Law school personal statements - sharing work experience

The answer – which is the same for most questions about what to include in the law school personal statement – is it depends.

(Strangely enough, this is exactly what lawyers often answer about any given situation!)

You may have discovered by now that deciding what to write about almost always depends exclusively on you and your experiences. One of the best pieces of advice I share with all of my students is this: remember to focus on you! (I have plenty of other related advice on that, too.)
But for now, let me share some scenarios for when you should or shouldn’t choose work experience as your law school personal statement topic.

When You SHOULD Write About Work: 

1. You’ve Made Progress in the Job

A student named Jake who approached me for help with his 
law school personal statement wanted to write about his experience selling real estate in New York City. He described how he was originally nervous about being given such a big responsibility. Not only was he younger than all of the other brokers, he was also the least experienced. By the time he wrote his law school personal statement, he had progressed so much that employers had begun asking him to work full-time.

Law school admission officers like to see that you’re driven and future-focused. If you’ve already shown commitment in pursuing a job, chances are you’ll also take your college career seriously.

If you’ve excelled in a job – even if it doesn’t seem like a “big deal” – it could be perfect to use as your 
law school personal statement topic. 

2. It’s Taught You Valuable Life Lessons

Maybe you waited tables through college school and learned some valuable lessons in your experience. For instance, maybe you discovered that you can judge a person’s character based on the way they treat their servers – or their employees. Or, maybe you found that hard work isn’t always immediately rewarding. Perhaps you discovered that you’re fortunate to have an opportunity to be considering law school in the first place!

Jake, for one, worked with people from all walks of life during his job as a real estate broker. What he learned from his experience is that, no matter who you’re working with, treating people with respect is always the best road to take at work – and in life.

3. The Job Helped You Realize Future Goals

If the job you had helped you discover for a passion for law, and your desire to go to law school, I’d almost guarantee that you should include it in your 
law school personal statement. For instance, if you worked as an immigration paralegal and it led you to pursue immigration law, you can write about the exact experience(s) that fed your future goals.

On the other hand… 

Maybe you hated your job. (You wouldn’t be the only one!) Can you still write about it? Yes. Here’s why:

Your work experience may have helped you discover what you don’t want to do. A good example of this is shown in a college essay featured in the New York Times. Student Caitlin McCormick writes about her experience growing up in a bed and breakfast. She disliked it, and it helped her realize what she didn’t want to do.

But it did help her discover a passion for public service, and it also taught her a valuable life lesson (which fulfills the second point in this list): although not all service is created equal, all work is noble.

Now that I’ve shared some tips for when you should write about work experience, allow me to show you some examples of when you SHOULDN’T:

• If you only worked in the job for a few days.

Sometimes, even the jobs we take on in our younger years just aren’t the right fit. If so, that’s ok – but you probably didn’t draw enough experiences from it to create a meaningful 
law school personal statement.

• If there was nothing remarkable about the job.

If you truly can’t recall a meaningful lesson you learned during your time at work, don’t try to force it.

• If you hated it and still didn’t learn anything from it.

Some jobs only teach us that we want to do anything but that line of work for the rest of our lives. If that’s all you learned, that’s fine; but it’s not enough for a substantial 
law school personal statement.

Still questioning whether you should focus on work as your law school personal statement topic? If you want some advice, you know where to reach me. Just reach out, and I’d be glad to weigh in.
Until next time,

P.S. If you think you have a great topic but are just feeling “stuck” when you sit down to write, you could be suffering from every student’s worst nightmare: writer’s block. Don’t miss my next article, where I’ll include some tips for beating it!

Recommended Resources:

1. Law School Admissions Coaching
Get personalized 1-1 help on every aspect of the law school admission process -- or just the law school personal statement.

2. Law School Admissions Guide
I've written a concise guide to the law school admission process with tips on completing every aspect of your applications from start to finish. It's a small price to pay for a whole lot of guidance, and it's short enough that you'll actually read the whole thing.

3. Law School Admissions Cheat Sheet
Quick-reference guide for the law school personal statement, the "Why X?" essay, and the law school résumé. (You can also get it with the LSAT Cheat Sheets.)

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