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Law School - Personal Statement

Law School Statement Dos and Don'ts

  • Write a concise story with one or two points. Go for quality over quantity.
  • Tell a story where you are the main character and you changed, grew, or shifted your perspective.
  • You can write about any activity that shows off your best qualities. Review your classroom, student organization, work, and personal life for material.
  • Conclusions should be self-evident. Well written statements use stories that illustrate your good qualities. You should not have to explicitly state them.
  • You don't have to write about your interest in the law. In fact, your statement will probably be more memorable if you don't!
  • Please don't write about your philosophy on the law. For now, law school admissions officials are the law experts; you are the expert on YOU.
  • If you are going to mention a law school concentration that interests you, you need to back up your interest by including details about experiences that led you to your interest.
  • Focus on activities that have happened since you have been in college. You are not only applying with graduating seniors but with alumni. If you focus on activities prior to college, you will appear very young.
  • Follow all statement instructions. Answer all prompts for information.
  • Write several drafts. This should be an A+ paper.
  • Don't use a quotation. If you want to express something that has been captured by a quote, say it in your own words.
  • Do not manufacture drama—readers can tell when you are exaggerating or not being genuine.
  • Keep the focus on YOU, not an ill relative, remarkable client, or inner workings of an organization where you worked.

Frequently Asked Questions

How important is the personal statement?

This statement is a critical sample of your ability to write, as well as an opportunity to tell the admissions committee about yourself. Since most schools do not conduct interviews, the statement represents an opportunity for you to present yourself as more than just a GPA and an LSAT score. With so many applicants possessing identical qualifications, the statement can be the critical factor that distinguishes you from the applicant pool. What you say in your statement can also help you offset weaknesses in your application. So, take writing the statement very seriously.

How do I get started?

Read the statement instructions carefully. Most schools are interested in learning what unique qualities and experiences you will contribute to their incoming class.

To get started, gather information about yourself including:

  • Work, school and community experiences, such as positions you have held, volunteer opportunities, and projects you have participated in
  • Extracurricular activities, such as clubs, sports teams, leadership positions
  • Personal challenges and experiences, including travel, disabilities, goals you have accomplished
  • Unique talents or interests

For each activity, make a list of your duties, accomplishments, and other specifics, such length of commitment, name and contact information of related people, and so forth--anything that will remind you of your experiences. Also, review your school transcripts and resume because you may want to address particular group projects you have participated in and courses you have completed in your personal statement.

What should I say in my personal statement?

Above all, follow the instructions given by each school. Each school will have their own instructions, so avoid writing a generic statement for all schools. Some schools will ask about your academic and personal background, work experience, activities, etc. Schools often seek information on matters that relate to their desire to have diverse student bodies. The development of an applicant's interest in law is a matter of concern to some schools but not to others. In contrast, some schools request a writing sample on any subject of the writer's choice. As appropriate, tailor your statement for the school to which you are applying, but avoid emphasizing this over your experiences, attributes and goals.

Should I use the personal statement to address weaknesses in my application?

Weaknesses, such as a string of low grades or a low LSAT score should be addressed somewhere in your application. If clarifying weaknesses flows with your statement, you may use your statement to address them. On the other hand, you may wish to use an addendum. In either case, be brief and honest while offering a sympathetic explanation and assure the admissions committee that a similar weakness is unlikely to occur again.

Does writing style count?

Absolutely! Law schools use the personal statement to learn about your ability to write concisely, precisely, and well. The personal statement gives you an opportunity to showcase your abilities. So, the best statements not only follow the schools' instructions, but are tied together by a theme and a logical progression of ideas, making good use of transitions. They also employ perfect grammar and are written in a direct, simple style that avoids pretentious language. The best statements are not laundry lists of accomplishments and activities, but essays that describe a unique episode or two from your experience that demonstrate both your motivation for pursuing legal education along with positive, interesting aspects of your personality.

We highly suggest that you have your statement reviewed by your letter of recommendation writers, and other friends, family members or peers who know your story well and possess excellent writing skills.

How long should the statement be?

Some schools will explicitly state their word or page limit. Adhere to their wishes. You will not impress admissions committees with an overly long statement and your inability to follow directions. If no word count or page limit is stated, aim to write a statement that's about two pages long, double-spaced.

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This page last updated 10/28/2010 (sbd)