demonstrating it. Omitting the uniqueness claim doesn't take away at all from the force of whatever I want to say; all it does is bypass the argumentative instinct. And it avoids the danger that perhaps the reader is quite familiar with many other admissions deans, not to mention admissions consultants, and will think that my claim shows a lack of perspective.
Now, let me step back to say: please don't whip out your personal statement to see if you have used the word "unique," and please don't start panicking if you have. It is not, in fact, the death knell of an application. Readers recognize the difficulties and challenges of the horn-tooting personal statement genre, and I have certainly admitted people who describe themselves as unique. In fact, I am quite sure that there is no style preference that I have that I haven't abandoned by admitting people who are not adherents. My observations are meant only to help applicants see ways they can strengthen their materials. For every single piece of worrisome advice I give in the future, please refer back to this intended-to-be-soothing mantra.
With that preface in mind, I'll soldier on to my point: please consider excising "unique" from any self-description. (Unless it's ironic and self-mocking--like, "Since I work at Michigan and once went to a football game, I am uniquely well qualified to assert that there is a reason it will take Coaches Rodriguez and Robinson time to develop enough depth at the spinner position in their 3-4 defensive hybrid scheme to play at the needed level of strength & endurance of a Big Ten 4-3 scheme and at the speed and smarts of Rodriguez's past 3-3-5 schemes.") It's rare, though, that ironic self-mockery finds a place in law school applications, so for the most part that exception won't apply.
It's just not necessary for admissions success that an applicant be what one of my colleagues calls a "oner." The fact that there are others out there who may be as qualified, or even more qualified, than you on some particular measure doesn't mean that you are not qualified. And admissions officers are not limited to picking a single individual; we get to admit a whole bunch of people. The fact that it is very rare to find an applicant who is truly unique on paper just doesn't hold me back at all from finding very appealing candidates. To convince a reader that you are well qualified to do something, just lay out your rationale and supporting points and let the reader internally assess for themselves the degree of your qualifications. After all, avoiding an invitation to argue is always for the best when you're talking to lawyers.
-Dean Z.Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions