22 Rules of Writing Your Law School Personal Statement — Part 2

nfox 300Nathan Fox, founder of Fox LSAT, is back with the second post in his series that provides a humorous look at crafting the law school personal essay. If you missed Part 1, you can check it out here.

Welcome back, Nathan!

#8: Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.

The world’s finest personal statement isn’t worth more than two or three LSAT points. Knock out a shitty first draft, then ruthlessly edit it. Get some help from friends and family. It’s never going to be a perfect story; there’s no such thing. Make sure it makes your point, and make sure it’s impeccably edited. Then get back to work on the LSAT, which 1) the most important component of your law school app and 2) an incredibly learnable test, if you put in the time.

#9: When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.

Not sure why law school is the right choice? Okay then, what would happen if you didn’t go to law school? The fact that you don’t want to spend your life as a garbage collector doesn’t make a good personal statement, but as a writing exercise, if you’re stuck, “My Life Smelling Like Old Spaghetti” might at least get the juices flowing. Think about what you don’t want, and maybe you’ll figure out what you do.

#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.

Who’s your favorite writer, and why do you like them? I love Stephen King and John Steinbeck and Robert Heinlein. They’re not afraid to use plain language, swear sometimes, and generally tell it like it is. That’s part of me, so their voice is part of my own. Like my voice? Take it, it’s yours.

Ann Levine’s Law School Admission Game has great examples of personal statements that worked, for a variety of different reasons. Take a look at those, and ask your friends who are in law school if you can read theirs. Some you’ll love, some you’ll hate. Shamelessly mimic the ones you love.

#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.

You’re afraid that your colleague in your LSAT class is going to steal your brilliant idea for a personal statement? No, I’m sorry, your current draft probably sucks. Of course you think it’s brilliant and perfect, but that’s only because you haven’t let anybody rip it to shreds yet. Get it out in the world. Take feedback from anyone who will offer it. You don’t have to accept every single suggestion, since half of the feedback will also suck. But you should be open to the idea that even the dumbest person in your LSAT class might point out a typo that could be fatal to your law school candidacy. Stakes are high; get as much input as you can.

#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

Here, I’ll get some horrible ideas out of the way for you: I’m a good candidate for law school because I like to argue. I’m a good candidate because I’m interested in politics. I’m a good candidate because I greatly enjoy Suits. I’m a good candidate because I met a downtrodden person one day, and they needed a lawyer, and isn’t that a sad story? I’m a good candidate because, even though I don’t know any lawyers (or I do know a few lawyers, but wouldn’t want to do what they do every day) “you can do anything with a law degree.” I’m a good candidate because my parents are pressuring me. These are all horrible reasons. Write some of your own bad reasons, then try to unearth the real ones.

#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.

It’s a personal statement. The first-person voice is not only acceptable, it’s preferred. Nobody wants to listen to a person who doesn’t have opinions. Take a stand. I wrote my own personal statement about how much I hate the California Lottery. (The lottery funds schools, so that schools can try to teach students enough math to realize that the lottery is an enormous scam? Fuck off with that.) Using this topic might not have been the best idea, but at least I was telling a story. Remember that your reader is wading through a pile of 50 of these things in a single day. Be the one that makes them sit up, gives them a laugh, challenges them a little. Make them remember you.

#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.

If you don’t have a burning desire to go to law school, then you shouldn’t be reading this post. Go meet some lawyers. Probably, when you see them working 80 hours a week to mostly dissatisfying ends, you’ll decide to do something else with your life. I fully support this decision. But if you meet lawyers, see what it’s like, and realize that you would die if you couldn’t become one of them, then this is the right path for you. I’ll do everything I can to help you get there, once you have this burning desire. Until then, I’ll try to talk you out of it.

Thanks, Nathan! And check out the rest of the series!

22 Rules for Writing Your Personal Statement

22 Rules for Writing Your Personal Statement Part 3

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Nathan Fox is the owner and sole LSAT instructor at Fox LSAT. He is the author of five top-rated LSAT books. He offers an online LSAT class, a live LSAT class in San Francisco, and private LSAT tutoring in person and via Skype.

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