Personal Statements - Law School
Once you’ve decided to apply to law school, you should begin thinking about your personal statement. Your application will have several parts: your LSAT scores, your transcripts, your letters of recommendation, and your personal statement. Of all these, the personal statement is the only part that you control entirely. It serves two functions: it provides personal and unique information and serves as a writing sample. Make the admissions committee know who you are and what brought you to this decision. Make them see that you are a mature, well-rounded, interesting human being. Before you begin writing, ask yourself some of the following questions.
Questions to consider when getting started:
- Why do I want to go to law school? What do I know about law school? Do I know what kind of law I would like to practice or what profession I would like to work in once I’ve earned the degree?
- What will convince others that I am a good candidate? Do I have any characteristics that would help make me a good attorney or legal professional?
- What formative experiences in my life have led me to this path? Can I tell a story that would grab the committee’s attention and make them remember me?
- How are these experiences relevant to law school or the profession of law?
- Is there anything else about me that I want the committee to know? Is there anything unique, impressive, or distinctive about me that they would like to know? Do I have any interesting or unusual skills that I can contribute to the profession?
- Identify those things about yourself that you want the admissions committee to know.
- Use narratives and the first person.
- Stay focused and concise with good transitions.
- Most law school admission officers read over a thousand personal statements in a few weeks. Your statement should never exceed the specified word or word limitations; if no limits are specified, it should be no longer than two double-spaced pages.
- Type your paper in an easy-to-read font size and style. Don’t use a font size of less than 11 or12 point. Submit your essay on white 8.5 x 11 inch typing paper with one-inch margins on all four sides. Don’t submit a handwritten essay unless requested to do so.
Personal Statement: Don'ts
- Don’t give too much attention to details of other people; this essay is about you.
- Don’t spend too much time explaining why you want to go to law school or that you have known you wanted to go since you were five years old.
- Don’t restate your resume or list off your accomplishments and honors.
- Don’t try to address too many topics.
- Don’t use gimmicks such as writing in crayon, modeling your statement as a poem or legal brief, or writing about yourself in the third person.
- Don’t just write what you think the selection committee wants to hear. Be yourself.
- Don’t begin with a quote or title your statement.
- Don’t throw in big words or use “legalese.”
Personal Statements: Dos
- Read and follow the instructions for personal statements given by each institution. Remember that different schools may ask for different things.
- Always read the application to determine length and topic.
- Always write more than one draft.
- Always have others critique your personal statement.
- Ask yourself: “Is there another place in my application that the admissions committee could get this information?” If so, then it is worth rethinking the topic.
- Keep it positive. Rather than including negative information (such as a bad semester, low GPA or low LSAT scores) in your essay, consider adding an addendum to explain deficiencies.
- Proofread carefully, and pay attention to spelling and grammar.
Topics to Avoid
- “I want to be a lawyer because . . . ”
- “I’ve wanted to be a lawyer since I was 10 years old . . . ”
- “Lawyers run in my family . . . ”
- “If I’m admitted to law school, I will save the world . . . ”
Adapted from “Quick Guide to Personal Statements” handout, Liberal Arts Career Services, The University of Texas at Austin and from “Law School Personal Statements” handout, Communications Career Services, The University of Texas at Austin
Additional Online Resources
Writing the Personal Statement
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