So You’re Going to Law School
Now that you have decided a career in law is right for you, it’s time to start filling out those applications along with the law school personal statement.
Going to law school is a significant undertaking, but the benefits of becoming a licensed attorney can lead to a rewarding and fulfilling life. The application process is often very detailed and requires careful consideration of the details.
As thousands of students from around the world seek coveted spots at top-tier schools, admissions officers have their work cut out for them. They are making decisions about people’s futures and potential earnings. For those lucky few who get accepted into these schools, they potentially have a very bright future ahead of them.
It goes without saying that high scores play a vital role in getting accepted into law school. Yet, there is another invaluable part of the application that has a significant part in swaying the admissions pendulum in the applicant’s favor. Indeed, it is your story told in the form of a personal statement.
What is a personal statement?
A personal statement is a concise summary of your life–or a certain aspect of it–expressed in written form. This is your opportunity to let the admissions officers know through a show-me approach who you are and why you are asking them to let you into their school.
When admissions officers review your law school personal statement, they get to learn about you as a person, and not just another potential candidate. They want you to explain why you want to go to law school, and why you would be a great candidate for their school. They look for themes in your life’s history that include overcoming adversity, blazing a trail, and resilience.
What is the purpose of a law school personal statement?
A personal statement is used to tell the Admissions Review Board who you are, where you came from, and how you got to where you are today.
They want to know what your future plans are and how you expect to accomplish those objectives. They want to make sure you are a good fit for their law school. As you can imagine, a lot is riding on a concise, well thought out and creatively expressed personal statement for law school. This could potentially be the difference between an application’s acceptance or rejection.
A law school personal statement is used to explain gaps in employment or periods of time left off of your resume.
There may be things in your background that may be embarrassing, and you are afraid to include that information on your statement. You won’t be the first one, and Admissions Officers know that all applicants don’t have squeaky clean pasts.
What they want to know is how you turned your life around. Did you learn something from this blunder? Did you do something positive with your life as a result of the wisdom you gained from this mistake?
If so, turn this negative into a positive. For example:
“I was on an academic suspension from school due to failing a core subject. Yet, I worked very hard during my suspension, and returned afterward to get an A in that class.”
Never blame others for your mistakes.
“I failed because the teacher did not like me.”
Even if that were true, it sounds like you’re just making excuses. Accept responsibility for your shortcomings.
If you did not do as well as you hoped on the LSAT, or your GPA was not in the top percent of your class, your law school personal statement provides a fantastic opportunity to deflect from the lower score or grade and put the focus on you, your successes as they pertain to the field of law, or traits that benefit lawyers.
For example, you may have gotten a low math score, but if you won a mock competition in the field of law, that would be relevant information of interest to the Review Board. Let the Admissions Officer know that you are passionate about the application of the law to help people who don’t have a voice (or whatever area of law you’re interested in practicing).
Tout your success but be mindful of exaggerations. The difference between bragging and touting your accomplishments is the motivation behind the disclosures. Informing the admissions officer of your accomplishments and telling them why you would be a good fit for their school is not bragging. It’s what you sincerely believe about yourself and the school.
Arguing the Facts
Most of the information on law school applications are inarguable facts: LSAT score (Find out what a good LSAT Score is here), GPA, residence, undergraduate university, and so forth.
Nonetheless, your law school personal statement is your time to shine. Do not waste space by focusing on details that are not relevant to your story, or to the personal picture of yourself that you’d like to paint. You only have a certain amount of space, so use words carefully.
Keep Creativity Alive
Your personal statement should flow naturally. Do not use big words for which the admissions officer has to use a dictionary to understand. Think of yourself as having a conversation with an interviewer: prepare your story and creatively tell it.
What qualities make a great law school personal statement?
There is a great reason it’s called a personal statement: it’s all about you. This is not the time to be shy or feel timid about communicating your truth. Again, not everything about people’s past is positive, but there is redemption in many of their stories. That’s what you want to convey.
Tell the Admissions Officer what you bring to the table as a student at this law school. Yes, you will get a great education. But in exchange for your attendance at the school, they will get a student who will make the school look good.
In telling your story, the personal statement can include people who have helped you get to where you are now; but, you can thank those people personally in detail at a later time. Your personal statement needs to continually be about you and your story. Your goal is to earn the heart of the Admissions Officer so that he or she can make a case for you to the Admissions Review Board.
As a prospect, your application will be assigned to an Admissions Officer who will read your statement, and if it meets the standard for potential acceptance to the school, he or she will forward it to the Admissions Review Board for final consideration. Along with your LSAT and GPA scores, your law school personal statement is going to help you get there…or not!
What should I include in my personal statement?
You are going to tell the Admissions Officer what exactly sets you apart from the crowd. There will be students applying to law school with higher scores than you. Don’t be intimidated! Instead, focus on giving the Admissions Officer what they want to hear in a compelling, engaging manner.
What are the elements that comprise a great personal statement?
There are four core steps that you should take into account as a law school applicant for a better chance of getting accepted.
Step 1: Be a Great Storyteller
Tell the Admissions Officer about why you want to go to law school, and what about their school makes you want to apply. Even if you studied law in undergrad, you still need to tell a compelling story of your life, not just reiterate information already on the application.
Think creatively. Talk about academic and personal successes. Did you do any volunteer work pertaining to your career in law? What did you do that brought about a change in the way things are done?
If you have high LSAT scores and a high GPA, yet you are interested in a school that’s ranked below the top ten, it is wise to include why this particular school is of interest to you. In the mind of the Admissions Officer, there could be some thought as to why you are not applying to a school higher-tiered than theirs.
It could be that they have a particular curriculum or are renowned for a highly specialized area of law that you are interested in. Perhaps their accelerated program best suits your objectives. Do tell. Let them know that you have carefully considered what they have to offer, and it is in line with what you want to achieve in a law school.
Step 2: Use the Statement to Connect Missing Dots
If you have been out of undergraduate school for a while, and there are gaps in your life that are not on your resume, use the personal statement to connect the missing dots.
Besides, if you have several different jobs in a short amount of time, try and tie those experiences together, and how they pertain, or potentially pertain, to a career in the field of law. Try to avoid looking like a job hopper.
Step 3: Avoid Cookie-cutter Phrases
Avoid cookie-cutter statements and phrases. Make sure that your personal statement doesn’t sound like it was taken directly out of a how-to book. Think about the admissions team going through thousands of applications and reading the same statements such as:
“I am positive that I am going to succeed.”
Repeated, overused statements are mentally draining.
A better phrase would be,
“My repeated successes on the debate team, arguing subjects I am passionate about makes me feel certain that given the right tools, I can succeed.”
Take time to think carefully about how to craft your story in a favorable light.
If you know of anyone who has gone to law school and are familiar with generating great personal statements, ask them to read yours and give you feedback. Listen to someone read it to you. Make sure that it is factually accurate.
Make sure you answer the question. Do not go off on a tangent with information digressing from your chosen theme (overcoming adversity or something else). If you have a one-size-fits-all personal statement, you may be providing a response that does not accurately answer the question.
Read your answers aloud so that you can see if the sentence flows well, is grammatically correct, and if it directly answers the question. Take some time to insert information about the school into your personal statement so that the Admissions Officer will know that you have done your research.
For example, you can write something like:
“Statton Law’s course on Popular Culture’s Influence on Human Rights, reflects on a subject I have researched, and am eagerly looking forward to learning about its role in international policy changes.”
Step 4: Make Your Law School Personal Statement Captivating!
Make sure your personal statement is interesting and captures the Admissions Officer’s attention from the first paragraph. It has to be error-free, fresh, and captivating. Vary the sentence structure.
Use online grammar checkers to polish your essay and help create inspiring content. A personal favorite of ours is Grammarly-which is a comprehensive grammar editing tool that checks for more than 250 types of common and advanced English grammar rules. This online editing tool, and other similar ones, will help you with proper English usage, and synonyms to keep things interesting on your statement.
During the enrollment period, the law school Admissions Officers are tasked with reading hundreds of personal statements. If you don’t grab their attention in the first statement, you could lose their interest pretty quickly.
On the other hand, if the writing is clear, concise, and thought-provoking, they may enjoy reading the rest of your personal statement. They might even recommend you to the Review Board. For sure, you don’t want the Admission Officer’s eyes glazing over while they struggle to read your statement. Grab and hold their attention!
Getting a law degree is a noble cause and provides a real opportunity to have a worldwide impact. Paying attention to the application details, and giving it your best, may have implications that could supersede your expectations.
Further Reading: You might be interested in reading which great LSAT prep courses and books lawyers recommend.