The Big Picture
Your law school application must answer three questions:
The personal statement is your best chance to convince the admissions committee that you’re a solid applicant with a clear plan for your legal career. If it fails to do this, you’ve missed an opportunity, in a big way.
For now, let’s assume you’ve answered the big three satisfactorily. What else is there to think about?
Follow the Directions
First and foremost, follow the directions.
If the application asks a specific question, answer it. Sure, it’s a pain to adapt your standard essay to the question you’ve been asked to respond to, but deal with it. Don’t send in a generic personal statement, answering the question you wish you’d been asked.
Similarly, if there’s a page, word, or character limit, abide by it. This isn’t the time to get cute and sneak in a few extra sentences (and it’s good practice for filing court documents, which come with strict length limits). Be sure you understand the directions, and follow them.
Consider What Each School Wants
Consider crafting different essays for different schools. Each school has its own personality, so you can improve your chances of admission by portraying yourself as their ideal candidate. Obviously you don’t want to lie, but even subtle shifts in which aspects of your background and goals you decide to discuss can make a big difference.
A personal statement that focuses heavily on your experience with a controversial environmental group might play better at Vermont Law, for example, than it would at a school that primarily produces corporate attorneys. Consider your audience!
Tell A Story
Opening with an anecdote is a great way to draw the reader into your essay, and convince them you’re someone they’d like to spend time with. This can be a little tricky, as you have to be sure your story is interesting, relevant, and non-cliché, but it’s worth the effort to stand out in a crowd of applicants spouting platitudes about justice.
Your story could be set in the past (what motivated you to apply to law school?) or the future (a snapshot of yourself post-graduation) but it should be, and seem, authentic. If you’re not convinced you’ve pulled it off, ask for help. But be sure you ask someone who’s willing to be honest and tell you if your story is boring and needs work.
A friend who’s willing to give constructive feedback is a valuable commodity! Keep this person around.
Look for Blemishes on Your Perfect Personal Statement
As with the résumé, your personal statement needs to be technically perfect. Getting to this point will require multiple rewrites, so DO NOT leave this until the last minute. Procrastination is inevitable, but your essay will be a lot better if you have time to get feedback and rewrite (repeatedly).
As a final check, read the essay out loud to see if it rolls off the tongue. If not, you’re probably using convoluted language that could be streamlined.
How to Craft a Law School Application That Gets You In
Find out how to make every component of your law school application the best it can be:
- Perfect Your Law School Résumé
- Sample Law School Résumé Teardown
- Get Great Letters of Recommendation
- When to Use an Addendum
Return to Applying to Law School 101.
Have questions about your law school personal statement? Leave them in the comments!