Law School Essays: Part 1 – The Personal Statement

A personal statement is required for each law school application. There are other types of essays that you can submit to law schools including a diversity statement, addendum, and a “Why X?” though these are usually optional.

What is the personal statement?

The personal statement is a short essay, usually about 2 pages long, that you attach to law school applications. Each school will provide you with different instructions for the personal statement, but they tend to leave the prompt pretty open-ended. It may leave you wondering what the heck you should be writing about.

In a nutshell, you want to use your personal statement to talk about why you want to go to law school, and to convince the admissions committee that you will excel in school. This prompt can easily set you up for writing a dry and formulaic essay, so make sure to get creative! Tell a story and let your personality shine through.

In my personal statement, I talked about my reasons for wanting to go to law school. My first article summarized a lot of these reasons, so you can get a feel for how my personal statement was written. Initially, a paralegal wanting to go to law school sounds like a snoozefest. It’s a story that the admissions committees (let’s call them “adcoms” for short) have probably heard a thousand times. However, I realized that there were other unique parts of my background (i.e., applying to become a Federal Air Marshal) that also shaped my decision to go to law school. I made sure to mention some of my interesting experiences in my essay. Not only do I believe this made my personal statement stand out more, but felt like I was telling the adcoms my absolute truth in an honest, yet engaging way.

Let’s get personal

If the first draft of your essay sounds cliche and impersonal, toss it! It’s a personal statement, so it should be absolutely authentic to your experiences. If you’re confident in your decision to apply to law school, it should be easy to write about how you came to this decision. 

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If your personal statement has looked like this for the past month, perhaps you are not ready to commit to law school.

 

Though you should use the personal statement to tell your truth, there is such a thing as oversharing. Trauma, romantic relationships and mental health issues may have played huge roles along your path to law school. If you want to address these topics in your personal statement, use caution. Be sure to do so in a sensitive and tactful way. These experiences may have been a big part of your life, but then can also plant a seed of doubt in adcoms’ minds as to your ability to succeed in law school. You want to be honest, but you also want to convince the adcoms that you’re going to be a kickass law student. You should even be sneaking in some bragging about your skills and accomplishments here and there. Use your own judgement, but if you think a controversial topic in your essay may drag you down instead of raise you up, you may want to leave it out.

Should I have a different personal statement for each school?

Each school has different page length requirements for the personal statement. Most want it to be two pages long, but some schools set the maximum page length at three or four. Though each school’s instructions for the personal statement vary, I found all the prompts to be vague enough that my personal statement was applicable to each one. Therefore, I used the same draft of my personal statement for each school, and just added and subtracted a few paragraphs based on the page requirements.

Proofread, proofread, proofread

This goes without saying, but proofread your personal statement and all of your other essays before you submit them! I proofread my essays a million times, and I still found errors in them after I submitted them. A lot of times you need to have someone else read it to pick up the typos your eyes missed. That being said, don’t freak out if you submitted an essay with a typo. I had my fair share of typos, and I’m still going to law school. I promise, it will be fine.

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