Pen and Chisel Q&A: Can I Tell Multiple Stories in My Law School Personal Statement?

headshot-2Here at The Girl’s Guide, we get tons of questions from law school applicants about how to best frame their application story. Rather than making stuff up that may or may not be right, we’re bringing in the big guns!

Please welcome Eileen Conner, founder of Pen and Chisel, who has agreed to serve as our resident expert on law school application writing. Eileen is here to help with any law school application questions you might have — including personal statements, diversity statements, addenda, and any other items you need to submit.

Got a burning question? Just send a note and maybe it will be answered in a future column!

Now, without further ado, on to question one.

I have two different life experiences that are each a big part of my reason for going into law. How can I use them both in the same law school personal statement?

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Tips for Time-Managing Your Law School Personal Statement

headshot-2In honor of law school application season, we’re excited to welcome Eileen Conner, founder of Pen and Chisel, LLC, who’s here with some useful tips for personal statement time management. Don’t delay, take this advice to heart today!

If you’re applying to law school this year, you probably have a hundred things on your plate. Now, as deadlines begin to loom, it’s time to add a new task: writing your personal statement and other law school application essays.

These essays will have a huge impact on the success of your application, so it’s crucial to take the time to do your best. But how can you manage your writing efficiently when you’re already juggling several other commitments?

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Craft a Law School Application That Gets You In: The Second Question You Must Answer

The Big Three: Why Here?

SnowflakeThe second critical question your application needs to answer is why this specific law school makes sense for you.

You Do Have a Reason For Applying, Don’t You?

Let’s be realistic – most people are simply applying to the most highly ranked schools they think they can get into, with little regard for the attributes of individual programs.

This is generally a non-ideal strategy for picking a school, so I’m sure you have a very clear idea why you’re applying to each school. Right? Naturally. You’d be well advised to discuss your rationale in detail.

Every School Wants to Feel Special

Even if you don’t really know why you’re applying to a particular school, however, you’re going to have to fake it. Every school wants to think that they’re unique, and uniquely desirable. You can use this vanity to your advantage by discussing why specific aspects of the school appeal to you as an applicant.

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Craft a Law School Application That Gets You In: The First Question You Must Answer

The Big Three: Why This?

Garden PathTo be convincing, your personal statement must explain why it makes sense for you to go to law school. Duh, right? I mean, of course. But you might find it’s not that easy to really articulate why you want to go to law school. Read on for various approaches.

Why does it make sense for you to go to law school?

This is the most critical question you need to answer – why does it make sense for you to go to law school? Is it the next logical step in a clear progression? Is it a shift onto an entirely new career path?

To figure out the most convincing story, you’ve got to look at your background objectively, and come up with some logical pathway to explain how you arrived where you are, and why law school is a reasonable next step. In some cases, this is pretty easy. If you’ve always been interested in criminal justice, you majored in sociology, you wrote an honors thesis on rehabilitation in the prison system, and you interned with the DA’s office, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine that you’d want to be a lawyer. Your essay is pretty much written.

In other cases, however, the path is a bit more meandering.

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Craft a Law School Application That Gets You In: The Final Question You Must Answer

The Big Three: Why Now?

HourglassLast but not least, your application needs to explain why it makes sense for you to go to law school right now. Is there something else you’d be better off doing instead?

This question may require less overt discussion than the first two, but it’s still worth thinking about.

Applying Straight from College

If you’re applying straight from college, there’s an argument that you’d be a better applicant if you had some work, or life, experience. Maybe this is true for you, maybe not.

Either way, it’s going to be in the back of the admission committee member’s mind when she reads your application. Are you mature enough to go to law school? Do you have the intellectual chops required to succeed? Are you going to be happy starting a professional career at such a young age?

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Craft a Law School Application That Gets You In: Perfect Your Personal Statement

The Big Picture

HandprintYour 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.

The Mechanics

For now, let’s assume you’ve answered the big three satisfactorily. What else is there to think about?

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