Personal statements for law school are changing. Like every other field, schools are typically asking for shorter essays than they did in the past, and prompts can be anything from a general ‘include a personal statement’ to a highly detailed prompt with specific formatting guidelines. Even so, you’ll still need to craft your law school personal statement to show that you are a passionate, motivated, and qualified applicant who deserves a place in your chosen law school’s incoming class.
Highlight your skills – regardless of your background
Law schools admit students who have a broad variety of professional and academic backgrounds. Therefore, law schools generally are not looking for particular experiences so much as they are looking for particular skills. Although this varies from school to school, in our experience, law schools want to read about 1) analytical skills, 2) teamwork skills, and 3) comfort in the legal environment. All three of these skills are crucial for success both in law school and in legal practice.
Examples that reflect your analytical skills and ability to work effectively as part of a team can be drawn from any relevant academic, professional, or volunteer experience. They do not necessarily need to be directly related to law. However, it is your responsibility to clearly show the connection between that experience and your potential as a law school student to the admissions officers.
Also, while it is unusual for law schools to require that applicants to have a legal background, it can be difficult to convince them to choose you without it. Law school is a major undertaking, and being a practicing attorney isn’t for everyone. Because of this, the admissions officers want to know that you have insight into the day-to-day work of being a lawyer. If you haven’t spent any time in a legal office yet, begin making those arrangements now. In your essay, you can tell the admissions officers about this to show them that you’re serious about law.
How to avoid common pitfalls in your law school essay
It is easy, though, to make one of two very common mistakes when you write your personal statement — either overselling yourself or going overboard on listing your accomplishments. Therefore, compose your statement with humility but don’t sell yourself short. Remember that a good attorney can argue a case from any side, so focusing only on your strengths won’t reflect good analytical skills. You also need to let the admissions officers know where your growth areas are so that they can clearly see the need for joining their program.
Secondly, keep in mind that depth means more than breadth in your law school admissions personal statement. There will be a section on your law school application to list your LSAT scores and activities, so don’t waste precious space in the essay repeating that information. Instead, include relevant anecdotes that demonstrate your readiness for the challenges of law school.
If you’re not sure about formatting, err on the side of being conservative
More law schools are asking for essays in the modern style: single spaced with double spaces between paragraphs and no indentions. However, if the school does not give you information on how to format your personal statement, we recommend the conservative route of double-spacing with indentions at the beginning of paragraphs.
Conclude your personal statement for law school with a passionate vision for your career
Ultimately, the admissions officers are looking for an answer to the question, ‘Why do you want to become a lawyer?’ Every paragraph of the essay should imply this, but we recommend stating this directly in the conclusion. Write about the difference you see yourself making for your clients and the contribution that you can make to the legal profession. Keep in mind that this is not written in stone. It’s okay if you decide to change specialties or choose a different path for your career. The point is to summarize the essay powerfully and help the admissions officers envision you as a lawyer.