Writing a Personal Statement for Law School
The LSAT score and GPA are important parts of your application. However, the personal statement provides an opportunity to illustrate your unique qualities and sets you apart from other law school applicants. It has been said the law school application is a candidate's first case! Your "jury" will be a committee of admissions officers, faculty and/or law students. Represent yourself well with strong and persuasive facts.
The personal statement tells a story about you, something that cannot be learned by looking at the rest of your law school application. It is the chance for you to share an experience that has shaped your life, made you who you are today, and maybe even influenced your decision to apply to law school. Think about who you are, who or what has influenced your life, and what is unique about you--then write about it. The focus of your statement could come from any of the following areas:
- Volunteer work
- Part-time, summer or professional employment
- Extracurricular activities
- Special talents or interests
- Obstacles you have overcome
- Tragedies (loss of friend, family member, etc.)
- A significant person in your life (mentor, family member, teacher, etc.)
- You may decide to mention your motivation for the study of law. What experiences led you to pursue a legal career? How will law school help you attain your goals? Don't ramble about how you have wanted to be a lawyer as long as you can remember. And make sure to relate it to the theme of your statement - don't just tack it on at the end with no apparent connection to the rest of the essay.
- Let the admissions committee know why you are interested in their particular law school, if applicable. Do they have a special program or concentration which interests you? Go beyond saying that you "admire their strong academic program." Again, relate it to your essay.
- Don't be reluctant to discuss aspects of your background such as disability or ethnic status. Also, feel free to share any difficult obstacles you have overcome.
- Concentrate on your personal experiences and goals, not on your theories of law, politics, ethics, or society.
- Make your personal statement interesting! Admissions committees read thousands of essays each year, sometimes late into the evening. Would your essay keep you awake if you were on the committee?
- Be positive and confident.
- Avoid sounding know-it-all, arrogant, preachy, or condescending.
- Beware of using unusual or outrageous tactics to catch the admission committees' attention. Such strategies may backfire! It's safer to err on the side of being conservative.
- Be sure to follow any directions from the law schools regarding length and spacing! The average essay is two typewritten pages, double-spaced.
- Go beyond simply listing your experiences and accomplishments. Use specific examples and interesting details. Avoid generalizations.
- Follow a logical sequence. Maintain smooth transitions between sentences and paragraphs.
- Write concisely. Avoid wordiness and cliches. Don't try to impress the admissions committee with lots of fancy words.
- Use active verbs whenever possible (i.e., "organized", "researched", "managed", etc.) Avoid overuse of the passive voice ("is going") or verbs of being ("is" and "was").
- Use variations. Don't begin all of your sentences with "I" or "The".
- Grammar and spelling must be perfect.
Help! I can't get started!
- First, make a note of any specific instructions, if any, which are included in your application packet. Then brainstorm other ideas. Write them down on your own or talk to someone to help generate ideas. Try a pre-law advisor, career counselor, or even family or friends.
- Select 3-5 of the most important ideas for your essay.
- Organize your main ideas into paragraphs:
- Three to six paragraphs with main ideas
- Rewrite and edit, keeping in mind the editing tips mentioned above.
- Put your essay aside for a few days, then review again. Make any final revisions.
- Have your personal statement reviewed by a pre-law advisor, faculty member or other knowledgeable person.
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Revised: November 2, 2000.