Making the Law School Personal Statement Personal

LSAT Blog Making Law School Personal Statement Personal
This post on the personal statement is by the author of A Comprehensive Guide to the Law School Personal StatementMargaret Klein, PhD, a personal statement editor.

Your personal statement should have one, and only one topic.

Sometimes, people have 2 (or more) topics that they want to write about, and they aren’t sure which to pick, so they decide to include both of them in the same essay! This is a mistake.  Having one topic will give your essay structure , clarity, and crisp focus.  Remember also that your essay will be read quickly. The author doesn’t have enough time or focus to absorb more than one topic.

Your topic should be explainable in one sentence, i.e.

After spending 5 years working in real estate, I realize that if I want to continue to expand my business, and grow as a person, I need to gain legal expertise.

Note: this is a complex sentence. He wants to expand his business, and his mind. But it's not, “I want to be a lawyer to help my real estate business. And because I have a life long passion for helping the underdog, and want to be a public defender.” Or “I want to go to law school to study tax law because I have an eagle eye for detail. And my experience for mock trial was so formative.”

You can potentially fit other material into your topic.

For example, write an essay about your passion for detail and your hope to practice tax law, and have a paragraph discussing how, when you were on the mock trial team, your best contribution was poring over the rule book, discovering the fine points of the tournament.

The topic you choose should be a personal topic, not a professional, or private topic.

Knowing what is a good personal topic, and what is too much information, is a hard line. I find that foreign students feel particularly lost when confronting this issue.  Here are the differences:

Professional topics discuss your work. Not the personal meaning of your work—what you thought and felt about it—but what happened at your work, i.e.

I was promoted to regional manager, and through a personnel reorganization I improved revenues 15%.

Private topics are topics that are only appropriate to discuss with intimate friends and family. They include anything about your romantic or sexual life, anything about mental health problems that you have experienced, and anything involving drinking or recreational drugs.

A personal topic can be almost anything, as long as it is approached from the angle of your experience: what you learned, what you thoughts, how you felt.  For example:

-Because I am the youngest of 5, I have always enjoyed advocating for the underdog.

-After spending two years touring with my rock band, I developed an interest in protecting artists through copyrights, particularly in the digital age.

-In my home state, Arizona, my family and I have felt disturbed, and afraid of the recent wave of anti-immigration sentiment.

It is easy to imagine each of these topics turning into rich personal essays, in which the author expands and illustrates this personal topic. You can also see how this personal topic will easily explain why they desire to attend law school.

You can write about your work, but you have to do it from a personal angle.

So, the example from above could become:
Through my experience in reorganizing personnel at my work, I became deeply interested in the ongoing conflict between labor rights and management, and I realized that I want to deepen my knowledge in labor law.

Photo by zaniac


  1. Great advice, Ms. Klein! As a prelaw adviser and consultant, I couldn't agree more. Pick one personal story and go for it. That is the way to go.

  2. I do't know why, but I really liked this part - Because I am the youngest of 5, I have always enjoyed advocating for the underdog. I'm working on my personal statement (though I'm not gonna study law) and this mental health personal statement was very helpful! Best of luck with admissions everyone! You will do great!

  3. This is advise is very usefull for new students.

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