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Writing a Personal Statement

All law schools require a personal statement as part of your admission package.  There are several well-tested guidelines you should keep in mind to write a high quality personal statement.

Be Yourself. 

What is a "personal statement"?  Notice it's not called a "work statement" or "academic statement" or "extracurricular activity statement" or "awards and honors statement."  All these things should already appear on your resume as part of your application.  So, basically, a "personal" statement is your chance to briefly tell the admissions committee personal things about you that do not otherwise appear in the rest of your application.  Primarily, it is your chance to market yourself to them by explaining what makes you unique or different; in other words, what makes you “you” such that you want to go to law school and be a lawyer.  Put simply, what personal experiences and attributes do you have that would make you a particularly good lawyer, and better than everyone else, such that the admission committee should admit you rather than other applicants.  You should not simply re-state facts about your education, employment history, etc. that are already available on the rest of your application material.  Instead, you should describe your unique and different background, interests, and qualities that made you want to be a lawyer, and which will make you an exceptionally good addition to the legal profession. 

Again, in short: who are you personally, why do you want to be a lawyer, and why will you be a particularly good lawyer?  For example, do you have a serious hobby or interest? Do you have unique work experience or accomplishments that are not clear from your resume?  Are you committed to supporting a family who loves and respects you?  Have you worked extensively to build a better community?  Have you overcome some particular hardship(s) or disadvantage(s) in your life, and that struggle has had a key role in shaping who you are today?  Do you have other unique life experiences that have profoundly affected you? Any of these subjects and many more can be used to frame a narrative personal statement that successfully tells a unique story about who you are to the Admissions Committee.

Be Brief. 

Your statement should ideally be short:  one-page single-spaced or two pages double-spaced.  Two pages double-spaced is the absolute maximum and even this amount is generally discouraged because the admission committee members have thousands of applications to review and will look negatively on you making them take extra time to read and review a lengthy personal statement.  This will also reflect poorly on your writing skills because it will appear as if you are unable to state things concisely, which is an essential attribute for a lawyer.

Be Simple and Clear. 

Your essay should be well-organized and clearly focused, using clear, simple, and understandable language.  Do NOT write using flowery language or fancy vocabulary as it makes it appear as if you are unable to express things in a simple manner (which is important for lawyers to be able to do).  Using flowery or obscure vocabulary also makes it appear as if you are simply trying to impress the admissions committee.   Write simply and stay on track with your story--for example, remain chronological for the most part--and stay focused on the specific message you hope to convey. 

Be Concrete.

Avoid clichés!  For example do not just say you “want to help people” or “want to improve the world” or “are extra-hard-working” or “are super-motivated” or “are a high achiever” or “have overcome hardship” or “are exceptionally smart and talented.” Blah, blah, blah.  Anyone can say those things, and law school admissions committee members read that sort of thing constantly. This means simply saying it is almost entirely worthless unless you back up your claims by describing numerous concrete examples from your actual life experience. 

In other words, you must explain what you have done in your life that substantially demonstrates these alleged traits.  Actions speaks far louder than words, so let your actions, achievements, and accomplishments speak for themselves.   Specifically how have you helped people?  Specifically how have you changed the world?  Specifically what have you done that shows you are extra hard-working?  Specifically what actions of yours demonstrate your alleged motivations?  Specifically what hardships or experiences have you overcome?  Specifically what demonstrates your intelligence and talent? Etc. 

Whatever your reason for wanting to be a lawyer, offer specific actions that demonstrate your alleged motives, commitment, abilities, values, etc..  If you can’t back up your claims with solid evidence, then you’d better come up with an alternative explanation that you can back up with solid evidence.  And generally, do not merely say you want to be a lawyer for the money, or simply to maintain a family tradition of being a lawyer, etc.  That may be part of your larger explanation, but also offer something deeper and more meaningful in addition to mere tradition or a bare desire for money.

Explain deficiencies. 

The personal statement--or more often an addendum to it-- is also a chance for you to offer an explanation if your overall academic history does not reflect your true abilities because of illness, tragedy, personal mistakes, or some other factor that you have had to overcome.  Or, if you have a criminal record--which you should have disclosed to the law schools if asked-- you may wish to explain what happened. Often, however, these types of explanation should be included only as a very brief (one paragraph) separate addendum to your application.  This is a judgment call on your part.  If in doubt as to whether to explain something that you've reported to a law school, contact the admissions office for that particular law school and ask them what approach you should take to maximize your chances of admission.

Answer the questions.

 If a particular law school wants you to answer specific questions on your personal statement, be sure you do answer them.  Or, many law schools also want other types other statements from you in a addition to a personal statement, such as a "diversity statement" in which you another chance to explain specifically how you will bring some unique and different experience and background to the law school.    Otherwise, if you don't address the particular things that law school is asking form, that law school’s admissions committee will see that you have sent them nothing more than a generic personal statement.  This shows that either you are not seriously interested in applying to that particular school, or you are not very thorough and well-organized.


Proofread, proofread, proofread!  Have other people proofread your statement for style, organization, and substance and make sure you proofread it extensively so that is has absolutely zero spelling or grammatical errors, etc.  A failure to do this will tell the admissions committee that either you are either a bad writer or that you are not serious about applying to law school if you won’t even take the time to proofread your personal statement to eliminate errors in English usage.
For more information and advice, enter the phrase “law school personal statement” into any internet search engine.
To get you started, here are some websites with information and examples of personal statements: