How to Write Your Personal Statement For Law School

You decided to go to law school a long time ago. The LSAT has already come and gone. Your professors have already sent in their letters of recommendation. Your transcript has been on file since the start of the semester. You’ve worked so hard the last four years, studying for every exam, working to gain experience, being super involved on campus. You have a killer resume, your LSAT is there, and your professors love you. Still, all of your applications are 90% complete. Why? Because you still have to write your personal statement. But, writing about yourself, your hardships,  your accomplishments, and your story is difficult. It isn’t easy to look at yourself holistically, and decide what experiences have crafted you into the person you are today. But application deadlines are approaching, and you have to, so how?

 

Start with the Beginning

 

I know this seems so obvious. But I know I needed to be reminded a million times to take a deep breath and start it. You can’t really revise your statement until you have something down, and everyone knows your first attempt at any form of writing is mostly clearing your throat anyway. Write something. Write anything. But you need to start. Procrastination is not your friend, and will just make you feel even more stressed out.

 

 

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Read Examples

 

I had read the instructions for all of the schools on my list a million times, and thought I knew the exact way to approach the prompt. I was going to come at it a lot like I would a concise summary of my life story. That’s not the case at all. After meeting with admissions counselors at law fairs, and reading example statements online, I learned that the personal statement should read more like a narrative of a particular event or time in your life that you’ve overcome, and how it has impacted you and changed you. Here is a great document from Washington University with more information about what they look for in personal statements, with several examples. Further, I wouldn’t have even known what sorts of topics (the myriad that there are) would be appropriate if I hadn’t have read several examples. Protests, family problems, deaths, struggles with poverty, tell your story, especially the ones that still matter to you.

 

Convey the Right Tone

 

It should go without saying that there is no excuse for a typo, misspelled word, or grammatical error. This is the only real look at your personality that admissions will get. Make sure that you’re presenting yourself at your best. You wouldn’t show up for a job interview in your coziest pajamas. Once you have a few drafts, consider taking a copy to your university’s writing center, or a professor that you trust. Beyond that, you should come across as conversational. This is your only chance to talk directly to admissions, so treat it as such. Sure, make sure that you are coming across as intelligent, and make sure that your prose is perfect, and complex, but don’t waste time trying to use the biggest words you can think up. Don’t sacrifice tone for scrabble points.

 

 

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Tips and Tricks

 

Don’t just repeat your resume. Admissions is going to read that too.

Make sure your personal statement has value. It shouldn’t be about that time your goldfish died and you learned about the impermanence of existence. Make it specific and make sure you can specifically answer how it pertains to you know and your desire to become a lawyer.

On that note, make sure you write about why you want to subject yourself to law school anyway.

Don’t write about things you will write about in a diversity statement, or additional essay. Again, offer a different perspective.

Write about your accomplishments that you can’t quite put on a resume (marathons, contests), your greatest challenges, or even being self-reflective and how you’ve learned to deal with certain personality traits.

Spend the time you need to describe the event, and then spend the rest and the majority of the statement on your reflection. These statements are short, be concise and use your space wisely.

 

 

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Wait for Decisions!

 

Finish your personal statement, submit your applications, and relax until decisions come out. You’ve got this!