Writing the Law School Personal Statement

Your personal statement is an opportunity to present yourself as more than an LSAT score and GPA. The personal statement sets you apart from other candidates. It is also a sample of your ability to express thoughts clearly and cogently.

The Process

  1. Brainstorm any topics or themes you might want to consider for your statement.
  2. Select 1-2 topics/themes you believe will be the strongest.
  3. Write a rough draft. Don’t worry about length, style, or grammar.
  4. Put it away for a while. Time adds an interesting perspective on your writing.
  5. Redraft and edit as needed.
  6. Have several people read it- professors, a prelaw advisor, or the Writing Place.
  7. Consider the feedback you have been given and craft your final draft.
  8. Proofread, proofread, and proofread.

Possible topics

If the school does not specify a topic (and many don’t, but always check) here are a few ideas to help you brainstorm:

  • Hobbies/work/other experiences that have shaped you
  • How you became interested in the law
  • Life events that have changed or motivated you
  • Challenges & hurdles you have overcome
  • An issue or subject that you feel strongly about and why  (just make sure not to “preach”)
  • The growth you’ve experienced in college
  • A unique experience that you have had inside or outside the classroom
  • Your goals and the events that have shaped those goals

Things to Watch for when Writing and Editing

  • Ensure that you answered the essay questions they provided
  • Remember to put the “personal” in the personal statement – use a personal stories/anecdotes
  • Avoid just restating your resume or transcript: law schools are looking to get to know who you are outside of your achievements
  • Most schools do not place restrictions on the personal statement but a general guideline is 2-3 pages double spaced (although check with each school for specific guidelines)

Formatting your Personal Statement

Introduction

  • Make it distinctive by telling a story
  • State your topic

Detailed Body Paragraphs

  • Focused, each with its own topic sentence
  • Relevant, each contributing/supporting to your main idea

Conclusion

  • Summarization of  your points
  • Brings essay full circle to the beginning

Top Mistakes Made in Personal Statements

  • Spelling and grammatical errors.
  • Sending the wrong letter to the wrong school.
  • Staying too detached in your writing style and not letting your personality come through in your “personal” statement.
  • Using too many big words, “legalese,” or research jargon.
  • Spending just a few hours on your personal statement and submitting your first draft.
  • Not following directions: exceeding the specified page limitations, not answering the questions.
  • Using gimmicks such as writing in crayon, modeling your personal statement as a legal brief, or writing it as a poem.

 

Many law schools have sections on their admission pages/blogs that contain guidelines and/or samples of personal statements. Print resources for writing personal statements:

101 Law School Personal Statements That Made a Difference by Dr. Nancy L. Nolan

Law School Essays That Made a Difference, 6th Edition (Graduate School Admissions Guides) by the Princeton Review