Law School Personal Statements

Your personal statement is an opportunity to highlight your writing ability, distinct personality, and diversity of experience. Think of it as a written interview during which you get to choose the question. Your answer should be a story that demonstrates (perhaps implicitly) why you will succeed in law school. The story could describe a single experience, or a series of related experiences transpiring over the course of many years. What’s crucial is that your personal statement provides insight into who you are.

You Must:

Write Well
Law schools are looking for strong writers, and admissions committees view your personal statement as a writing sample. Show them that you can be articulate, persuasive, and engaging. This will likely require you to draft multiple versions and proofread each one carefully. Grammatical or mechanical errors are inexcusable.

Follow Directions
Read the law school application carefully. Most law schools allow you to choose a topic, but some may require you to address a specific question. Follow whatever instructions the law school provides.

Tell a Personal Story
Focus on a concrete experience (or related series of experiences) from your life, and the impact it has had upon you. Do not write someone else’s story, as compelling as it may be. This is one of those rare situations in life when it’s all about you. Similarly, do not write a detached opinion piece on a topic that is important to you, but not you. If analysis is your strong suit, analyze yourself!

Be Yourself
Above all, be who you are, and not an imaginary person you think law schools want. As Nkonye Iwerebon, the Dean of Admissions at Columbia Law School says: “It is fairly obvious to us when an applicant tries to be someone or something s/he is not, which is not only off-putting, but can also cast a shadow of doubt on other parts of your application.”

You Must Not:

Do Not Address Low Grades/Scores in a Personal Statement
Your personal statement is not an apology; rather, it is an opportunity to highlight strengths. If you struggled with a debilitating illness during college, or worked twice as hard as your classmates because English is not your first language, you might tell those stories in your personal statement to demonstrate resilience. If those experiences negatively affected your GPA, save that explanation for an addendum. Emphasize the positives in your personal statement.

Do Not Write about What You Hope to Study Instead of Yourself
The most common mistake that applicants make on the personal statement is to write about a topic instead of themselves. Don’t write about the field of law you want to study. Don’t write about the school. Write about you.

Do Not Write Your Entire Life Story
Resist the urge to tie together all of your life experiences, or mention every accomplishment on your resume. Essays that try to say too much end up saying nothing at all.