How to Write a Personal Statement for Law School

Instructor: Carrie Soucy
So, you're about to tackle personal statements for your law school applications? Before you start writing, learn how to wow law school admissions officers by reviewing these important personal statement do's and don'ts.

How to Compose Effective Law School Personal Statements

There are many do's and don'ts when it comes to writing personal statements for law school applications. As you read through those listed below, keep in mind the fact that the admissions officers who read your personal statements will likely be reading many, many others. So, as you consider the subject matter for statements, keep asking yourself: How will my statement be impactful and stand out in a positive way?

Law School Personal Statements: Top 5 Do's

  • 1. Be authentic. Since law schools typically do not conduct interviews, a personal statement is your one shot to express who you are and the qualities you possess that make you a strong candidate. It should, therefore, be genuine and true. Embellishment and exaggeration are easily spotted and not looked upon favorably.
  • 2. Follow directions. Seems like a no-brainer, but law school admissions officers report encountering many personal statements that don't comply with directions. Carefully read the instructions provided by each school regarding content and length. If no length guideline is provided, two double-spaced pages is a good rule of thumb.
  • 3. Consider your writing style. Remember that your personal statement is your chance to demonstrate the strong writing skills that are valued by law schools. Your statement should be well constructed, concise, engaging, and written in the active voice. Given the importance of these statements in the law school admissions process, it is a good idea to do a quick review of writing best practices. This online College Composition Writing Course will help you refresh your skills and knowledge.
  • 4. Proofread, edit, proofread… and repeat. All statements must be 100% free of any typos or errors. It is a good idea to ask one or two people who write well to edit and suggest changes as you draft your statement, and to proofread your final document.
  • 5. Use anecdotal evidence. At some point during your academic career, you may have heard the advice: Show, Don't Tell. Follow that advice when composing your personal statement. For example, if you have tenacity and overcome challenges, describe in detail a specific, personal example of those qualities.

Law School Personal Statements: Top 5 Don'ts

  • 1. Use clichés or irrelevant stories. If your kindergarten teacher told your mom she thought you'd be a good lawyer when you were 5, that makes for an entertaining dinner party story but is not fodder for your law school personal statement. If you want to help create world peace, meanwhile, that's wonderful, but have strong anecdotal evidence of how you've worked toward that goal. Remember to provide examples of skills that are valued in law school, such as critical thinking and intellect.
  • 2. Talk about being argumentative. Many people erroneously think that liking to argue is an indicator of law school qualification. In fact, being argumentative is considered a negative trait in the legal profession (and most others). Instead, law school candidates should demonstrate their ability to clearly argue a position--in this case, their qualifications for admission to law school.
  • 3. Be generic. Rather than writing one generic personal statement and sending it to several law schools, consider the instructions provided by each school, along with what each school offers, and construct original, targeted personal statements for each.
  • 4. Use legal terminology. You may be interested in becoming a lawyer, but you are not one yet. Personal statements are not the place for legal terminology, jargon, or opinions.
  • 5. Stand out in the wrong way. Being odd (such as writing a personal statement championing a controversial issue or submitting materials outside of the guidelines) will make you stand out, but as an eccentric, rather than as a strong law school candidate.

For additional tips and suggestions, check out this short Tips for Crafting a Strong College Application lesson.

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