Writing Your Law School Personal Statement

LSAT Blog Writing Your Law School Personal StatementThe below excerpt about what you should attempt to communicate in your law school personal statement is from A Comprehensive Guide to the Law School Personal Statement.


The reader should be impressed by you (as a candidate, person, and writer)

The ideal response of an admissions officer reading your essay would be a broad smile, possibly accompanied with a “Wow,” or a nod that indicates a appreciation and respect for the applicant. Though getting the reader to like you is the primary goal, you don’t want to be likable in a cute, self-deprecating, or non-serious way. You want the reader to like you, and be impressed by you.

Most applicants realize that a goal of the personal statement is to impress, but they are usually incorrect about how that goal should be accomplished. People think that the way to impress is to load up the essay with impressive content. For example, “After returning from scaling Kilimanjaro in record time, I founded 3 clubs at my school to benefit underserved children, which now command a total budget of $250,000.” This strategy— which I call the “resume blast”—fails badly because readers do not like being blasted by your accomplishments, no matter how great they are! Admissions officers, just like anyone else, do not enjoy listening to, or reading, bragging.

You should impress your reader with your essay, itself. Imagine your essay like an acting audition. If an actor came into an audition and started talking about what a good actor he was, the director and producer would be annoyed. They would say, “If you’re so great, show me!” That is what you need to do in your personal statement. A compelling, sincere, well-structured, well-executed, and flawlessly edited personal statement is extremely impressive. It shows several talents and abilities, self-reflection, poise, confidence and thoughtfulness.

This is not to say that your essay has no room for (some of) your accomplishments. It does! You should include impressive content in your essay; you should just use a very light touch. Remember, being impressive is the SECOND most important goal of the essay, and the first goal, being liked, should not be sacrificed for it.

The reader should remember you and your essay

Admissions officers read thousands of essays, piles of essays. Writing an essay that stands out, that is compelling and memorable is no easy job, but if you can accomplish it, the rewards are substantial.

There are two things that contribute to an essay’s memorability: the content and the style.

In terms of content, speaking “from the heart” is, by definition moving and memorable. Honesty is riveting, especially when it includes a discussion of overcoming obstacles. Every person has a unique life story; unique challenges which they have overcome, and a unique way that they decided to apply to law school. Honest, specific, personal statements are vivid and memorable. Compare: “I was playing video games 10-12 hours a day, living in my uncle’s basement, when I decided it was time to get off the couch. I went walking around my town and found myself in front of the courthouse. ‘It’s public’, I thought to myself, and stepped in” with, “I have a passion for watching court.” Which do you think the admissions officer will remember later in the day? Which will she forget immediately?

Style is also key. Writing with spice and zing, with tension and climax are great ways to make your essay compelling and memorable.

The reader should understand why you are applying to Law School

After reading your personal statement, your admissions officer should understand why you are applying to law school. This may be the most controversial piece of advice I offer. Not all admissions consultants believe that the issue of why you are applying to law school must be addressed. I disagree. I think to write a personal statement on a topic, such as your life-long, enriching love of sailing, and not make an explicit connection to law school or being a lawyer is bizarre, and inherently less powerful than an essay that also explains your desire to go into law. (I.e., “My grandfather taught me to sail when I was a child. When we were on one of our multi-day voyages in my teen years, he explained to me the concept of international waters. I was stunned and fascinated by the idea that there were areas of earth where no laws applied. I couldn’t really believe it. So I started reading.”)

You can look at it like this: If you have made an emotional connection with the reader, gotten her to like you, then she also will be open to helping you achieve your goals. But you still have to explain to them why admitting you will help you! In this sense, you can think of your personal statement as a cross between a submitting a grant proposal and asking for a personal favor. You want the reader to agree with you. To say, “Yes, this person belongs in law school,” or “Yes, this person should be a lawyer.” If your admissions officer thinks that, and likes you, then she can admit you and make it happen!

Don’t get me wrong! You should not write a dry, formulaic essays on “The Three Reasons I Want to Be a Lawyer: Contracts are fascinating to me, litigation is exciting, and I love Latin terms.” Your personal statement should be a story— a compelling narrative. It should just be a narrative that addresses the issue of why you want to go to law school!

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  1. Thanks for the world of info. I'm finding
    Things that I didn't realize came
    into play. I better purchase the
    7 month set real quick! LSAT here I come. The personal statement
    can be the game changer!!
    Thanks Mr Schwartz Your a modern day Locke.