Aside from your undergraduate GPA and LSAT score, the most important part of your law school application is your personal statement, which is your chance to tell the admissions committee why you are so special and unique that it would be foolish not to accept you into the entering class. Your goal is to craft an essay that shows them how your background and experiences have steered you toward the practice of law and why you would be a valuable addition to their law school.
Here are six tips to help you prepare your personal statement:
1. Get Personal.
Your personal statement should be something that could have only been written by you. What is unique about your background? What about your particular upbringing, education and life experiences have led you to choose the law as a profession? Zeroing in on a single aspect or experience is a good idea, because it gives you something around which to build your essay.
Be sure to offer up your most interesting attribute and/or experience, as you want the admissions officer to think that you are a person she would like to get to know better.
That said, keep in mind that law school personal statements are not the place for you to practice your poetry, scriptwriting or other creative pursuits; professionalism is key.
2. Be Concise.
Your personal statement should be no more than two double-spaced pages; anything longer and you run the risk that your hard work will be merely skimmed or worse—trashed.
Yes, lawyers are infamous for droning on and on, but that’s not what the admissions committee wants to read in personal statements. They want to know that you are an intelligent person who can make a thesis and support it in a persuasive, professional, and concise way.
3. Eliminate the Negative.
If you’ve had a bad semester or exam score, your personal statement is not the place to explain it. You may choose to write a separate statement about this if the school will accept it, but you certainly don’t want to use your only opportunity to sell yourself to dwell on negatives.
If you’re not sure what else might fit into the category of what not to write about in law school personal statements, read 6 Subjects to Avoid in Your Personal Statement.
Apart from a low GPA or LSAT score, nothing will hurt your chances of being admitted to the law school of your choice more than spelling and grammatical errors in your personal statement; law school admissions officers do not look kindly on typos. You should also avoid awkward sentence structure as you don’t want the committee to have to guess what you’re trying to say.
5. Get Feedback.
Since you have read and reread your personal statement many times, you’re probably less likely to notice mistakes in spelling, grammar or sentence structure; ask your undergraduate pre-law advisor, friends, family, professors and anyone else with great writing skills to look over your statement for you and provide honest feedback. And be sure to take in and process their advice; now is not the time to be sensitive to criticism!
6. Tweak for Different Schools.
You may need to tweak your personal statement for each school depending on specific requirements, but for the most part, one basic essay should serve you well. By making sure that it represents you well and is clear, concise and free of errors, you will greatly increase the odds that you will be on your way to a J.D. in no time.