Applicants submit a personal statement as part of the application process for almost all law schools.  Admissions committees look for a concise, detailed, well-written statement revealing the applicant's individuality.  They want to learn from the statement who the applicant is and what makes him/her qualified to study at their law schools.

What is the Personal Statement?

It is an essay.  There should be structure, an introductory paragraph, topic sentences and a conclusion.  This structure should be a help and not a burden in developing a dominant theme.  The ideas and sentences do not have to be complex.  Write for clarity.  Elaborate on the theme; present experiences that develop your ideas.  Grades, tests and recommendations will be used to determine your intellectual ability; the personal statement will establish how effectively you can communicate.

Your personal statement should be clear and vibrant.  Admissions officers offer a range of ideas on writing personal statements but they universally agree on one request: please don’t bore me!  Style should be honest and concise.  Obscure references, pretentious phrases and ostentatious vocabulary will not be mistaken for eloquence.  The tone should be confident and positive (explain poor grades and/or test scores elsewhere).  Citing the example of someone you admire is appropriate if the focus stays on you.

Remember that the personal statement is an image of you.  It is a chance to identify the significance of past experience, current position and future goals.  At its best, it is a way to “gather your dreams together into words.”


How to Get Started

Brainstorm topic ideas.  (Ask family and friends for help!).  Write about each idea for 15 minutes.  Get your thoughts down on paper; write about each idea for 15 minutes. Some suggestions:


  • What are your three most significant accomplishments and why does each one make this list?
  • Jot down two funny stories about things that happened to you during the last five years.
  • You are going on a cross-country car trip and your radio is broken.  With the prospect of endless stretches of lonely highway ahead of you, name three traveling companions (real or fictional) you’d want to take along and explain why you chose them.
  • List one significant event that has had a dramatic impact on your thinking and describe that impact.
  • What makes you unique?  Write at least 100 words.
  • What are two things about which you feel strongly?
  • Name one major failure you’ve had, or mistake you have made, and describe what you’ve learned from it.
  • You are 80 years old, looking back on your life.  In what ways do you consider yourself to have been a success?  

If you had college to do over again, what would you do differently and why?
Where do you see yourself five years from now?  Ten years?
Choose one law school in which you are interested, and write down at least two detailed and specific reasons for your interest (some schools may require an additional essay relating to why you chose to apply to the school).

Develop a theme. The following topics are presented as suggestions for theme ideas; however, your ideas may lead you in a different direction.  You may elaborate on something noted, but not fully developed, in your application, or address a new subject or issue entirely.  Create an outline and first draft; then put it aside.  Creating your personal statement is a process that is best accomplished over a period of time.

  • Your background or a significant life experience and how it has influenced you and/or prepared you for the study of law.
  • A special interest (e.g. artistic, dramatic, athletic, writing, etc.).  How you’ve cultivated it and the influence it has had on your development.
  • Honors, awards, accomplishments, leadership of which you are particularly proud and why.
  • Minority status (e.g., race culture, sexual orientation) and how this status has impacted your life, perspectives, experiences and choices.
  • Reason for applying to law school what you hope to accomplish or pursue with a law degree.
  • A special interest in a particular school and why.  Give specific reasons supporting your assertion that you are well-suited to a school.
  • Extracurricular activity or competition in which you participated and how that influenced you.
  • Work or volunteer experience and how it influenced you
  • A semester/year abroad and how this experience influenced you.
  • An obstacle you’ve overcome and how the process/end result has influenced you.   What you learned about yourself as a result.
  • Undergraduate academic experiences and how they’ve influenced you.  Special academic enrichment to augment your education.  Intellectually challenging courses and their impact on you.
  • Influential person in your life and why and how s/he influenced you.
  • Special circumstances not noted elsewhere in the application, such as working a significant number of hours each week while enrolled in a full-time academic program, or extraordinary family obligations, etc., and their impact on you.
  • How you’ve changed and matured during your undergraduate years and the evidence to support your claim.  This may be an effective way to explain inconsistencies or weaknesses in your record or a lack of focus/purpose early in your college career.  You may wish to discuss this topic in an addendum.  If you decide to address problems or inconsistencies in your objective criteria, the GPA and LSAT, you should do so via an addendum to your application.  



Draft an Essay

  • Follow the rules of creative non-fiction writing.  Show, don’t tell.  Never leave a question in the reader’s mind.
  • Start with a great lead.  Make the reader want to take the time to read your essay.
  • Include qualities or experiences in your life that would make you a particularly valuable member of a new law school class. Let the reader know what you could contribute to the diverse intellectual atmosphere the school wants to achieve.
  • Have a general theme.  Make your writing flow.
  • Don’t be afraid to express your views, but don’t overdo it.  Be sensitive not to offend.
  • Open up a little, but make sure that you’re comfortable sharing information.


Personal Statement Writing Tips

Do
  • Start drafting your statement with sufficient time to put it aside for a few weeks.  Don’t rush the process.  A strong statement may take shape over the course of months and require several (or more) different drafts
  • Start the essay during the summer months before you apply.
  • Ask several people to read your drafts and final copy.  Stick to your basic instincts and remember that it’s your story.
  • Creative non-fiction writing. "Show, don't tell".
  • Show them who you are; this is your interview.
  • Have a strong introductory paragraph. Catch the reader's attention.
  • Keep it within a reasonable length {if length is prescribed, keep it within that length; otherwise, plan on no more than two pages).
  • Use spell check, but do not depend on it completely.
  • Use double or 1.5 spacing for text, use wide margins, and legible font and size.
  • Include your name and student number/LSAC# on each page.
  • Be specific and accurate.
  • Be truthful.
  • Make certain that your statement supports and is supported by the rest of your application.
  • Look beyond fraternity/sorority membership or athletic experiences; include volunteer work and community involvement if possible.
  • Turn negatives into positives.
  • Mention sensitive subjects in an appropriate way.

Don’t
  • Use the personal statement to explain a low LSAT score or GPA. These issues should be addressed in an addendum, which can be attached to the law school application.
  • Overuse the thesaurus.
  • Use clichés or quote others extensively.
  • Misspell words.
  • Use the third person when referring to yourself.
  • Title your statement.
  • Send multimedia presentations, copies of papers or theses.
  • Philosophize about the role of law in society.
  • Include name of law school, so-called personalization.
  • Pat yourself on the back too much.
  • Be too cynical.
  • Come across as a victim.
  • Be too specific as to what you will do with your law degree, unless your experience shows that it is a logical extension of what you've already done.
  • Focus too much on another person, even if he/she has been influential.
  • List activities that are already on the application.
  • Produce a narrative resume.