Your personal statement is your opportunity to showcase your writing ability and stand out from the other applicants. It should highlight something unique about you that would add value to a law school student body. This article will offer tips for writing a personal statement for law school to help you get that coveted acceptance letter from the top school on your list.
Reality Check: The Law School Admissions Process
More students are applying to law schools in recent years, but schools are not increasing the size of their incoming classes. With more students competing for the same number of seats, law schools can be more selective in the admissions process. According to an analysis of data from the American Bar Association by Spivey Consulting, the average national acceptance rate was 45.1 percent in 2019.
Law schools want students who can master class material, pass the bar exam, and ultimately succeed in the practice of law. LSAT or other entrance exam scores and GPAs play an important role in that assessment, but they’re not the only indicators of a student’s potential. Admissions counselors are looking for individuals with the discipline and stamina to withstand the rigors of law school and bring outside interests and passions to the law school experience.
That’s why law schools ask for a personal essay. Admissions counselors will never meet most applicants; therefore, the admissions package must tell the student’s story. And with increasing numbers of applications to wade through, admissions counselors are looking for a compelling story that will help them identify students who will be successful.
What to Include in Your Personal Statement
Because there are no specific prerequisites or undergraduate degrees required for law school, applicants tend to come from a wide range of educational backgrounds. The personal statement is meant to add depth and insight into the courses, extracurricular activities, and other information in your admissions package. But don’t just brag or rehash your resume. Instead, show how your personal experience will translate well into the law school experience.
Specifically, your personal statement should explain:
- Why you want to go to law school and what do you hope to do with your degree (it’s okay if you don’t know for certain what your career plans are)
- What personal strengths will help ensure your success in law school
- How you plan to approach the task of learning new ways of thinking and meeting the challenges of a rigorous program
Your personal statement should also convey that you possess the qualities of a good lawyer:
- A strong ability to communicate
- Critical thinking skills
With these basic concepts in mind, carefully read the prompt provided by the law school. Some prompts are very broad, but others are more individually tailored. Make sure your personal statement is responsive to the prompt and conforms to length limits. If you write a generic, boilerplate statement, the admissions committee will be able to tell.
How to Frame Your Personal Statement
Your personal statement should answer the questions provided in the prompt, ideally by telling a story. Think about something unique in your personal experience that would add color and specificity to your responses. Some options for framing the personal statement include:
- An event or circumstance that shaped you as a person
- A cause that you are passionate about
- Difficulties that you have overcome
- Personal accomplishments that you’re particularly proud of
- How you’ve always dreamed of a career in law, or how your career ambitions have changed and why
Remember that this is a personal narrative—don’t lead with a discussion of a law-related topic but rather with an anecdote or story about yourself with vivid details to hook the reader’s interest. At the same time, however, make sure that your narrative is clearly linked to the legal field and that any personal details are relevant to characteristics that would be valuable to success in law school and the legal profession. Try to convey your unique voice, but avoid extreme positions or content that may offend some readers.
Tips for Getting It Right
The most important thing to remember is that you must write your personal statement. If you don’t feel you’re a strong enough writer to compose your personal statement, perhaps law school isn’t the right path for you. Also, another person will not be able to convey your narrative with the same perspective, insight, and passion.
That doesn’t mean you have to sit down and write it all in one go. Just be sure to allow enough time to let the first draft sit for at least a day before reviewing. Read your personal statement critically, with an eye toward clarity and flow. And remember that revising is as important as writing—if it doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to rewrite any portion of it.
At this point, you can engage the assistance of another person. Ask a trusted individual to critique your first draft and provide constructive feedback. Continue to polish your narrative, referring back to the prompt to ensure that you’ve answered all the questions thoroughly.
Once the copy is final, proofread carefully—read it aloud front to back and then back to front. Make sure the finished piece adheres to the specifications provided by the law school, if any.
The Final Analysis
The law school admission process is serious business. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t relax and have some fun while writing your personal statement.
The personal statement allows you to go beyond dry numbers and tell your unique story. Approach it as an opportunity to shine and show how you’ll be a successful law student and, ultimately, a great lawyer.
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