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Excellent Law School Personal Statement Examples By David Busis Published May 5, 2019 Updated Feb 10, 2021
We’ve rounded up five spectacular personal statements that helped students with borderline numbers get into T-14 schools. You’ll find these examples to be as various as a typical JD class. Some essays are about a challenge, some about the evolution of the author’s intellectual or professional journey, and some about the author’s identity. The only common thread is sincerity. The authors did not write toward an imagined idea of what an admissions officer might be looking for: they reckoned honestly with formative experiences.
Personal Statement about a Career Journey
The writer of this personal statement matriculated at Georgetown. Her GPA was below the school’s 25th percentile and her LSAT score was above the 75th percentile. She was not a URM.
* Note that we’ve used female pronouns throughout, though some of the authors are male.
I don’t remember anything being out of the ordinary before I fainted—just the familiar, heady feeling and then nothing. When I came to, they were wheeling me away to the ER. That was the last time I went to the hospital for my neurology observership. Not long after, I crossed “doctor” off my list of post-graduate career options. It would be best, I figured, if I did something for which the day-to-day responsibilities didn’t make me pass out.
Back at the drawing board, I reflected on my choices. The first time around, my primary concern was how I could stay in school for the longest amount of time possible. Key factors were left out of my decision: I had no interest in medicine, no aptitude for the natural sciences, and, as it quickly became apparent, no stomach for sick patients. The second time around, I was honest with myself: I had no idea what I wanted to do.
My college graduation speaker told us that the word “job” comes from the French word “gober,” meaning “to devour.” When I fell into digital advertising, I was expecting a slow and toothless nibbling, a consumption whose impact I could ignore while I figured out what I actually wanted to do. I’d barely started before I realized that my interviewers had been serious when they told me the position was sink or swim. At six months, I was one toothbrush short of living at our office. It was an unapologetic aquatic boot camp—and I liked it. I wanted to swim. The job was bringing out the best in me and pushing me to do things I didn’t think I could do.
I remember my first client emergency. I had a day to re-do a presentation that I’d been researching and putting together for weeks. I was panicked and sure that I’d be next on the chopping block. My only cogent thought was, “Oh my god. What am I going to do?” The answer was a three-part solution I know well now: a long night, lots of coffee, and laser-like focus on exactly and only what was needed.
Five years and numerous emergencies later, I’ve learned how to work: work under pressure, work when I’m tired, and work when I no longer want to. I have enough confidence to set my aims high and know I can execute on them. I’ve learned something about myself that I didn’t know when I graduated: I am capable.
The word “career” comes from the French word “carrière,” denoting a circular racecourse. Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise me then, that I’ve come full circle with regards to law school. For two college summers, I interned as a legal associate and wondered, “Is this for me?” I didn’t know if I was truly interested, and I was worried that even if I was, I wouldn’t be able to see it through. Today, I don’t have those fears.
In the course of my advertising career, I have worked with many lawyers to navigate the murky waters of digital media and user privacy. Whereas most of my co-workers went to great lengths to avoid our legal team, I sought them out. The legal conversations about our daily work intrigued me. How far could we go in negotiating our contracts to reflect changing definitions of an impression? What would happen if the US followed the EU and implemented wide-reaching data-protection laws?
Working on the ad tech side of the industry, I had the data to target even the most niche audiences: politically-active Mormon Democrats for a political client; young, low-income pregnant women for a state government; millennials with mental health concerns in a campaign for suicide prevention. The extent to which digital technology has evolved is astonishing. So is the fact that it has gone largely unregulated. That’s finally changing, and I believe the shift is going to open up a more prominent role for those who understand both digital technology and its laws. I hope to begin my next career at the intersection of those two worlds.
Personal Statement about Legal Internships
The writer of this essay was admitted to every T14 law school from Columbia on down and matriculated at a top JD program with a large merit scholarship. Her LSAT score was below the median and her GPA was above the median of each school that accepted her. She was not a URM.
About six weeks into my first legal internship, my office-mate gestured at the window—we were seventy stories high in the Chrysler Building—and said, with a sad smile, doesn’t this office just make you want to jump? The firm appeared to be falling apart. The managing partners were suing each other, morale was low, and my boss, in an effort to maintain his client base, had instructed me neither to give any information to nor take any orders from other attorneys. On my first day of work, coworkers warned me that the firm could be “competitive,” which seemed to me like a good thing. I considered myself a competitive person and enjoyed the feeling of victory. This, though, was the kind of competition in which everyone lost.
Although I felt discouraged about the legal field after this experience, I chose not to give up on the profession, and after reading a book that featured the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, I sent in an internship application. Shortly after, I received an offer to work at the office. For my first assignment, I attended a hearing in the federal courthouse. As I entered the magnificent twenty-third-floor courtroom, I felt the gravitas of the issue at hand: the sentencing of a terrorist.
That sense of gravitas never left me, and visiting the courtroom became my favorite part of the job. Sitting in hearings amidst the polished brass fixtures and mahogany walls, watching attorneys in refined suits prosecute terror, cybercrime, and corruption, I felt part of a grand endeavor. The spectacle enthralled me: a trial was like a combination of a theatrical performance and an athletic event. If I’d seen the dark side of competition at my first job, now I was seeing the bright side. I sat on the edge of my seat and watched to see if good—my side—triumphed over evil—the defense. Every conviction seemed like an unambiguous achievement. I told my friends that one day I wanted to help “lock up the bad guys.”
It wasn’t until I interned at the public defender’s office that I realized how much I’d oversimplified the world. In my very first week, I took the statement of a former high school classmate who had been charged with heroin possession. I did not know him well in high school, but we both recognized one another and made small talk before starting the formal interview. He had fallen into drug abuse and had been convicted of petty theft several months earlier. After finishing the interview, I wished him well.
The following week, in a courtroom that felt more like a macabre DMV than the hallowed halls I’d seen with the USAO, I watched my classmate submit his guilty plea, which would allow him to do community service in lieu of jail time. The judge accepted his plea and my classmate mumbled a quiet “thank you.” I felt none of the achievement I’d come to associate with guilty pleas. In that court, where hundreds of people trudged through endless paperwork and long lines before they could even see a judge, there were no good guys and bad guys—just people trying to put their lives back together.
A year after my internship at the public defender’s office, I read a profile of Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and my former boss. In the profile, he says, “You don’t want a justice system in which prosecutors are cowboys.” The more I saw at the public defender’s office, the more I rethought my experience at the USAO. When I had excitedly called my parents after an insider trading conviction, I had not thought of the defendant’s family. When I had cheered the conviction of a terrorist, I hadn’t thought about the fact that a conviction could not undo his actions. As I now plan on entering the legal profession—either as a prosecutor or public defender—I realize that my enthusiasm momentarily overwrote my empathy. I’d been playing cowboy. A lawyer’s job isn’t to lock up bad guys or help good guys in order to quench a competitive thirst—it’s to subsume his or her ego in the work and, by presenting one side of a case, create a necessary condition for justice.
Personal Statement about Cultural Identity
The writer of this essay was offered significant merit aid packages from Cornell, Michigan, and Northwestern, and matriculated at NYU Law. Her LSAT score was below the 25th percentile LSAT score and her GPA matched the median GPA of NYU.
By the age of five, I’d attended seven kindergartens and collected more frequent flier miles than most adults. I resided in two worlds – one with fast motorcycles, heavy pollution, and the smell of street food lingering in the air; the other with trimmed grass, faint traces of perfume mingling with coffee in the mall, and my mom pressing her hand against my window as she left for work. She was the only constant between these two worlds – flying me between Taiwan and America as she struggled to obtain a U.S. citizenship.
My family reunited for good around my sixth birthday, when we flew back to Taiwan to join my dad. I forgot about the West, acquired a taste for Tangyuan, and became fast friends with the kids in my neighborhood. In the evenings, I’d sit with my grandmother as she watched soap operas in Taiwanese, the dialect of the older generation, which I picked up in unharmonious bits and pieces. Other nights, she would turn off the TV, and speak to me about tradition and history – recounting my ancestors, life during the Japanese regime, raising my dad under martial law. “You are the last of the Li’s,” she would say, patting my back, and I’d feel a quick rush of pride, as though a lineage as deep as that of the English monarchy rested on my shoulders.
When I turned seven, my parents enrolled me in an American school, explaining that it was time for me, a Tai Wan Ren (Taiwanese), to learn English – “a language that could open doors to better opportunities.” Although I learned slowly, with a handful of the most remedial in ESL (English as a Second Language), books like The Secret Garden and The Wind in the Willows opened up new worlds of captivating images and beautiful stories that I longed to take part in.
Along with the new language, I adopted a different way to dress, new mannerisms, and new tastes, including American pop culture. I stopped seeing the neighborhood kids, and sought a set of friends who shared my affinity for HBO movies and Claire’s Jewelry . Whenever taxi drivers or waitresses asked where I was from, noting that I spoke Chinese with too much of an accent to be native, I told them I was American.
At home, I asked my mom to stop packing Taiwanese food for my lunch. The cheap food stalls I once enjoyed now embarrassed me. Instead, I wanted instant mashed potatoes and Kraft mac and cheese.
When it came time for college, I enrolled in a liberal arts school on the East Coast to pursue my love of literature, and was surprised to find that my return to America did not feel like the full homecoming I’d expected. America was as familiar as it was foreign, and while I had mastered being “American” in Taiwan, being an American in America baffled me. The open atmosphere of my university, where ideas and feelings were exchanged freely, felt familiar and welcoming, but cultural references often escaped me. Unlike my friends who’d grown up in the States, I had never heard of Wonder Bread, or experienced the joy of Chipotle’s burrito bowls. Unlike them, I missed the sound of motorcycles whizzing by my window on quiet nights.
It was during this time of uncertainty that I found my place through literature, discovering Taiye Selasi, Edward Said, and Primo Levi, whose works about origin and personhood reshaped my conception of my own identity. Their usage of the language of otherness provided me with the vocabulary I had long sought, and revealed that I had too simplistic an understanding of who I was. In trying to discover my role in each cultural context, I’d confined myself within an easy dichotomy, where the East represented exotic foods and experiences, and the West, development and consumerism. By idealizing the latter and rejecting the former, I had reduced the richness of my worlds to caricatures. Where I am from, and who I am, is an amalgamation of my experiences and heritage: I am simultaneously a Mei Guo Ren and Taiwanese.
Just as I once reconciled my Eastern and Western identities, I now seek to reconcile my love of literature with my desire to effect tangible change. I first became interested in law on my study abroad program, when I visited the English courts as a tourist. As I watched the barristers deliver their statements, it occurred to me that law and literature have some similarities: both are a form of criticism that depends on close reading, the synthesis of disparate intellectual frameworks, and careful argumentation. Through my subsequent internships and my current job, I discovered that legal work possessed a tangibility I found lacking in literature. The lawyers I collaborate with work tirelessly to address the same problems and ideas I’ve explored only theoretically in my classes – those related to human rights, social contracts, and moral order. Though I understand that lawyers often work long hours, and that the work can be, at times, tedious, I’m drawn to the kind of research, analysis, and careful reading that the profession requires. I hope to harness my critical abilities to reach beyond the pages of the books I love and make meaningful change in the real world.
Personal Statement about Weightlifting
The writer of this essay was admitted to her top choice—a T14 school—with a handwritten note from the dean that praised her personal statement. Her LSAT score was below the school’s median and her GPA was above the school’s median.
As I knelt to tie balloons around the base of the white, wooden cross, I thought about the morning of my best friend’s accident: the initial numbness that overwhelmed my entire body; the hideous sound of my own small laugh when I called the other member of our trio and repeated the words “Mark died”; the panic attack I’d had driving home, resulting in enough tears that I had to pull off to the side of the road. Above all, I remembered the feeling of reality crashing into my previously sheltered life, the feeling that nothing was as safe or certain as I’d believed.
I had been with Mark the day before he passed, exactly one week before we were both set to move down to Tennessee to start our freshman year of college. It would have been difficult to feel so alone with my grief in any circumstance, but Mark’s crash seemed to ignite a chain reaction of loss. I had to leave Nashville abruptly in order to attend the funeral of my grandmother, who helped raise me, and at the end of the school year, a close friend who had helped me adjust to college was killed by an oncoming car on the day that he’d graduated. Just weeks before visiting Mark’s grave on his birthday, a childhood friend shot and killed himself in an abandoned parking lot on Christmas Eve. I spent Christmas Day trying to act as normally as possible, hiding the news in order not to ruin the holiday for the rest of my family.
This pattern of loss compounding loss affected me more than I ever thought it would. First, I just avoided social media out of fear that I’d see condolences for yet another friend who had passed too early. Eventually, I shut down emotionally and lost interest in the world—stopped attending social gatherings, stopped talking to anyone, and stopped going to many of my classes, as every day was a struggle to get out of bed. I hated the act that I had to put on in public, where I was always getting asked the same question —“I haven’t seen you in forever, where have you been?”—and always responding with the same lie: “I’ve just been really busy.”
I had been interested in bodybuilding since high school, but during this time, the lowest period of my life, it changed from a simple hobby to a necessity and, quite possibly, a lifesaver. The gym was the one place I could escape my own mind, where I could replace feelings of emptiness with the feeling of my heart pounding, lungs exploding, and blood flooding my muscles, where—with sweat pouring off my forehead and calloused palms clenched around cold steel—I could see clearly again.
Not only did my workouts provide me with an outlet for all of my suppressed emotion, but they also became the one aspect of my life where I felt I was still in control. I knew that if it was Monday, no matter what else was going on, I was going to be working out my legs, and I knew exactly what exercises I was going to do, and how many repetitions I was going to perform, and how much weight I was going to use for each repetition. I knew exactly when I would be eating and exactly how many grams of each food source I would ingest. I knew how many calories I would get from each of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. My routine was one thing I could count on.
As I loaded more plates onto the barbell, I grew stronger mentally as well. The gym became a place, paradoxically, of both exertion and tranquility, a sanctuary where I felt capable of thinking about the people I’d lost. It was the healing I did there that let me tie the balloons to the cross on Mark’s third birthday after the crash, and that let me spend the rest of the afternoon sharing stories about Mark with friends on the side of the rural road. It was the healing I did there that left me ready to move on.
One of the fundamental principles of weightlifting involves progressively overloading the muscles by taking them to complete failure, coming back, and performing past the point where you last failed, consistently making small increases over time. The same principle helped me overcome my grief, and in the past few years, I’ve applied it to everything from learning Spanish to studying for the LSAT. As I prepare for the next stage of my life, I know I’ll encounter more challenges for which I’m unprepared, but I feel strong enough now to acknowledge my weaknesses, and—by making incremental gains—to overcome them.
Personal Statement about Sexual Assault
The writer of this essay was accepted to many top law schools and matriculated at Columbia. Her LSAT score matched Columbia’s median while her GPA was below Columbia’s 25th percentile.
My rapist didn’t hold a knife to my throat. My rapist didn’t jump out of a dark alleyway. My rapist didn’t slip me a roofie. My rapist was my eighth-grade boyfriend, who was already practicing with the high school football team. He assaulted me in his suburban house in New Jersey, while his mom cooked us dinner in the next room, in the back of an empty movie theatre, on the couch in my basement.
It started when I was thirteen and so excited to have my first real boyfriend. He was a football player from a different school who had a pierced ear and played the guitar. I, a shy, slightly chubby girl with a bad haircut and very few friends, felt wanted, needed, and possibly loved. The abuse—the verbal and physical harassment that eventually turned sexual—was just something that happened in grown-up relationships. This is what good girlfriends do, I thought. They say yes.
Never having had a sex-ed class in my life, it took me several months after my eighth-grade graduation and my entry into high school to realize the full extent of what he did to me. My overall experience of first “love” seemed surreal. This was something that happened in a Lifetime movie, not in a small town in New Jersey in his childhood twin bed. I didn’t tell anyone about what happened. I had a different life in a different school by then, and I wasn’t going to let my trauma define my existence.
As I grew older, I was confronted by the fact that rape is not a surreal misfortune or a Lifetime movie. It’s something that too many of my close friends have experienced. It’s when my sorority sister tells me about the upstairs of a frat house when she’s too drunk to say no. It’s when the boy in the room next door tells me about his uncle during freshman orientation. It’s a high school peer whose summer internship boss became too handsy. Rape is real. It’s happening every day, to mothers, brothers, sisters, and fathers—a silent majority that want to manage the burden on their own, afraid of judgement, afraid of repercussions, afraid of a he-said she-said court battle.
I am beyond tired of the silence. It took me three years to talk about what happened to me, to come clean to my peers and become a model of what it means to speak about something that society tells you not to speak about. Motivated by my own experience and my friends’ stories, I joined three groups that help educate my college community about sexual health and assault: New Feminists, Speak for Change, and Sexual Assault Responders. I trained to staff a peer-to-peer emergency hotline for survivors of sexual assault. I protested the university’s cover-up of a gang-rape in the basement of a fraternity house two doors from where I live now. As a member of my sorority’s executive board, I have talked extensively about safety and sexual assault, and have orchestrated a speaker on the subject to come to campus and talk to the exceptional young women I consider family. I’ve proposed a DOE policy change to make sexual violence education mandatory to my city councilman. This past summer, I traveled to a country notorious for sexual violence and helped lay the groundwork for a health center that will allow women to receive maternal care, mental health counseling, and career counseling.
Law school is going to help me take my advocacy to the next level. Survivors of sexual assault, especially young survivors, often don’t know where to turn. They don’t know their Title IX rights, they don’t know about the Clery Act, and they don’t know how to demand help when every other part of the system is shouting at them to be quiet and give up. Being a lawyer, first and foremost, is being an advocate. With a JD, I can work with groups like SurvJustice and the Rape Survivors Law Project to change the lives of people who were silenced for too long.
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Law Personal Statement Advice
Your personal statement is the final step in your UCAS application and is arguably the most important. This gives a university the chance to see who you are and for you to show your passion for the subject. The trick to any personal statement is passion for the subject. While it is not a guarantee of getting you a place at university, it is definitely something that all universities want to see in anyone’s personal statement. Before you start work on your Law personal statement, we recommend looking at some previous Law personal statement examples before. These examples will allow you to see what kind of structure your own Law personal statement should have, what tone to use and what to include in your statement. Your Law personal statement doesn’t need to be War and Peace, but it does need to give a clear and concise insight into what makes you who you are and to speak about the passion you have for Law. If you’re still struggling, trying and include these three elements in your Law personal statement as a jumping off point: Talk about your love and passion for Law. Any relevant work experience in the world of Law. Any achievements, academic or otherwise. Try and relate everything in your Law personal statement back to Law where possible. Its not necessarily a requirement, but it does add a bit more synergy and cohesiveness to your personal statement overall.
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Application Toolkit: Written Statements
On this webpage, you will find our advice and guidance for approaching the two written statements in the application.
Beginning with the application for Fall Term 2024 enrollment, we now require that all applicants submit a Statement of Purpose and a Statement of Perspective. Although it is no longer an application component, much of the advice we shared about the personal statement may still be useful to applicants as they develop their Written Statements. We have preserved that information on this toolkit for your reference.
Changes to the J.D. Application Components
Every applicant must submit both a Statement of Purpose and a Statement of Perspective, responding to the prompts below. Each Statement must be one to two pages in length, using double-spacing, one-inch margins, and a font size that is comfortable to read (no smaller than 11 point). We expect every applicant to use at least one full page for each Statement.
Statement of Purpose : What motivates you to pursue law? How does attending law school align with your ambitions, goals, and vision for your future?
Statement of Perspective : The Admissions Committee makes every effort to understand who you are as an individual and potential Harvard Law School student and graduate. Please share how your experiences, background, and/or interests have shaped you and will shape your engagement in the HLS community and the legal profession.
- Visit the Admissions Blog
- View All Written Statements Blog Posts
Changes to the J.D. Program Application Components
August is here, and that means the J.D. Admissions Office is finalizing our application for the 2023–2024 cycle before it opens on September 15. One exciting change for this year: we have reworked our essay requirements and prompts.
August 4, 2023
Should you include a “why Harvard” statement in your application?
Each year at this time, we receive questions about how applicants should express interest in Harvard Law School. Include a “Why Harvard” essay? Talk about HLS in the personal statement? Maybe an addendum on this topic? The answer to all these questions is the same: no, that’s not necessary. Let’s start with the separate “why
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Overrated/Underrated Part 3
Continuing our Overrated/Underrated series, this week, we shift our focus to highlight some of the overrated approaches that we recommend applicants avoid as they craft their applications.
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Overrated/Underrated Part 1
The J.D. Admissions team recently came together to offer their thoughts on some underrated and overrated approaches that applicants might take towards their HLS application. We hope you’ll find some of these nuggets useful.
September 9, 2021
Real Talk: The Personal Statement
For our first entry in the Real Talk series, Associate Director Nefyn Meissner shares advice on approaching the personal statement.
August 6, 2020
Personal Statement Advice
The personal statement is “an opportunity to give the Admissions Committee a better sense of who you are as a person and as a potential student and graduate of Harvard Law School.” But what does that mean to us?
November 6, 2018
Navigating law school admissions with miriam & kristi.
Miriam Ingber (Associate Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Yale Law School) and Kristi Jobson (Assistant Dean for Admissions at Harvard Law School) provide candid, accurate, and straightforward advice about law school admissions — direct from the source. They will be joined by guest stars from other law schools to discuss application timing, letters of recommendation, personal statements, and more.
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Written Statements Workshop
Our Statement Workshop provides applicants with straightforward advice on how to craft essays with a reflective activity and guiding questions to consider.
We do understand mistakes happen. You are more than welcome to upload an updated document through your status checker. We will review the new material alongside what has been previously received.
Note that when you complete your application and hit “submit”, the information contained in your application may not be altered or deleted in any way by you as an applicant or by us as an admissions team.
Yes. Reapplicants will need to submit new written statements with their application.
We ask that transfer candidates also address the reason(s) for applying for transfer enrollment. Please visit our Transfer Applications Components for more information.
Law School Personal Statement Dos and Don’ts
The personal statement, one of the most important parts of your law school application, is an opportunity to highlight your writing ability, your personality, and your experience. Think of it as a written interview during which you get to choose the question. What one thing do you wish the admissions evaluators knew about you?
To help you write a law school personal statement that best reflects your abilities as a potential law student, we have some recommendations below.
- Discuss possible personal statement topics with your pre-law advisor (or someone else) before you invest a lot of time writing.
- Choose a narrow topic. Offer details about a small topic rather than generalities about a broad topic. Focus on a concrete experience and the impact it has had upon you.
- Be yourself. Do not tell law schools what you think they want to hear — tell them the truth.
- Pay special attention to your first paragraph. It should immediately grab a reader’s attention. Reviewers are pressed for time and may not read beyond an uninteresting opener.
- Keep it interesting. Write with energy and use the active voice. You do not have to explain how your experience relates to your desire to attend law school. Tell a story. Paint a vivid picture. The most interesting personal statements create visuals for the reader, which make your personal statement more memorable.
- Keep it simple and brief. Big words do not denote big minds, just big egos. Choose your words with economy and clarity in mind, and remember that your reader has a huge stack of applications to read. A personal statement generally should be two to three double-spaced pages.
- Proofread. Ask several people to proofread your essay. Grammatical or mechanical errors are inexcusable.
- Include information from your background that sets you apart. If your ethnicity, family, religion, socioeconomic background, or similar factors are motivating you to succeed in law school, be sure to highlight them. You can do this in the personal statement itself or in a separate diversity statement. If you are writing a personal statement and a diversity statement, make sure the two essays address different topics.
- Consider your audience. Most admissions evaluators are professors, third-year law students, or admissions professionals not long out of law school. Therefore, you want to come across as an attentive student, interesting classmate, and accomplished person. Again, consider what you most want them to know, beyond the information provided in the rest of your application.
- Read the application carefully. Most law schools allow you to choose a topic, but some will require you to address a specific question. Follow whatever instructions are provided.
- Do not play a role, especially that of a lawyer or judge. And stay away from legal concepts and jargon. You run the risk of misusing them, and even if you use them properly, legal language may make you appear pompous.
- Do not tell your life story in chronological order or merely re-state your resume. Furthermore, resist the urge to tie together all of your life experiences. The essays that try to say too much end up saying nothing at all.
- Do not become a cliché. You may genuinely want to save the world. Maybe your study abroad experience transformed the way you look at the world. But these topics are overused. Before writing your essay, consider how your story is unique and highlight your individuality.
- Do not use a personal statement to explain discrepancies in your application. If your academic record is weak in comparison to your LSAT scores, or vice versa, address that issue in an addendum. Emphasize the positive in the personal statement.
- Do not offend your reader. Lawyers rarely shy away from controversial topics, but you should think twice before advocating a controversial view. You do not want to appear to be close-minded.
- If you are in the bottom of an applicant pool, do not play it safe. You have nothing to lose by making a novel statement.
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The Law School Personal Statement: Tips and Templates
Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash
Published July 16, 2019
The stress of cramming for the LSAT (or GRE) is behind you, and you survived the intolerably long wait for your score. You‘ve researched schools, requested transcripts, secured recommendation letters, and updated your resume. Now only the dreadful personal statement is preventing you from hitting the submit button.
So you might ask: Does anyone even read the personal statement? Yes . Could it be a make or break deciding factor? Definitely .
While your standardized test score(s) and undergraduate GPA are good law school success predictors, non-numerical factors such as your resume, recommendation letters and the personal statement give the Admissions Committee an idea of your individuality and how you might uniquely contribute to the law school. Most importantly, your personal statement is a sample of your writing, and strong writing skills are as important to law students (and lawyers) as Mjolnir is to Thor.
If the thought of writing a personal statement stresses you out, adhere to these 5 tips to avoid disaster.
BONUS : Scroll down to review 5 law school personal statement samples.
1. Make it personal
The Admissions Committee will have access to your transcripts and recommendation letters, and your resume will provide insight into your outside-the-classroom experiences, past and current job responsibilities and other various accomplishments. So, the personal statement is your best opportunity to share something personal they don’t already know. Be sure to provide insight into who you are, your background and how it’s shaped the person you are today, and finally, who you hope to be in the future.
2. Be genuine
If you haven’t faced adversity or overcome major life obstacles, it’s okay. Write honestly about your experiences and interests. And, whatever you do, don’t fabricate or exaggerate—the reader can often see through this. Find your unique angle and remember that a truthful and authentic essay is always your best approach.
Tip: Don’t use big words you don’t understand. This will certainly do more harm than good.
3. Tackle the “Why?”
Get creative, but remember to hone in on the why . Unless the application has specific requirements, it is recommended you include what influenced you to pursue a legal education. Consider including what impact you hope to make in the world post-graduation.
4. Keep it interesting & professional
The last thing you want to do is bore the reader, so keep it interesting, personable and engaging. A touch of humor is okay, but keep in mind that wit and sarcasm can be easily misinterpreted. Demonstrate maturity, good judgment and tact and you won’t end up offending the reader.
5. Edit & proofread
The importance of enrolling and graduating strong writers cannot be stressed enough, so don’t forget the basics! Include an introduction, supporting paragraphs and a closing. Write clearly, concisely and persuasively. Take time to edit, proofread--walk away from it--then edit and proofread again before submitting.
Tip : Consulting a Pre-Law Advisor or a mentor to help you proofread and edit is an extra step you can take to make sure your personal statement is the best it can be!
Sound easy enough? It is, if you take it seriously. Don’t think you have to craft the “best” or most competitive personal statement, just the most “genuine” personal statement. Remember, there is nobody with your exact set of life experiences, background or point of view. Just do you.
Bonus: 5 Law School Personal Statement Samples
1. How a suitemate's small gesture resulted in declaring a second major and, eventually, working as an interpreter at a law firm.
Near the end of the spring semester of my sophomore year, my bilingual suitemate slipped me a small chart of Spanish subject pronouns. Earlier that day, I had told him that I signed up for a study abroad program in Costa Rica, and he knew my Spanish vocabulary was limited to little more than “good morning,” “thank you,” and “goodbye.” Apart from English, languages had always seemed incredibly foreign to me, and not in terms of their origins or where they were predominantly spoken. I missed their logic. Grammatical rules seemed far removed from anything resembling expression or communication. Foreign words never added up to more than the sum of their letters. I had studied both German and French in high school with modest success. At twenty years old on that spring afternoon, I was just a motivated learner with a college language requirement to fulfill. I had the determination to soak up as much Spanish as I could, but I had what I felt at the time were realistic expectations. Spanish did not need to change my life.
From that scrap piece of paper and kind gesture of a friend, I ultimately declared a second major in Spanish. Notebooks full of vocabulary quickly replaced the list of pronouns. I poured over conjugation charts in Spanish’s fourteen verb tenses, three grammatical moods, and regional variations. Spanish was a joy. It presented both a personal challenge and an endless puzzle to be solved. While it was not my best subject, I took to the language’s study with patience, discipline, and a constant desire for measureable self-improvement.
This challenging and rewarding aspect of language acquisition never subsided. Even as it continues to become easier to read, write, speak, and listen in Spanish, I am increasingly aware of nuances I miss and vocabulary I lack. New words and phrases still give me a feeling of quiet exhilaration. Spanish presents me with a chance to relearn the world and reevaluate my understanding of it. Are the Americas one continent or two? Which form of “you” do you use? What strategies are developing in Spanish-speaking communities to promote inclusive and fair communication in a language that is so highly gender-inflected?
New words and concepts are only the beginning of the way Spanish opened up the world. I was introduced to the works of writers and artists from around the world. I watched movies that left me in stiches, moved me to tears, and gave me the chills. It opened my ears to a steady stream of protest music, singer songwriter confessionals, flamenco, tango, jotas, salsa, blues and indie rock. Over the course of my studies, Spanish led me to travel and took me to large cities, small towns, plains, mountains, jungles, waterfalls, deserts, and beaches. I have been extraordinarily privileged to have had these experiences. More importantly, however, is the way Spanish has enriched my life by connecting me with teachers, colleagues, students, artists, activists, welcoming families, and friends who I would never have met otherwise. My life is forever changed by these relationships.
After graduation, I moved to Spain to work as a language assistant and cultural ambassador for the Spanish Ministry of Education, at vocational, secondary, and primary schools in La Rioja and Madrid, where I helped students and colleagues in journeys mirroring my own, toward English proficiency and mastery. My life and work in Spain was fulfilling. However, I began to feel the distance from my family and friends in the United States. In 2014, I returned home with fresh eyes. The move was as impactful as any of my past travel. I saw a vibrant multilingual and multicultural community on the rise and was determined to put my hard-won Spanish skills to good use.
I started working at a law firm as a paralegal and interpreter. It is a small, high-volume practice limited to immigration law. There, I honed my organizational, scheduling, and managerial skills. A large part of my job is coordinating directly with clients, attorneys, and other support staff. I help to prepare motions, translations, court submissions, family-based petitions, asylum claims and many other applications. Over the course of any given day, I have the opportunity to help people from many different countries and walks of life. A significant proportion of our clientele speaks Spanish as their first language. I acknowledge that the circumstances in which many of our clients arrive in the United States are different than those that shaped my life as a traveler and an immigrant, but I am proud to be able to extend some of the much-needed help and hospitality that was always afforded to me.
Arguably, I know less about law than I knew about Spanish when my sophomore roommate gave me my first language lesson, but I feel ready for the new challenge, fascinated by its potential as a window to the world, and excited by its many applications in service of our local and global community. After my travels and time living abroad, I feel strongly connected to many distant places, but Buffalo remains my home. I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to study law at the University at Buffalo School of Law and thank you for your consideration of my application.
2. This applicant found a balance between doing what they love and earning a living.
As adolescents become young adults, they struggle with the transitional challenges that accompany their new responsibilities. As a child, I learned how to follow rules, play for participation trophies and not ask too many questions. I was told to stay in line, but I knew that as an adult, I should be a line-leader. The problem I faced, as I learned how to wield my own independence, was a common one. I desperately struggled to reconcile my strong compulsion towards self-indulgence with my ambitions for a successful life. I often asked myself whether it was possible to make a living off of playing with kittens all day. Parents love to tell adolescents that “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life,” but as a young adult, it never seemed that simple. There is a looming dichotomy between “doing what you love” and “earning a wage,” which seems to plague each generation that enters adulthood. I feel genuinely fortunate to be able to say that I found harmony between the two. By pursuing a career in law, I believe I will be able to apply my personal values to a career which will give me not only a sense of personal fulfillment and gratification, but also a “real job” that contributes to society.
I had always been an enthusiastic learner, and was always throwing myself into new hobbies and interests. On a whim, I took a creative writing class in my sophomore year to kindle an interest in poetry. The poems we read that year opened my eyes to the potential and inherent beauty in language. The manipulation and purposeful reconstruction of syntax and diction resembled art. Careful articulation had always been an interest of mine, but poetry really gave me an access to language which I had never had before. Poetry became an incredibly important part of my college career and of my personal life. I read poetry, I wrote poetry, I published original poems, and I was twice awarded by the university for my work. I became active in the poetry community, and my relationship with language and articulation deepened.
At the same time, I enrolled in an elementary chemistry course as a basic science requirement. I had always been interested in science courses, and I knew the subject would fascinate me, but I was not prepared for the emotional response I felt to the chemistry material. Chemistry explained things; it explained behavior, and it dealt with calculable predictions on a microscopic level. As I delved further into my chemistry coursework, I felt like I had found a subject that answered something inside myself. My natural draw to ask “why” and “how” was finally pacified. Higher-level chemistry courses gave me the tools to approach any of those questions with the logical, rational thought required of chemical calculation.
As I maneuvered through my undergraduate coursework, and committed myself to both my English and Chemistry majors, I also tried to find a way to manifest my concern for community investment. I volunteered for an organization called Break! The Influence, which performed for schoolchildren to warn them of the dangers of substance abuse through dance and entertainment. Even after the program ended, I felt an instinctive gravitation towards community volunteer work and local investment, which led me to Literacy NY Buffalo Niagara. LNYBN is an organization which provides free English tutoring to functionally illiterate adults in the local area. This organization’s mission is very dear to me for several reasons: not only am I interested in bettering the community, but I also have immense respect for the adults who seek out this tutoring assistance. They are often learning English despite working full-time jobs and satisfying family responsibilities. These students have committed themselves in a way that inspires me and which I hope to emulate with a law degree. They are improving themselves in order to reach their potentials, and are able to reinvest those skills back into the community they learned from. I have been given the opportunity, through my work with LNYBN, to help these people equip themselves for even fuller contributions to society. I am excited to share with them my passion for language, and I am awed by the non-native speakers who are learning English as a second or third language. In the same vein, I hope to use my law degree to better prepare me to contribute to the community. I know that my language and articulation skills have made me a more effective communicator, and calculated rationality has made me a more measured and logical thinker. These are skills which I think will be enhanced by the study of law, and which can be used to improve society, as well as my local community, as my career develops.
3. How one applicant's experience teaching English in Thailand prepared them for the challenges of law school.
As I handed my passport to the customs officer upon entry into Bangkok, Thailand, I anxiously glanced at my surroundings. What had I gotten myself into? My mind raced as I worried about whether I would be able to adapt to a foreign culture or whether I could handle teaching English in a foreign country for a year. Despite several months of analysis and reflection, I could not help but wonder if I had made the right decision. However, as the customs officer handed my passport back to me, I reminded myself why I decided to pursue this opportunity in the first place: personal and professional growth, intellectual stimulation, and the opportunity to experience a new culture. With that in mind, I confronted my fears, took a deep breath, and embarked on the journey of a lifetime.
The first few months teaching English to primary level Thai students were challenging, to say the least. Not only was I adapting to a new way of life in a bustling Asian city, but I also confronted the reality that the majority of the students in my classroom had limited exposure to the English language. Although the task seemed overwhelming, I was determined to help my students improve their English communication skills. I worked diligently to create lesson plans centered on classroom participation. I also fostered relationships with my students, which allowed them to become more comfortable practicing their English. As a result, my students made significant improvements throughout the course of the academic year and were excited to practice their communication skills. The most rewarding moment came towards the end of the year when some of my students asked for my home address. They wanted to send me letters and continue practicing their English. Teaching in such a unique environment enabled me to enhance my organization, leadership, and adaptability skills, all while providing me with the opportunity to fully engage in a different culture.
In addition to developing strong relationships with my students, I developed relationships with people from an array of cultural backgrounds. I nurtured friendships with fellow teachers and other travelers, each with unique national, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds. These relationships opened my mind to alternate ways of thinking, gave me the ability to hone my interpersonal skills, and broadened my ability to think critically about the similarities and differences in our world.
As I look back at my year of teaching in Thailand, I am proud of my accomplishments and am confident that I, in fact, did make the right decision. Although challenging at times, teaching English abroad was a defining learning experience. The lessons I learned throughout my experience in Thailand remain relevant in all aspects of my life. As a result of my intellectual curiosity and willingness to step outside of my comfort zone, I have the ability to succeed in any situation. My time in Thailand proves that I can readily face the responsibilities of law school and confidently confront the challenges of adapting to the legal environment. I believe these skills and my past experiences will make me successful at the University at Buffalo School of Law. Combining an education from the University at Buffalo with my unique international experience and strong work ethic will allow me to harness my full potential within the legal field.
4. How a grandmother's hard work and dedication influenced this applicant to pursue a law degree.
As I stood up to speak, my mind flooded with memories. My family had traveled from New York to the island of Kauai to see my grandmother get married to a wonderful woman. Each of her grandchildren had been assigned to some part of the ceremony, and I was chosen to give a speech at the reception. I am not much of a public speaker, it is something I am always working on, but finding the right words to talk about my grandmother was easy.
After the death of her second husband, my grandmother had to support her family on her own. It would not be easy, but she knew she needed to start a career if she was going to support her four daughters. Her dream was to become an attorney. She worked as a waitress during the day and took classes at night. After excelling in law school, she began the career that she had worked so hard to get. Raising four daughters and maintaining a career is no easy task, but she flourished. Despite her obligations at home, my grandmother constantly excelled. She has received many awards and honors for her hard work throughout her career. More important to me than the awards and honors, however, is the pro bono work that she has done for women and children trapped in abusive relationships. She has always stressed the importance of giving back to the community in any way that one can. My grandmother is a kind and caring woman who puts forth an amazing amount of effort into everything she does.
Due to the absence of my father, my grandmother essentially became my second parent. I did not know the extent of her challenges and achievements while I was growing up. Much of what I learned from my grandmother I learned through her actions. My mother worked nights, so it was usually my grandmother's responsibility to pick me up from any sports practices or after school events. She was late every time, without failure. She was always putting in long hours at the office, and time would escape her. I was always silent on the ride home, not because I was upset, but because she would always be on the phone with a client or a coworker. It was as if she never stopped working. Whenever she would discuss past cases at the dinner table I would lean in close and try to understand as much as I could. Listening to my grandmother during these car rides and dinner conversations is what initially sparked my interest in the law. I always found it fascinating how eloquently she was able to articulate herself when speaking about her cases. Her work always sounded interesting, and it always felt important. I could tell she loved what she did, even if it was difficult and tiring.
I am not sure how many grandsons are lucky enough to see the smile on their grandmother’s face as she walks down the aisle toward the person she loves, but it was an experience that I would not trade for anything. As I finished my speech and sat back down, I reflected on what I have learned from my grandmother. She has always been a major role model in my life. I have seen the type of time commitment required in her field. I know that the work is both mentally and emotionally taxing. I also know that if she did not absolutely love her work, then she would not still be doing it today. From my grandmother I have learned that hard work and dedication are necessary for success, especially in the field of law. She has taught me to be caring and to give back to my community when I can. I have followed her example as best I could up to this point. I am confident that if I continue to persevere and find joy in what I do, then I will find success and happiness as my grandmother has.
5. This applicant writes about their experience interning with a small town law firm tackling a big case.
I have lived in a small town for seventeen years. I knew advancing my education was the key to getting out of my hometown and into a more exciting environment that I yearned for. College brought me just over two hours away from home at a small liberal arts school with less than one-thousand enrolled students. Now in my senior year, a walk across campus means you know everyone who passes by; this is very similar to what happens when out and about at home. Frustrated with myself for not escaping from what I was used to, I decided to try for a summer internship at a corporate law firm in the city. My frustrations mounted after learning that one firm’s budget had been cut and I no longer had a summer position. Reluctantly, I sent cover letters and résumés to the handful of small law firms in my hometown. I received a response within two days, interviewed, and landed a summer internship at a law firm comprised of one lawyer who practiced all areas of law.
I quickly realized that being a small town lawyer did not mean small cases. The first chance I had to watch lawyers in action was during mediation for a federal lawsuit. I hesitantly stepped into the room. Across the table were five attorneys on behalf of New York State and the federal government. Only a few days earlier I had been sitting in class finishing my freshman year of college. Now, I was in a room full of attorneys negotiating their positions in a lawsuit brought on by the federal government. This is certainly not what I expected to experience as an intern at a solo practice law firm. I was catapulted into the unfamiliar environment that I had been searching for.
Feeling out of place was something I was not used to. Still timid and unsure, “You need to have faith, kid” was a phrase my boss told me, and I would hear it hundreds of times as I adjusted to the unfamiliar. My internship led me to shadow an attorney in a multitude of settings unfamiliar to me, and opened my eyes to the world of being a lawyer. Despite the small size of the law office, a wide range of cases came in. No matter how different one is from another, there was a common theme to them all: clients come to lawyers when they need help.
I was allowed to take a very hands on approach in the office, and see the demands of simultaneously being an effective lawyer and business owner. Before my internship, I did not know what a lawyer actually did aside from what I had seen as a glamorized television portrayal from various shows. I was oblivious to all the scenarios of life in which a lawyer is needed, as well as the human services side of the profession. As an attorney, you advocate the best you can for someone who cannot do that for themselves. Clients put an incredible amount of trust into their lawyers, and a client’s life can be impacted immensely as a result of the proceedings. Clients have faith that you will secure the best possible outcome for them.
As summer progressed, I was given more and more responsibilities. What began as an internship turned into a full-time job that I still return to during breaks from school. Throughout my time with the firm, I have learned more than just lawyering. I have learned the ins and outs of the legal profession, but I have also learned about myself. When I was put in the unfamiliar environment that I had yearned for, I did not know what to do. Fortunately, my boss has become a great mentor and has given me the opportunities to grow professionally, and personally. Every new experience is a chance to learn.
Capitalizing on the unfamiliarity that I so desired has led me to want more opportunities to advance into unfamiliar territories. I believe attending law school at the University at Buffalo will challenge me, and further my growth professionally and personally. The University’s unique trial advocacy program and clinics will allow me the hands-on experiences to apply what is learned in the classroom to real situations. I want to continue my ascent into the legal profession, and the University at Buffalo will provide me with the necessary tools.
Guest blogger Lindsay Gladney is the Vice Dean for Admissions at UB School of Law.
Office of Admissions University at Buffalo School of Law 408 O'Brian Hall, Buffalo, NY 14260 716-645-2907 [email protected]
Learn more about the law school admissions process and School of Law community through an individual meeting with one of our staff members.
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Personal statements, explore personal statements from previous applicants who have been admitted to our jd program., personal statements from previous applicants.
Through their personal statements, applicants share their greatest influences, professional aspirations, and why they applied to BU Law. We share these examples to help you consider how to approach your own personal statement as you prepare your application.
Passionate students from across the globe choose BU Law for many different reasons. The personal statement portion of our application allows them opportunity to discuss significant experiences that have inspired them to become lawyers. Learn why these student—through influences like the earthquake in Haiti, innovation in the biotechnology sector, and a motel staircase—chose to enroll in our JD program.
Jean-Phillip Brignol: Teacher inspired to give back in earthquake aftermath
Q&A with Jean-Phillip
“Being a voice for those who are voiceless is an axiom that I carry with me as I think about my role as a teacher and citizen.”
“Earthquake in Haiti.” That is what the text from my aunt read. I went to dinner thinking this has happened before, not too big of a deal, and then after went to the dorm and turned on the TV. It was arresting. I sat in front of CNN transfixed for 3 hours as if it was 10 minutes. I could not believe that just 5 days before I was with my grandparents at their house in Delmas, Haiti with my mom, dad, and sister.
I am Haitian-American. Even though I was born in Chicago and lived in its suburbs most of my life, Haiti is a place I am deeply connected to through culture and family. The place where I lived when I was young and gave me the mix of languages, which got me sideways glances on the first day of 1st grade in the US when I introduced myself in French with, “Bonjour, je m’appelle Jean-Phillip.” It set me apart in my life but also made me a part of something. This relationship and the feeling of straddling different spaces would lead me to my interest in Race and Ethnicity and its impact on how people interacted in political and social worlds, especially immigrant populations. The pride I feel at the history of the first independent Black nation is immense, as it is for many Haitians, but so is the frustration with the failure to meet its true potential. To see it in such chaos and disaster tore at me and brought me closer to the Haitian reality. The reality of a small beautiful country filled with strong people who live with stark inequality. On my visits, my feelings of undeserved privilege have always been reinforced.
In the days after the earthquake my thoughts were of my grandparents who my family had not been able to contact. Seeing the destruction of a market nearby my grandparents’ house crushed our hopes. I sat and watched news stories helpless. I did not know what I could do to help. While in my dazed state, my friend Arlene called me to ask if we could reboot our Haitian student group. She asked and I assumed the role of President of the Haitian Student Organization and began working closely with the Yale administration to plan a concert fundraiser to support Haiti immediately. We also knew that keeping attention on Haiti, even a few weeks after, would be essential to helping Haiti in the long run. We spearheaded a committee to work on a Haitian awareness week, which brought the Haitian Prime Minister and aid workers as well as continued fundraising. My parents left to go back to their original home to help those who they could and see our family. They knew they would hear stories of many lost friends. Our story was lucky in comparison. My grandparents were shaken but alive. In this whole ordeal one moment stuck out to me. My grandmother on my mom’s side found one of her many cell phones to call us and let us know she was okay a few days after the earthquake and then against the wishes of my mom found a way to deliver a phone to my dad’s mom, who was visiting her old home for a month, so that he could speak to his family. It was an amazing moment of selfless giving. She knew my dad needed that conversation.
I drew strength from this and other moments as I balanced being a counselor, being a student, and being on our relief advisory committee. During one of the committee meetings with an administrator and graduate students from the Yale Forestry school there was a remarkable incident when the well-intentioned idea of a hunger dinner was raised and the idea of having the dining area decorated as a refugee camp was discussed. All at once I felt that these people who I was working with to help Haiti were trying to get my approval for something that would be another disaster. Asking me to support a hunger dinner that would portray all of Haiti as a refugee camp was ridiculous to me. I knew I had to speak up; I dismissed the idea of the refugee camp immediately. Even though I was not experiencing the trauma directly, I attempted to fathom the feelings felt and channeled them, along with my own, to be a fervent defender of the dignity of the Haitian people.
When I graduated in May that same grandmother who had found that cell phone was there to see me graduate as if nothing had happened, maybe slightly skinnier, with the rest of my family alongside her. Even though I told my parents I would have no problems driving alone from Yale to our home in Chicago, my grandmother scoffed and said of course she was going with me. As a teacher now, I draw from that example. Giving of myself in small ways so that others can stand on me and being an advocate for my Dominican immigrant students has been incredible. Teaching them how to advocate for themselves and navigate within a system that often misunderstands and disadvantages them has lead me beyond just being their “No Excuses” science teacher. I have had so many opportunities and support in my life and giving back seems like the only reasonable option. Being a voice for those who are voiceless is an axiom that I carry with me as I think about my role as a teacher and citizen. I am ready now to acquire the additional skills and knowledge necessary to support and provide access for those people.
Joshua Butera: Campaign fundraiser with a future in policy
Q&A with Josh
“After three years of campaigning, I am ready to be part of governing. Politics is my passion, but I want to see the promises made on a campaign through to completion.”
When I landed my first job on a US Senate campaign, I had volunteered and interned on various political campaigns and was eager to work on messaging and communications. My days, however, were not spent writing speeches or forming strategy as I had hoped but instead repeating mundane tasks and aggressively seeking out donors. I found myself calling strangers for hours each day, soliciting them for campaign contributions. Naturally an introvert, calling strangers made me uncomfortable, asking them for money pushed me well out of my comfort zone. There were no breaks to look forward to, either: I spent my nights researching potential donors and my weekends knocking on doors and canvassing public events.
With a goal of raising $20 million by Election Day, I was also responsible for planning fundraisers with seemingly unrealistic goals. For my first event, I was expected to raise $10,000 despite a difficult host who refused to return my phone calls. I called everyone on the invitation list multiple times, pitching anyone who answered. The day of the event, I was hopeful that my hard work would pay off. Maybe the host had been working his own connections in the community, or maybe the messages I left were compelling. There were ultimately only five people in attendance. We raised $800 that day. Frustrated with the long hours and meager results, I wondered why I was working on this campaign.
During those first couple of weeks, only the knowledge that I was fighting for a cause I believed in kept me motivated. The choices in the race were stark, and the winner would shape national decisions that affected every American. Our opponent’s stances were so radically different from what I believed best that I knew I would regret having any other job. All the negative aspects seemed trivial when compared to the consequences at stake.
Eventually, after putting in the hours and showing my commitment, I was given new responsibilities and more interesting tasks. I staffed call time with the candidate and witnessed how he integrated my research about the donors into his pitch. My heart skipped as he transitioned from health care reform to the “ask” and I breathed relief when we had a new pledge. I began writing the weekly campaign newsletter that went to hundreds of opinion leaders and activists around the state. Injecting my creativity and style when commenting on the week’s happenings and our opponent’s missteps reminded me of the reasons I took the job in the first place.
I also began to see better results when managing fundraisers. My first event taught me to seek out more engaged hosts and to build a stronger invitation list. I still spent hours on the phone inviting guests, but these calls now energized me as I spoke about the latest headlines and why we needed their help. During events, I preoccupied myself collecting contact information and scouting the room for the next potential host. As soon as the event ended, I raced back to the office excited to count the night’s haul. I enjoyed writing the newsletters, but the best part of the job was seeing my hard work pay off in an immediate and tangible way. No other experience had challenged me the way this job had, and through that I learned how to adapt and overcome obstacles to achieve my goals.
After three years of campaigning, I am ready to be part of governing. Politics is my passion, but I want to see the promises made on a campaign through to completion. As a fundraiser, I frequently plan events hosted by law firms, and I have seen firsthand how often politicians rely on lawyers for help in implementing policy decisions. Recently, the Mayor of Providence stayed late to ask attorneys their opinions about how to resolve issues with public pension contracts for current retirees. An attorney by trade, the Mayor probed them on potential solutions while discussing his concerns with them. Similarly, many other issues that affect people in very real ways require legal expertise in order to develop sound, effective policy solutions.
Kathryn Gevitz: Lifelong health care enthusiast determined to enact reform
Q&A with Kathryn
“Based on my experiences growing up, at the university, and now at work, I have come to the conclusion that a career in law is the single most effective way for me to help enact positive change and transform our fragmented health care delivery system.”
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted a career in health care (yes—I know I am applying to law school—please bear with me). However, my focus has changed as I have had the opportunity to take a variety of classes and gain work experience.
My parents were unwittingly responsible for my initial interest in health. They both work in the field, albeit indirectly, so I was immersed in a world full of doctors, nurses, and hospitals at a young age.
Years ago, when my father—a medical historian and ethicist—was invited to speak at a conference or university, my mother and I would go along for the ride. At the time, I had no interest in listening to the actual content of his talks. I viewed these trips more as an opportunity to miss school and to make fun of my father’s wild hand gestures—I even conceived the Kung Fu GevitzTM action doll, which karate-chopped a podium at the push of a button. I earnestly swore to his bemused colleagues that I would never grow up to be like him, but despite my greatest efforts (and perhaps as a result of listening to one too many of his speeches), I slowly found myself sharing many of his academic interests.
My mother’s domain—the hospital where she worked as a practice manager of a cardiac surgery office—was a much more fascinating playground growing up. Despite being sick during most of my visits, I preferred spending time at the hospital to attending any conference. Between napping on her floor and drawing pictures for everyone in the office, I would watch live feed of the surgeons operating on an exposed heart or take trips to the morgue to view hearts with congenital abnormalities.
Dismissing my father’s profession and familiar only with the glamorous side of medicine, I began college with one career in mind: physician. I dreamed of discovering the cure for AIDS, developing new treatments for cancer, and ridding the world of disease. However, early in my freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania, I found that the classes that piqued my interest and excited me the most were not biology lab or chemistry, but rather the classes I took through my major in health and societies; classes like American Health Policy, Biomedical Ethics, and Health Law. These courses opened my eyes to the realm of health care beyond patient diagnosis and treatment. For the first time, I became acutely aware of the millions of Americans who struggle to access or pay for basic health services. I was also introduced to the tremendous influence of law and policy in everyday medical issues. The breadth of topics in my health law class, as well as the law’s presence in my other courses, astounded me. Whether we were talking about patient consent in my bioethics class or insurance markets in Medical Economics, our discussion always circled back to the role of the law. What impressed me most, however, was the legal system’s potential to effect broad social change. Inspired, I started thinking that a career in health law would be the best way to impact not only my clients, but also my community, and even my country.
Gaining firsthand insight into real life health issues has only reaffirmed this belief. While I do not work directly with the underserved, I manage aggregate data that testifies just as strongly to the need for policy reform. Every week at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, I pull data from the Communicable Disease Management System—a database of collected patient information—to generate a report summarizing weekly and monthly trends in disease incidence. Week after week, the same social and behavioral risk factors are associated with the same diseases. For example, Asians comprise the majority of hepatitis B reports, older individuals with smoking histories are most at risk for Legionnaires’ disease, and infants and the elderly are most susceptible to vaccine-preventable diseases such as H. influenzae . The targeted health education and vaccination efforts we provide are necessary, but clearly not sufficient, to reduce disease incidence in these groups.
Examining emergency department chief complaint data reveals another set of problematic trends. Performing syndromic surveillance, I regularly see records of people who come to the emergency department with chronic conditions that they have had for years, but that have remained untreated because they cannot afford or access regular care. I also see how many individuals repeatedly misuse the emergency department as a resource. Rather than visiting a general practitioner, many poor and uninsured individuals come to the emergency department for primary care issues—colds, hangnails, back aches—because they cannot be denied treatment based on ability to pay. These are problems that cannot be fixed without a fundamental overhaul of our health care system.
Earning a law degree from Boston University with a specialty in health care law will give me the analytical tools to construct public policy that can address these issues and more. I would have the capacity to develop legislation and policies to decrease the incidence of Legionnaires’ disease (as well as lung cancer and heart disease) or advise on the legality of mandated vaccination. Alternatively, I could develop as well as defend policy and regulations that reduce emergency department misuse and promote greater access to more affordable and higher quality health care services. Based on my experiences growing up, at the university, and now at work, I have come to the conclusion that a career in law is the single most effective way for me to help enact positive change and transform our fragmented health care delivery system.
Kate Lebeaux: Immigrant advocate inspired by her clients to do more
Q&A with Kate
“[My clients] have shown me how great an asset the immigrant community is to our country and left me convinced that I will find immigrant advocacy extremely rewarding.”
She sat opposite me at my desk to fill out a few forms. Fumbling her hands and laughing uncomfortably, it was obvious that she was nervous. Sandra was eighteen and her knowledge of English was limited to “yes” and “hello.” While translating the initial meeting between Sandra and her attorney, I learned of her reasons for leaving El Salvador. She had been in an abusive relationship, and though she wasn’t ready to go into detail just yet, it was clear from the conversation that her boyfriend had terrorized her and that the El Salvadoran police were of no help. Afraid for her life, Sandra left for the US to join her sister in Massachusetts. She had been in our country for all of eight weeks, five of which she spent in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Texas. Eventually Sandra was given a credible fear interview. The interviewer believed that she had a real fear of returning to El Salvador, and Sandra was released from detention with an Immigration Court hearing notice in her hand. She had just retained our office to present her asylum case to the Immigration Judge.
I tried to imagine myself in Sandra’s shoes. She hadn’t finished high school, was in a completely new environment, and had almost no understanding of how things worked in the US. Even the harsh New England winter must have seemed unnatural to her. Having lived abroad for a couple of years, I could relate on some level; however, the circumstances of my stay overseas were completely different. I went to Spain after graduating from college to work in an elementary school, improve my Spanish skills, and see a bit of the world. Despite the different reasons for my move abroad, I do remember feeling completely overwhelmed by what would have been mindless tasks in a familiar environment—from opening a bank account to paying utility bills, nothing was intuitive anymore. I had to ask hundreds of questions and usually make a few attempts before actually accomplishing my goal. Frustrating though it was, I didn’t have so much riding on each of these endeavors. If I didn’t have all the necessary paperwork to open a bank account one day, I could just try again the next day. Sandra won’t be afforded the same flexibility in her immigration process, where so much depends on the ability to abide by inflexible deadlines and procedures. Without someone to guide her through the process, ensuring that all requirements are met and presenting her case as persuasively as possible, Sandra will have little chance of achieving legal status in the United States. Her case will likely take years to complete, but overlooking any details along the way could render Sandra ineligible to receive immigration benefits.
Before starting at my current position at Joyce & Associates, an immigration law firm in Boston, I had long considered a career in law. Growing up, I was engaged by family and school debates about public policy and government. In college, I found my constitutional law courses challenging and exciting. Nonetheless, it wasn’t until I began working with clients like Sandra that I became convinced that a career in law is the right choice for me. Playing my part as a legal assistant in various immigration cases, I have been able to witness how a career in immigration advocacy is both intellectually stimulating and personally fulfilling. I have seen the importance of well-articulated arguments and even creativity in arguing a client’s eligibility for an immigration benefit. I have learned that I excel in critical thinking and in examining detail, as I continually consider the consistency and possible implications of any documents that clients provide in support of their application. But most importantly, I have realized how deserving many of these immigrants are. Many of the clients I work with are among the most hardworking and patriotic people I have encountered. They have shown me how great an asset the immigrant community is to our country and left me convinced that I will find immigrant advocacy extremely rewarding.
I am equally confident that I would thrive as a student at Boston University, where I would be sure to take full advantage of the many opportunities available. The school’s Asylum and Human Rights Clinic and Immigration Detention Clinic would offer me invaluable experiences in various immigration settings. Likewise, by participating in the pro bono program’s Immigration/Asylum service trip in Texas, I could develop a better understanding of the challenges immigrants face upon crossing the Mexican border. Given my experiences in an immigration firm, I know that I would have much to offer while participating in these programs, but even more to learn. And while I find BU’s immigration programs to be especially appealing, I am equally drawn to the Boston University experience as a whole. The school’s diverse curriculum and highly-renowned academic programs would constantly challenge me and allow me to grow in ways I can’t yet imagine. I hope to have the opportunity to face those challenges, and to contribute my own experiences and drive to the Boston University community.
Eva Maryskova: Czech native seizing the opportunity to pursue her dreams
Q&A with Eva
“The experience of growing up surrounded by people whose lives and dreams were disrupted by the strict communist regime fills me with a great desire to take full advantage of the opportunities available to me.”
November 1989 saw the restoration of democracy in Czechoslovakia. Without knowing it at the time, my life would be forever changed by this moment in my country’s history. Not only did the Velvet Revolution expand the horizon of my opportunities beyond anything my parents and their whole generation could have ever imagined, but it also ultimately sparked my interest in law. It highlighted the importance of understanding how nations and their legislation can affect the lives of citizens and how international regulations influence transnational relations. From the example of my home country, which is still working on developing its young social and political framework, I can see how law is a crucial determinant in the formation of an environment under which business and culture can thrive. I see great purpose and personal fulfillment in pursuing a discipline which has the potential to positively affect social development.
The experience of growing up surrounded by people whose lives and dreams were disrupted by the strict communist regime fills me with a great desire to take full advantage of the opportunities available to me. I utilized the scholarship I received to attend an international school in Prague not only to study English, but also to learn as much as possible from my international classmates. This experience expanded my worldview and later prompted my decision to study abroad and travel. Continuously interacting with people from different cultures makes me an adaptive, confident, and effective communicator, and it helps me see any situation from various points of view. Being able to identify and evaluate possible options helps me find the right solutions to challenges and identify steps to fulfilling specific goals. It has also helped me find my own course to the study of law.
I transferred out of the undergraduate degree in law I was pursuing in the United Kingdom to gain the skills, and most importantly the experience, I felt I needed in order to reach a deeper understanding of law theory and its application. As an English major at Boston University I developed skills in writing, research, critical reading and analysis. My second major in economics provided a solid background into the business setting within which law firms operate and prompted my interest in business and finance law. Later on, internships and full-time work tested this knowledge in a corporate environment. It was important to learn to apply classroom skills creatively and within tight deadlines. For example, managing the creation and release of company press releases at my first job after graduation demanded particularly good organization and time management. I had to identify interesting points worthy of mention in international media, make sure I understood the scientific data I was writing about and schedule the release of articles on time, while coordinating requests from several company departments. This gave me a strong sense of responsibility, as my writing was the voice of the entire company. I believe that continuing to apply this same work ethic will help me manage the rigorous demands of law school.
Learning from experienced professionals at large international companies encourages me to take on increasingly challenging tasks. In my free time I manage the Czech branch of an international non-profit arts project related to theater. It gives students the opportunity to see theater performances for free, publish their reviews and articles on an international web portal, and receive guidance and feedback from experts and scholars in the field. I have now expanded the Prague team to include five reviewers, and I am always looking to involve more students in the project. I will continue to look for ways to provide learning opportunities and share knowledge with peers in order to contribute to the Boston University community.
The lessons I have received from my country’s recent history continue to provide me with strong motivation. I grew up listening to stories from the times of the occupation, and they were always about the limits and the restrictions that characterized the era. I am very thankful that this does not apply to me and that I can now take the next step to realizing my goal of becoming a lawyer. I will rely on my determination and the skills I have gained through education, work experience, and travel to help me through the challenges of law school. I believe that I have what it takes to be a valuable contribution to the Boston University Law School classroom and also the legal profession.
Eddie Moreno: Scientist with a passion for intellectual property law
Q&A with Eddie
“I was motivated by a desire to pursue a career that would allow me to broaden the range of scientific issues I worked on, rather than the narrow field in which I had specialized.”
I am very passionate about science and spent much of my academic life in research laboratories studying parasites that cause human disease. Recently, as a technical specialist at an intellectual property law firm, I discovered that I could successfully utilize the creative-thinking and analytical skills that I acquired as a scientist to help clients in the biotechnology sector protect their intellectual property. My experiences have solidified my commitment to law school, and I therefore write this statement to convince you of my resolve to merge my passions for science and law by becoming an attorney-scientist.
I was raised in the mountainous interior of Puerto Rico by parents who emphasized the importance of obtaining the best education possible. I attended a public residential high school with a curriculum specializing in math and science, where I excelled at learning about a variety of scientific disciplines and developed my passion for science. At age fifteen, I was selected to begin working in a research laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine, as a participant in a summer program directed to motivating students to pursue careers in scientific research. My work focused on isolating and characterizing proteins that could be used for the diagnosis of, and vaccination against, two parasitic diseases. This transformative experience propelled my decision to pursue a career in scientific research. After high school, I continued working on the same research project while earning my Bachelor of Science degree in biology at the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras. My undergraduate experience was enriched by my selection to participate in a scientific exchange program, sponsored by the US National Institutes of Health, which funded my training in research laboratories at three distinguished research institutions: the University of Edinburgh (Scotland), Monash University (Australia), and the University of Salamanca (Spain). These global experiences not only helped cultivate my scientific skills, they also allowed me to gain a unique understanding of different cultures, peoples, and belief systems.
At the University of Virginia, I earned a doctoral degree in microbiology studying the molecular mechanisms regulating how the parasite Entamoeba histolytica causes disease. I presented my doctoral research at multiple national and international scientific conferences and the results of my work were published in two peer-reviewed scientific articles. As my doctoral studies were concluding and job prospects loomed, however, the realization hit that I was motivated by a desire to pursue a career that would allow me to broaden the range of scientific issues I worked on, rather than the narrow field in which I had specialized. I had been exposed to intellectual property law while taking a technology transfer course taught by a law professor in college, and conducted several informational interviews with attorneys practicing intellectual property law to decide if I should explore a career in this field.
Working as a technical specialist in the biotechnology/chemical practice group of an intellectual property law firm in Washington, DC, for the past year and a half has afforded me the opportunity to gradually transition from the lab bench to the law firm under the mentorship of several attorney-scientists. I have been rewarded by the opportunity to work on a broad variety of biotechnology fields including pharmaceuticals, biofuels, vaccines and nutraceuticals, and enjoyed the intellectual challenge of understanding the technical issues of each case, analyzing the legal and strategic implications of the advice we give our clients, and developing writing skills to produce work products that can be understood by non-technical audiences. My responsibilities as a technical specialist include prosecuting patents in the US and abroad, developing opinions for clients regarding the invalidity and/or non-infringement of patent claims, and performing freedom-to-operate analyses for clients seeking to release new or modified products.
My experiences as a technical specialist have convinced me that I am committed to becoming an attorney specializing in intellectual property law. I have the technical aptitude and determination to succeed as an attorney and now seek the necessary formal legal education to become an effective advocate and trusted advisor. I believe that my background, professional experiences, and maturity will allow me to contribute a unique perspective to the student body at the Boston University School of Law.
Jacquelyn Rex: Teach for America participant who learned to love home
Q&A with Jackie
“Although my students may never know it, my time as their teacher has instilled in me a sense of urgency and purpose that fuels me to continue working for children and their families as long as I am able.”
When I applied for Teach for America in the winter of 2009, it was more for the opportunity to leave the Rio Grande Valley than to accomplish the movement’s real mission of bringing a quality education to low-income students. A predominantly Mexican area with most families living under the poverty line, the Valley represented, for me, a place where ignorance met apathy, a place where people got what they deserved, and above all else, a place I refused to spend any more time in. I applied for major cities around the nation, but Teach for America had different plans for me, and when notifications were sent out at the end of March, I was placed as an elementary special education teacher in the Rio Grande Valley. And in what I could only chalk up to be divine intervention, I was hired at the same elementary school that I had attended.
Two years and I will be done. I couldn’t shake that thought as I entered my classroom on the first day of school. Making a real difference seemed unlikely: my heart wasn’t into the work I was about to do. When the bell rang and I began picking up my students from their classes, life as I knew it ceased to exist.
That first day, I didn’t pick up a single child that wasn’t wearing dirty or ripped clothing. One was covered in bug bites. Another’s stomach growled as I walked the students through classroom rules and procedures. None smiled. I could not seem to wrap my mind around the fact that these students attended the same school that I so happily did not-so-many years before. By Thanksgiving, a brother and sister in my class scratched so hard at their wrists and fingers from poorly treated scabies that they’d return their assignments to me with small blood streaks staining the bottom. Stomachs still growled during my math lessons. But when a fifth-grade student told me she’d spent the night in a small bedroom closet, arms around her four younger siblings as her mother and father went at each other with broken bottles and angry fists, I could no longer stand it.
Something changed in me that day. I’m not quite sure if I finally grew up or realized the enormous responsibility my job had given me, but something changed. And for probably the first time in my life, I stopped thinking of only myself. Suddenly I was so ashamed of ever thinking negatively about being Mexican or growing up in the Valley—so embarrassed that I thought so little of the community that had given of their time to ensure that I would have all the opportunities in the world. It dawned on me that I was only able to have the strong opinions I did because countless individuals had made my success their mission. And it was time for me to do the same. It may have been pure chance that I ended up returning to the Valley where I was raised, but doing so gave me such an advantage over my Teach for America counterparts: Parents found me more trustworthy, my intentions and abilities as a teacher were rarely questioned, and my ability to speak Spanish comforted. My Valley roots made me an ally, and my children only benefited from this.
For the next three years, I poured my soul into my work and let my students have my heart. I organized community reading groups to get parents and neighbors involved in literacy. When parents began telling me that they wanted to help their children with math homework but didn’t understand the objectives, I requested my principal set up a family math night so that parents could come into my classroom and have me teach the concepts to them alongside their children. I watched as my community grew closer together and my students’ academic abilities blossomed. It didn’t matter if students had autism or Down Syndrome, learning disabilities or emotional disturbance. All my students were learning at a pace faster than expected. By the spring semester of my second year, I even dismissed two students from special education services entirely.
My time in the classroom has been a wonderful, challenging experience. I’ve seen children accomplish more than others thought possible; at times, certainly more than I thought possible. I’ve seen a real love of learning blossom in the children and the families I’ve served. These were my miracles—my proof that if you wanted something badly enough you could make it happen. My children made great gains. And I tried my hardest to do all the things I thought a great teacher needed to do. But at times, it still wasn’t enough. My children needed more. My classroom was a safe place for my students, but their time with me was limited. I could shelter them to my heart’s content during the day, but once that bell rang and I handed my children back to the outside world, all I could do was stand and watch as life’s circumstances tried and often did bring them down. That’s when I decided to apply for law school. I have enjoyed every moment in the classroom, but I want to help children and their families in ways I simply cannot as a teacher. I want to fight for them and their families in an effort to improve their lives as much as I possibly can. If I’ve learned anything from my time in the classroom, it is that even the smallest of changes in circumstance can make for the biggest changes in one’s quality of life.
This past year was my third working with students from my own community. And although my students may never know it, my time as their teacher has instilled in me a sense of urgency and purpose that fuels me to continue working for children and their families as long as I am able. Working as a special education teacher in my own community has taught me humility and respect. It has taught me that, for many children, the need is great, the time is short, and I have an obligation to do whatever I can to help. I now believe that those with special talents, extraordinary abilities, or just a moment of free time have a responsibility to help those around them in every way possible. I have learned that in helping others achieve even the smallest of victories, I have not only made new opportunities possible for them but also contributed to the content of my own character. A life of service is a noble one that I hope to achieve. A life where I can inspire as I have been inspired and offer hope when hope seems most unlikely.
I laugh a little now when I think about how a group of disabled children helped me find my home again and gave me a place in the world. They showed me that being from the Valley is something to cheer about. I am now so proud to be a Mexican-American woman with a rich culture and language who had the opportunity to learn from and be embraced by the community I spent a lifetime criticizing. I am so honored and humbled to have been a special education teacher for my little ones, showing them that education, opportunities, and justice are for everyone, regardless of life’s circumstances and arrogant opinions. As a law student, you will find few more passionate than I; as an attorney, few who work harder and demand greater of themselves. For three years, my students and their families have allowed me to work for them, trusting my judgment and welcoming my help. But I can do more. I am ready to do more.
I Got a Full-Ride to Law School Using This Personal Statement
Law school admissions certainly are intimidating, especially when it comes to the rather daunting task of writing a personal statement with no real prompt. Generally, law schools will ask for no more than two pages of basically whatever you would like to talk about.
However, there are a few well-established principles for writing a successful personal statement. Here are 4 principles, along with my own personal statement, to help you hit a home run:
The personal statement should only drive your application forward. If it is holding it back in any way, it is not ready.
Your personal statement should explain your interest or purpose for studying the law.
This does not have to be the backbone of the entire piece, but it should be at least mentioned somewhere. It should also avoid legal jargon and should not be some sort of showcase for legal knowledge. It also should not be a regurgitation of your resume. The committee will already have your resume, so the personal statement serves as a supplement to it.
Spend the time making your personal statement better.
To get a competitive offer from whichever law school you may be applying to, it all starts with a good application package. The admissions committee is going to want to see a good LSAT score , a strong GPA, some recommendations, and a well-written personal statement. That much is clear. Your personal statement may never feel like it is just right, but it can only become better with consistent time and effort spent drafting it again and again.
Research examples of well-written personal statements.
To get some ideas about what a good personal statement could look like, I did a preliminary search to read a few successful ones. The University of Chicago had a few essays posted on their site from admitted students that gave me a good point of reference. Although there is tremendous flexibility in writing the personal statement, it should not be so wacky as to discourage the admissions committee in your abilities as a writer or in your seriousness about attending law school.
Take advantage of the resources around you to make your statement the best.
For my statement, I went through a couple of potential concepts and decided to do one on my life’s motto. And, no, it was not some cliché that I pretended was my motto; I picked words that I truly lived by and continue to live by to this day. I spent many hours writing and rewriting my personal statement. Thankfully, I had the invaluable help of my roommate, who is a strong writer himself, and he gave me useful feedback on many of my drafts (I promised him a nice dinner if I ended up getting admitted with a full-ride to somewhere). When I got close to a final draft, I took it to my school’s writer’s workshop to have someone I had never met before read it aloud. It allowed me to hear where someone might misunderstand something so that I could make changes accordingly for the final product.
Beginning in the spring, picking up in September, accelerating further in October, and finishing in November when I sent my applications out, the whole process produced something that I thought gave me a very strong shot at success. So here it is. Enjoy:
“Ball: outside!” declared the umpire.
“Come on now! Get ahead, stay ahead, kid!” demanded my coach.
I checked the sign: fastball. That pitch was just not there; I shook my head no. My catcher gave me the next sign: curveball. Yes, the get-me-over-curve, my signature pitch. I stepped back to begin my windup.
“Steeeeeriiike! One and one,” the umpire grunted.
“That’s the way, Duff! Just like that!” my coach exclaimed.
My catcher fired that ball back to me. I toed the rubber and focused on his signs: he flashed two fingers and motioned to the right—curveball, outside. I nodded affirmatively. He and I were on the same page. I began my windup again, picked up the leg, and spun my big overhand curve to the plate.
“Two! One and two.” The batter stood motionless as he watched my back door hook clip the outer edge of the strike zone.
“One more now, Duff! Come on, kid!”
The pitch count, or the current amount of balls and strikes in a given at bat, is perhaps the most impactful construct of baseball. After every pitch, the umpire declares it to be a ball or strike, subsequently adding it to the count. If the batter reaches four balls, he earns a walk, or a free pass to first base; if he gets three strikes, the batter is out. The batter’s goal is to reach a base before three strikes. The pitcher does everything that he can to stop that.
As I got the ball back, I knew I was in the driver’s seat. The batter was at a tremendous disadvantage and would have to react to my pitches on two strikes rather than just being able to lock in on one. I leaned in for the sign: one finger, right, up—fastball, high and outside. I liked it. Even though it was not my best pitch that day, I understood that I could still use it effectively to keep batters off balance since I was ahead. I stepped back into the windup and let the pitch fly.
The batter flailed at the pitch. “Three!” shouted the umpire, raising his fist in the air to call him out. He was sitting on the big, slow curveball and not the fastball, but he could not be selective because he was down in the count. On to the next one.
“Atta kid! That’s what happens when you get ahead!”
Get ahead, stay ahead.
While my organized baseball playing days may be over, that fundamental is still strong. A picture of all-star pitcher Max Scherzer hurling a baseball towards the plate sits above my desk with that same motto in bolded letters: Get Ahead, Stay Ahead .
What does getting ahead provide? For one, it gives the peace of mind that comes with flexibility; there’s room to react in case something goes off course. In baseball, it gives the pitcher more room to work within the count because he has more options when the batter must play defensively. In short, he can do what he wants. One of the key differences between baseball and life, however, is that baseball has a simple, predetermined goal: score more runs than the other team! Life, on the other hand, allows for enormous flexibility in choosing a goal. Rather than be content with the usual four-year bachelor’s track, I pushed forward as hard as I could to graduate in three years. Many people are surprised when I tell them about my efforts to graduate early; they often wonder why I chose to accelerate my education. I usually explain that it saved me a significant amount of money while expanding my room for error. Most importantly, I tell them, by efficiently reorganizing my schedule, getting ahead actually gave me time to think.
The most successful people throughout history have all had an overarching goal, no matter how grand; with the time from getting ahead, I chose mine. Andrew Carnegie sought to provide affordable steel, Henry Ford wanted to create a universal automobile, and Elon Musk aims to put a city on Mars. After seeing their success, I think about how I can do the same. Simply put, I want to be a leader in sustainable real estate. More specifically, I want to make green living universal. Whenever I get the same surprised looks from this claim as when I tell someone that I am graduating early, I clarify that there are already some pioneers designing revolutionary apartments with trees planted on all of their floors, working to clean the air in polluted cities. Stefano Boeri, for example, has designed a thirty-six-floor building covered with trees on terraces jutting out from its sides, dubbed the “Tower of Cedars.” I want to take this premise further: my mission is to expand clean living to all, not just the elite who can afford it. The law is one of the most important tools that I will need to achieve this. The complexities of environmental and real estate law will be major challenges. Regardless, to lead the industry, I must get ahead. When I start my business, I will reflect on my experience in running the Trial Team as its president, the perspective on efficient business systems that I gained with American Hotel Register, and the tips that the CEO of Regency Multifamily shared with me for optimally running a large real estate firm, among many other things. But I will always be looking forward. While history shows that there are answers in the past, only the future knows them. Thankfully, controlling the present by getting ahead can make the future that much more certain.
I stepped back into the windup, again. As I drove off the rubber towards the plate, I extended out as far as I could to get as much control and power as possible. The big hook landed firmly over the outer third of the plate, right into my catcher’s mitt with a solid phwump .
“Atta kid!” My coach was elated to see my pitch command this inning.
Are you inspired to get ahead? Don’t you just feel a sudden urge to admit me into your program? Well thankfully, it made an impression on someone. I did my best to show my ambitions while showing a bit of my personality. The greatest risk that I took was that some of the baseball jargon may have been hard to understand for someone unfamiliar with the sport, but I made sure that it would not detract from the overall meaning of the piece. It served as a useful supplement to the rest of my application.
As of 2018, I am enrolled at Chicago-Kent College of Law with a full tuition scholarship. While it is no Ivy program, it is a respectable school with a strong regional reputation. The great thing about having the financial burden of law school off my shoulders is that I can now focus on getting the most out of my studies, rather than stress to figure out how I am going to pay off the debt that would have financed my education. And if it turns out that the program is not the best option for me, I can walk away with no financial strings attached.
The personal statement should only drive your application forward. If it is holding it back in any way, it is not ready. Keep it professional but do be creative and show the reader more of your personality than a resume alone would give. You are selling them your brand as a student, so do not let them gloss over your application without much of a thought.
Jack graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in May 2018 with a degree in Economics and History, and he currently works in property management while attending Chicago-Kent College of Law on a part-time basis. He hopes to use his law degree to enhance his career in commercial real estate and eventually lead sustainable large-scale real estate developments nationwide.
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Statutes on Westlaw - Bonus Entries
Need some inspiration check out the statutes below., key numbers on westlaw - bonus entries, need some inspiration check out these key numbers by using the digest searches below., searching on westlaw - bonus entries, need some search inspiration for your entries check out the sample searches below.
Because neurodivergent people often need visual prompts or sensory tools, it is helpful to figure out what works best for you. Maybe you need a quiet fidget to use under your desk in class to help you focus. Maybe you need to incorporate the use of timers throughout your day. If you struggle with time blindness, you can use hourglasses to help you visualize time. Perhaps you struggle with extraneous sounds and need to use noise-cancelling headphones. More and more tools and gadgets are being made for neurodiverse individuals that can help you throughout law school.
Society can dictate when you are supposed to be most productive. See the traditional 9-5 work schedule. However, that model does not always work best for neurodiverse individuals. Some people are not morning people, and that is fine. Figure out when you have the most energy during your day to be your most productive self.
Find one system to use for organization and don’t change it. Trying too many organizational systems can become overwhelming. If your phone calendar works best, use that. If you are a list person, write all the lists. If you are a planner person, find the coolest one to use throughout the school year.
It would be nice to think that you can remember every task or deadline, but let’s be honest, that’s probably not true. Write down every deadline, every task, meeting, assignment, important date, etc. in the organizational system that you use.
Just like you can only put so much gasoline in a car, most neurodiverse individuals only have so much room in their focus tank. Figure out how long you can truly focus and apply yourself to a task before you need a break. That amount of time is typically shorter for neurodiverse individuals. If you can only truly focus for 20 minutes, study for 20 minutes, take a break, and then come back for another 20 minutes.
You may have started law school with your mind full of horror stories. Throw them out the window. Most of the people you attend law school with are genuinely kind and helpful people. Try to find a group or a couple of people that you can trust and lean on when necessary. Your law school friends can help you stay on task, body double, and even provide notes on the days you may be struggling. These friends can be one of your greatest assets throughout your law school journey.
Only discuss your neurodivergence with your professors to the extent that you are comfortable. If there are things you are concerned about related to your neurodivergence, it can be beneficial to make your professors aware at the beginning of the semester. Whether you are worried about cold calling or need a topic broken down, most professors love opportunities to discuss their area of law! They can’t know that you may need help if you don’t let them know. This is especially important if you aren’t successful in getting accommodations from your school’s Disability Services.
As a neurodivergent student, you may not fit the traditional mold of all the things a law student is “supposed to do” in order to be successful. You have been in school for years, and now is the time to trust yourself and not be afraid to be an “outside of the box” law student. There is no harm in trying new study methods, but never fear going back to your personal basics. If you need help figuring those out, see if your law school has a learning center or faculty member that can assist you.
Outlining with jury instructions.
- On your Westlaw Precision home screen, click on Secondary Sources and then Jury Instructions .
- On the Jury Instructions page, use the Jurisdiction filter to select your desired jurisdiction.
- Search for your cause of action. (Ex. elements of libel in Federal Jury Practice & Instructions )
- Open your relevant jury instruction and don't forget to check the related notes.
- To see more instructions, check out the table of contents to your left or click on View Full TOC.
Citation in a Click
- Highlight the text you want to copy. Try it out with Miranda v. Arizona
- Select "Copy with Reference" from the pop-up box.
- Paste into your word document...and you're done!
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Black's Law Dictionary
Don't guess the meaning of a legal term. know it., by using black’s law dictionary, exclusively on westlaw , you’ll know the meanings of key terms that will help you understand your cases faster, be prepared for cold-calls and beef up your class notes. 1. access black's law dictionary on westlaw., 2. type your term into the dictionary term box. (ex. demurrer ) if your term contains multiple words, place the terms in quotes. (ex. "rule against perpetuities" ), 3. open up your desired term, copy it and paste it into your notes., looking for some inspiration here are a few legal terms to get you started contracts - collateral estoppel - consequential damages civil procedure - minimum contacts - in personam jurisdiction torts - negligence - invasion of privacy criminal law - mayhem - wobbler, where can i learn more about a firm so i can ask good questions in an interview, news is an excellent source for learning about a firm. you’ll see the clients and matters they represent along with the accolades they earned from their communities. 1. click on news under “specialty areas” on your westlaw edge home screen., 2. start by trying a plain language search for your firm. (ex. gibson dunn crutcher ), 3. to up your search game, consider running a terms & connectors search with an index field. (ex. gibson /2 dunn /s crutcher & in(law lawsuit legal) ), start writing your brief without starting from scratch, what is a brief, a brief is a summary of a case in your own words that includes the key facts, procedural history, issues addressed, along with the court's holdings. how can i find a case on westlaw, cases on westlaw contain a synopsis, a summary of the main facts, issues and holdings of a case, and headnotes, summaries of points of law organizes by topic. you can locate cases on westlaw in a variety of ways. find by citation: if you know your case's citation, just type one of the citations in the search box. (ex. 113 sct 2217 ), find by party name: if you know the names of your parties, just start typing them in the search box and select corresponding case from the drop-down menu. (ex. international shoe).
Note: If your case has common party names, you may need to enter more than one party.
Download your synopsis and headnotes: once you've pulled up your case, click on download under delivery options, select brief it under what to deliver and click on download..
The right search terms can make a difference. Here is an easy way to come up with smart search terms.
Rules, Codes & Restatements
Exporting tables of contents, exporting a table of contents is an easy way to get access to a list of rules, codes or restatements that you can reference on the fly and add to your outlines, as needed. locate your rules, codes or restatement: to export a toc (table of contents), you'll first want to locate your resource. restatement of torts restatement of contracts restatement of property federal rules of civil procedure ucc article 2 federal rules of evidence united states constitution, export your toc: click on download, select outline of current view under what to deliver and then click on download..
Strengthen Your Interview Discussions with News
- Search for a particular firm, attorney, or agency. (Ex. Kirkland and Ellis or Fourth Circuit )
- Or select a specific practice area (Ex. Mergers & Acquisitions )
American Law Reports
Your go-to secondary source, finding an a.l.r. (american law reports) article covering your topic is a great starting point for research. you'll get a quick summary of the legal issue you're researching and a table of cases, laws, and rules to see the law across all jurisdictions. you can also use annotations to find additional secondary sources, such as legal encyclopedias, treatises, and periodicals. no wonder they're nicknamed already done legal research see it in action: the legal discussion to compensate student athletes is heating up. check out this alr article to see how the legal picture for tomorrow’s student athletes comes together in one place., keycite graphical history, procedural history made easy, are you reading a case and not sure how you got there procedurally reversed, remanded or otherwise, we got you. just sign into westlaw and follow the steps below... 1. grab one of the citations you see in your case book and type it into the search box on westlaw . (ex. 480 u.s. 102), 2. click on your case in the drop-down menu., 3. click on the history tab to see your procedural history., keycite graphical history works best when you have a federal case and a complex issue. check out some additional examples from your classes below. contracts - koken v. black & veatch const., inc. - lamps plus, inc. v. varela civil procedure - national equipment rental v. szukhent - helicopteros nacionales de colombia, s.a. v. hall torts - palsgraf v. long island r. co. - kentucky fried chicken of cal., inc. v. superior court, law school resource center, flowcharts, overviews & more..
Step 1 - create a new class, step 3 - invite your students, step 2 - assign lessons.
About this event
Love Your Lawyer Day
All the rules you need for class in one place.
Understand the procedural history of your case..
Don't guess the meaning of a term. Know it.
Copy the Code Below
You'll use this code to make a copy of the sample course.
Click on Copy Another Class
Go to the Knowledge Center and click on the Copy Another Class button.
Enter Your Copy Code
Enter your copy code in the Enter Class Copy Code box and click the Validate button.
4. Set Your Options
Change your course title, set your course dates and set your copy option to Assignments Only.
5. Click Copy Course
Click on Copy Course and you're all set to share your course with students.
1. Copy the Code Below
2. click on copy another class, 3. enter your copy code, set your options, click copy course, determining whether a federal court has subject matter jurisdiction over a non-class action case..
If the case arises out of the U.S. Constitution, U.S. laws, rules or regulations, or a treaty signed by the U.S., and the federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction, then the case must be litigated in federal court.
If the case does not arise out of the U.S. Constitution, U.S. laws, rules or regulations, or a treaty signed by the U.S., and there is not complete diversity between the plaintiffs and defendants (a.k.a they are both from different states or one is a citizen of a foreign country), then the case must be litigated in state court.
Restatement of Contracts 2d
(1) A counter-offer is an offer made by an offeree to his offeror relating to the same matter as the original offer and proposing a substituted bargain differing from that proposed by the original offer.
(2) An offeree’s power of acceptance is terminated by his making of a counter-offer, unless the offeror has manifested a contrary intention or unless the counter-offer manifests a contrary intention of the offeree.
Restatement (second) of torts 282.
In the Restatement of this Subject, negligence is conduct which falls below the standard established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm. It does not include conduct recklessly disregardful of an interest of others.
Black’s Law Dictionary (10th ed.2014)
Demurrer: A means of objecting to the sufficiency in law of a pleading by admitting the actual allegations made by disputing that they frame an adequate claim. Demurrer is commonly known as a motion to dismiss.
(2) An offeree’s power of acceptance is terminated by his making a counter-off, unless the offeror has manifested a contrary intention or unless the counter-offer manifests a contrary intention of the offeree.
What is common law and is it written by the courts of law?
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Restatement (second) of torts § 282.
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How to write a law school personal statement + examples.
Former Head of Pre-Law Office, Northeastern University, & Admissions Officer, Brown University
Law school personal statements help show admissions committees why you’re an excellent candidate. Read on to learn how to write a personal statement for law school!
Writing a law school personal statement requires time, effort, and a lot of revision. Law school statement prompts and purposes can vary slightly depending on the school.
Their purpose could be to show your personality, describe your motivation for attending law school, explain why you want to go to a particular law school, or a mix of all three and more. This guide will help you perfect your writing with tips and law school personal statement examples.
The Best Law School Personal Statement Format
Unfortunately, there’s no universal format for a law school personal statement. Every law school has a preference (or lack thereof) on how your personal statement should be structured. We recommend always checking for personal statement directions for every school you want to apply to.
However, many law schools ask for similar elements when it comes to personal statement formats. These are some standard formatting elements to keep in mind if your school doesn’t provide specific instructions:
- Typically two pages or less in length
- Use a basic, readable font style and size (11-point is the smallest you should do, although some schools may request 12-point)
- Margins shouldn’t be less than 1 inch unless otherwise specified
- Indent new paragraphs
- Don’t return twice to begin a new paragraph
- Law schools typically ask for a header, typically including your full name, page number, LSAC number, and the words “Personal Statement” (although there can be variations to this)
How you format your header may be up to you; sometimes, law schools won't specify whether the header should be one line across the top or three lines.
This is how your header may look if you decide to keep it as one line. If you want a three-line header, it should look like this on the top-right of the page:
Remember, the best law school personal statement format is the one in application instructions. Ensure you follow all formatting requirements!
How to Title a Personal Statement (Law)
You may be tempted to give your law school statement a punchy title, just like you would for an academic essay. However, the general rule is that you shouldn’t give your law school personal statement a title.
The University of Washington states , “DON’T use quotes or give a title to your
statement.” Many other schools echo this advice. The bottom line is that although you're writing your story, your law school statement doesn't require a title. Don't add one unless the school requests it.
How to Start a Personal Statement for Law School
Acing the beginning of your law school personal statement is essential for your narrative’s success. The introduction is your chance to captivate the admissions committee and immerse them in your story. As such, you want your writing to be interesting enough to grab their attention without purposefully going for shock value.
So how do you write a law school personal statement introduction that will garner the attention it deserves? The simplest way to get the reader involved in your story is to start with a relevant anecdote that ties in with your narrative.
Consider the opening paragraph from Harvard Law graduate Cameron Clark’s law school personal statement :
“At the intersection of 21st and Speedway, I lay on the open road. My leg grazed the shoulder of a young woman lying on the ground next to me. Next to her, a man on his stomach slowed his breathing to appear as still as possible. A wide circle of onlookers formed around the dozens of us on the street. We were silent and motionless, but the black-and-white signs affirmed our existence through their decree: BLACK LIVES MATTER.”
The beginning lines of this personal statement immediately draw the reader in. Why was the writer lying on the road? Why were other people there with him, and why was a man trying to slow his breathing? We're automatically inspired to keep reading to find out more information.
That desire to keep reading is the hallmark of a masterful law school personal statement introduction. However, you don’t want to leave your reader hanging for too long. By the end of this introduction, we’re left with a partial understanding of what’s happening.
There are other ways to start a law school personal statement that doesn't drop the reader in the middle of the action. Some writers may begin their law personal statement in other ways:
- Referencing a distant memory, thought, feeling, or perspective
- Setting the scene for the opening anecdote before jumping in
- Providing more context on the time, place, or background
Many openings can blend some of these with detailed, vivid imagery. Here's a law school personal statement opening that worked at the UChicago Law :
“I fell in love for the first time when I was four. That was the year my mother signed me up for piano lessons. I can still remember touching those bright, ivory keys with reverence, feeling happy and excited that soon I would be playing those tinkling, familiar melodies (which my mother played every day on our boombox) myself.”
This opening blends referencing a distant memory and feeling mixed with vivid imagery that paints a picture in the reader's head. Keep in mind that different openers can work better than others, depending on the law school prompt.
To recap, consider these elements as you write your law school personal statement’s introduction:
- Aim for an attention-grabbing hook
- Don’t purposefully aim for shock value: it can sometimes seem unauthentic
- Use adjectives and imagery to paint a scene for your reader
- Identify which opening method works best for the law school prompt and your story
- Don’t leave the reader hanging for too long to find out what your narrative is about
- Be concise
Writing a law school personal statement introduction can be difficult, but these examples and tips can get your writing the attention it deserves.
How to Write a Law School Personal Statement
Now that you’re equipped with great advice and tips to start your law school statement, it’s time to tackle the body of your essay. These tips will show you how to write a personal statement for law school to captivate the admissions committee.
Understand the Prompt
While many law schools have similar personal statement prompts, you should carefully examine what's being asked of you before diving in. Consider these top law school personal statement prompts to see what we mean:
- Yale Law School : “The personal statement should help us learn about the personal, professional, and/or academic qualities an applicant would bring to the Law School community. Applicants often submit the personal statement they have prepared for other law school applications.”
- University of Chicago Law : “Our application does not provide a specific topic or question for the personal statement because you are the best judge of what you should write. Write about something personal, relevant, and completely individual to you.”
- NYU Law : “Because people and their interests vary, we leave the content and length of your statement to your discretion. You may wish to complete or clarify your responses to items on the application form, bring to our attention additional information you feel should be considered, describe important or unusual aspects of yourself not otherwise apparent in your application, or tell us what led you to apply to NYU School of Law.”
Like all law personal statements, these three prompts are pretty open-ended. However, your Yale personal statement should focus on how you’d contribute to a law school community through professional and academic experience and qualities.
For UChicago Law, you don’t even need to write about a law-related topic if you don’t want to. However, when it comes to a school like NYU Law , you probably want to mix your qualities, experiences, and what led you to apply.
Differing prompts are the reason you’ll need to create multiple copies of your personal statement!
Follow Formatting Directions
Pay extra attention to each school's formatting directions. While we've discussed basic guidelines for law school personal statement formats, it's essential to check if there is anything different you need to do.
While working on your rough drafts, copy and paste the prompt and directions at the top of the page, so you don't forget.
Brainstorm Narratives/Anecdotes Based on the Prompt
You may have more wiggle room with some prompts than others regarding content. However, asking yourself these questions can generally help you direct your personal statement for any law school:
- What major personal challenges or recent hardships have you faced?
- What was one transformative event that impacted your life’s course or perspective?
- What are your hobbies or special interests?
- What achievements are you most proud of that aren’t stated in your application?
- What experience or event changed your values or way of thinking?
- What’s something you’re passionate about that you got involved in? What was the result of your passion?
- How did your distinct upbringing, background, or culture put you on the path to law school?
- What personal or professional experiences show who you are?
Keep in mind that this isn't an exhaustive list. Consider your personal and professional experiences that have brought you to this point, and determine which answers would make the most compelling story.
Pettit College of Law recommends you "go through your transcripts, application, and resume. Are there any gaps or missing details that your personal statement could cover?” If you've listed something on your resume that isn't further discussed, it could make a potential personal statement topic.
Do More Than Recount: Reflect
Recounting an event in a summarized way is only one piece of your law school personal statement. Even if you’re telling an outlandish or objectively interesting story, stopping there doesn’t show admissions committees what they need to know to judge your candidacy.
The University of Washington suggests that “describing the event should only be about 1/3 of your essay. The rest should be a reflection on how it changed you and how it shaped the person you are today. ” Don’t get stuck in the tangible details of your anecdote; show what the experience meant to you.
Beth O'Neil , Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at UC Berkeley School of Law, said, " Applicants also tend to state and not evaluate. They give a recitation of their experience but no evaluation of what effect that particular experience had on them, no assessment of what certain experiences or honors meant."
Consider What Qualities You Want to Show
No matter what direction you want to take your law school personal statement, you should consider which qualities your narrative puts on display. Weaving your good character into your essay can be difficult. Outwardly claiming, "I'm a great leader!" doesn't add much value.
However, telling a story about a time you rose to the occasion to lead a group successfully toward a common goal shows strong leadership. "Show, don't tell" may be an overused statement, but it's a popular sentiment for a reason.
Of course, leadership ability isn't the only quality admissions committees seek. Consider the qualities you possess and those you'd expect to find in a great lawyer, and check to see the overlap. Some qualities you could show include:
Evaluate the anecdotes you chose after your brainstorming session and see if any of these qualities or others align with your narrative.
Keep Your Writing Concise
Learning how to write a personal statement for law school means understanding how to write for concision. Most prompts won't have a word limit but ask you to cap your story at two pages, double-spaced. Unfortunately, that's not a lot of space to work with.
Although your writing should be compelling and vibrant, do your best to avoid flowery language and long, complicated sentences where they’re not needed. Writing for concision means eliminating unnecessary words, cutting down sentences, and getting the point quickly.
Georgetown University’s take on law school personal statements is to “Keep it simple and brief. Big words do not denote big minds, just big egos.” A straightforward narrative means your reader is much less likely to be confused or get lost in your story (in the wrong way).
Decide the Depth and Scope of Your Statement
Since you only have two (or even three) pages to get your point across, you must consider the depth and scope of your narrative. While you don’t want to provide too little information, remember that you don’t have the room to summarize your entire life story (and you don’t have to do that anyway).
UChicago Law’s advice is to “Use your discretion - we know you have to make a choice and have limited space. Attempting to cover too much material can result in an unfocused and scattered personal statement.” Keep the depth and scope of your narrative manageable.
Ensure It’s Personal Enough
UChicago Law states, "If someone else could write your personal statement, it probably is not personal enough." This doesn't mean that you must pick the most grandiose, shocking narrative to make an impact or that you can't write about something many others have probably experienced.
Getting personal means only you can write that statement; other people may be able to relate to an experience, but your reflection, thoughts, feelings, and reactions are your own. UChicago Law sees applicants fall into this pitfall by writing about a social issue or area of law, so tread these topics carefully.
Mix the Past and Present, Present and Future, Or All Three
Harvard Law School’s Associate Director Nefyn Meissner said your personal statement should “tell us something about who you are, where you’ve been, and where you want to go.”
Echoing this, Jon Perdue , Yale Law School's Director of Recruiting and Diversity Initiatives, states that the three most common approaches to the Yale Law School personal statement are focusing on:
- The past : discussing your identity and background
- The present : focusing on your current work, activities, and interests
- The future : the type of law you want to pursue and your ideal career path
Perdue said that truly stellar personal statements have a sense of “movement” and touch on all or two of these topics.
What does this mean for you? While writing your law school personal statement, don’t be afraid to touch on your past, present, and future. However, remember not to take on too much content!
Keep the Focus On You
This is a common pitfall that students fall into while writing a law school personal statement. UChicago Law cites that this is a common mistake applicants make when they write at length about:
- A family member who inspired them or their family history
- Stories about others
- Social or legal issues
Even if someone like your grandmother had a profound impact on your decision to pursue law, remember that you’re the star of the show. Meissner said , “Should you talk about your grandmother? Only if doing so helps make the case for us to admit you. Otherwise, we might end up wanting to admit your grandmother.”
Don’t let historical figures, your family, or anyone else steal your spotlight.
Decide If You Need to Answer: Why Law?
Writing about why you want to attend law school in general or a school in particular depends on the prompt. Some schools welcome the insight, while others (like Harvard Law) don't. Meissner said, “Should you mention you want to come to HLS? We already assume that if you’re applying.”
However, Perdue said your law school personal statement for Yale should answer three questions:
- Why law school?
Some schools may invite you to discuss your motivation to apply to law school or what particular elements of the school inspired you to apply.
Don’t List Qualifications or Rehash Your Resume
Your personal statement should flow like a story, with an identifiable beginning, middle, and end. Simply firing off your honors and awards, or summarizing the experiences on your resume, doesn’t tell the admissions committee anything new about you.
Your personal statement is your opportunity to show how your unique experiences shaped you, your qualities, and the person you are behind your LSAT scores and GPA. Think about how you can show who you are at your core.
Avoid Legalese, Jargon, And Sophisticated Terms
The best law school personal statements are written in straightforward English and don't use overly academic, technical, or literary words. UChicago Law recommends avoiding legalese or Latin terms since the "risk you are incorrectly using them is just too high."
Weaving together intricate sentence structures with words you pulled out of a thesaurus won’t make your personal statement a one-way ticket to acceptance. Be clear, straightforward, and to the point.
Don’t Put Famous Quotes In Your Writing
Beginning your law school personal statement with a quote is not only cliche but takes the focus off of you. It also eats up precious space you could fill with your voice.
Revise, Revise, Revise
Even the most talented writers never submit a perfect first draft. You'll need to do a lot of revisions before your personal statement is ready for submission. This is especially true because you'll write different versions for different law schools; these iterations must be edited to perfection.
Ensure you have enough time to make all the edits and improvements you need before you plan to submit your application. Although most law schools have rolling admissions, submitting a perfected application as soon as possible is always in your best interest.
Have an Admission Consultant Review Your Hard Work
Reviewing so many personal statements by yourself is a lot of work, and most writing can always benefit from a fresh perspective. Consider seeking a law school admissions consultant’s help to edit your personal statements to perfection and maximize your chances of acceptance at your dream school!
How to End Your Personal Statement for Law School
Law school personal statement conclusions are just as open-ended as your introductions. There are a few options for ending a personal statement depending on the prompt you’re writing for:
Some of these methods can overlap with each other. However, there are two more things you should always consider when you're ready to wrap up your story: the tone you're leaving on and how you can make your writing fit with your narrative's common thread.
You should never want to leave your reader on a low note, even if you wrote about something that isn’t necessarily happy. You should strive to end your personal statement with a tone that’s hopeful, happy, confident, or some other positive feeling.
Your last sentences should also give the impression of finality; your reader should understand that you’re wrapping up and not be left wondering where the rest of your statement is.
So, what's the common thread? This just means that your narrative sticks to the overarching theme or event you portrayed at the beginning of your writing. Bringing your writing full circle makes a more satisfying conclusion.
Personal Statement for Law School Conclusion Examples
Evaluating law school personal statement conclusions can help you see what direction authors decided to take with their writing. Let’s circle back to the sample personal statement openings for law school and examine their respective conclusions. The first example explains the applicant’s motivation to attend Harvard Law.
Sample Personal Statement for Law School Conclusion #1
“…Attorneys and legal scholars have paved the way for some of the greatest civil rights victories for women, people of color, LGBTQ individuals, and (people living with disabilities). At Harvard Law School, I will prepare to join their ranks by studying with the nation's leading legal scholars. For the past months, I have followed Harvard Law School student responses to the events in Ferguson and New York City. I am eager to join a law school community that shares my passion for using the law to achieve real progress for victims of discrimination. With an extensive history of advocacy for society's most marginalized groups, I believe Harvard Law School will thoroughly train me to support and empower communities in need.
Our act of civil disobedience that December day ended when the Tower’s bells rang out in two bars, hearkening half-past noon. As we stood up and gathered our belongings, we broke our silence to remind everyone of a most basic truth: Black lives matter.”
What Makes This Conclusion Effective
Although Harvard Law School states there's no need to explain why you want to apply, this law school statement is from an HLS graduate, and we can assume this was written before the advice changed.
In his conclusion, he relates and aligns his values with Harvard Law School and how joining the community will help him fulfill his mission to empower communities in need. The last paragraph circles back to the anecdote described in his introduction, neatly wrapping up the event and signaling a natural end to his story.
This author used these strategies: the motivation to attend a specific law school, stating his mission, and subtly reiterating what his acceptance would bring to the school. The next example conclusion worked at UChicago Law:
Sample Personal Statement for Law School Conclusion #2
“Songs can be rewritten and reinterpreted as situation permits, but missteps are obvious because the fundamental laws of music and harmony do not change.
Although my formal music education ended when I entered college, the lessons I have learned over the years have remained close and relevant to my life. I have acquired a lifestyle of discipline and internalized the drive for self-improvement. I have gained an appreciation for the complexities and the subtleties of interpretation. I understand the importance of having both a sound foundation and a dedication to constant study. I understand that to possess a passion and personal interest in something, to think for myself is just as important.”
What Made This Conclusion Effective
This law school personal statement was successful at UChicago Law. Although the writing has seemingly nothing to do with law or the author's capability to become a great lawyer, the author has effectively used the "show, don't tell" advice.
The last paragraph implements the focus on qualities or skills strategy. Although related to music, the qualities they describe that a formal music education taught her mesh with the qualities of a successful lawyer:
- A drive for self-improvement
- The ability to interpret information
- The ability to learn consistently
- The ability to think for herself
Overall, this essay does an excellent job of uncovering her personality and relating to the opening paragraph, where she describes how she fell in love with music.
2 Law School Personal Statement Examples From Admitted Students
These are two law school personal statement examples that worked. We'll review the excerpts below and describe what made them effective and if there's room for improvement.
Law School Personal Statement Example #1
This is an excerpt of a law personal statement that worked at UChicago Law :
“The turning point of my college football career came early in my third year. At the end of the second practice of the season, in ninety-five-degree heat, our head coach decided to condition the entire team. Sharp, excruciating pain shot down my legs as he summoned us repeatedly to the line to run wind sprints. I collapsed as I turned the corner on the final sprint. Muscle spasms spread throughout my body, and I briefly passed out. Severely dehydrated, I was rushed to the hospital and quickly given more than three liters of fluids intravenously. As I rested in a hospital recovery room, I realized my collapse on the field symbolized broader frustrations I felt playing college football.
I was mentally and physically defeated. In South Dakota, I was a dominant football player in high school, but at the Division I level, my talent was less conspicuous. In my first three years, I was convinced that obsessively training my body to run faster and be stronger would earn me a starting position. The conditioning drill that afternoon revealed the futility of my approach. I had thrust my energies into becoming a player I could never be. As a result, I lost confidence in my identity.
I considered other aspects of my life where my intellect, work ethic, and determination had produced positive results. I chose to study economics and English because processing abstract concepts and ideas in diverse disciplines were intuitively rewarding…Gathering data, reviewing previous literature, and ultimately offering my own contribution to economic knowledge was exhilarating. Indeed, undergraduate research affirmed my desire to attend law school, where I could more thoroughly satisfy my intellectual curiosity…My efforts generated high marks and praise from professors, but this success made my disappointment with football more pronounced.
The challenge of collegiate athletics felt insurmountable. However, I reminded myself that at the Division I level, I was able to compete with and against some of the best players in the country…After the hospital visit, my football position coach—sensing my mounting frustrations—offered some advice. Instead of devoting my energies almost exclusively to physical preparation, he said, I should approach college football with the same mental focus I brought to my academic studies. I began to devour scouting reports and to analyze the complex reasoning behind defensive philosophies and schemes. I studied film and discovered ways to anticipate plays from the offense and become a more effective player. Armed with renewed confidence, I finally earned a starting position in the beginning of my fourth year…
I had received the highest grade on the team. After three years of A’s in the classroom, I finally earned my first ‘A’ in football. I used mental preparation to maintain my competitive edge for the rest of the season. Through a combination of film study and will power, I led my team and conference in tackles…The most rewarding part of the season, though, was what I learned about myself in the process. When I finally stopped struggling to become the player I thought I needed to be, I developed self-awareness and confidence in the person I was.
The image of me writhing in pain on the practice field sometimes slips back into my thoughts as I decide where to apply to law school. College football taught me to recognize my weaknesses and look for ways to overcome them. I will enter law school a much stronger person and student because of my experiences on the football field and in the classroom. My decision where to attend law school mirrors my decision where to play college football. I want to study law at the University of Chicago Law School because it provides the best combination of professors, students, and resources in the country. In Division I college football, I succeeded when I took advantage of my opportunities. I hope the University of Chicago will give me an opportunity to succeed again.”
Why This Personal Statement Example Worked
The beginning of this personal statement includes vivid imagery and sets up a relevant anecdote for the reader; the writer’s injury while playing football. At the end of the introduction, he sets up a fantastic transition about his broader frustrations, compelling us to keep reading.
The essay's body shows the writer's vulnerability, making it even more personal; it can be challenging to talk about feelings, like losing your confidence, but it can help us relate to him.
The author sets up a transition to writing more about his academic ability, his eventual leadership role on the team, and developing the necessary qualities of a well-rounded lawyer: self-awareness and confidence.
Finally, the author rounds out his statement by circling back to his opening anecdote and showing the progress he’s made from there. He also describes why UChicago Law is the right school for him. To summarize, the author expertly handled:
- Opening with a descriptive anecdote that doesn’t leave the reader hanging for too long
- Being vulnerable in such a way that no one else could have written this statement
- Doing more than recounting an event but reflecting on it
- Although he introduced his coach's advice, he kept himself the focal point of the story
- He picked a focused event; the writer didn’t try to tackle too much content
- His conclusion references his introduction, signalling the natural end of the story
- The ending also reaffirms his passion for pursuing law, particularly at UChicago Law
Law School Personal Statement Example #2
This law school personal statement excerpt led to acceptance at Boston University Law.
“She sat opposite me at my desk to fill out a few forms. Fumbling her hands and laughing uncomfortably, it was obvious that she was nervous. Sandra was eighteen, and her knowledge of English was limited to “yes” and “hello.” While translating the initial meeting between Sandra and her attorney, I learned of her reasons for leaving El Salvador. She had been in an abusive relationship, and though she wasn’t ready to go into detail just yet, it was clear from the conversation that her boyfriend had terrorized her and that the El Salvadoran police were of no help…Eventually, Sandra was given a credible fear interview. The interviewer believed that she had a real fear of returning to El Salvador, and Sandra was released from detention with an Immigration Court hearing notice in her hand. She had just retained our office to present her asylum case to the Immigration Judge.
I tried to imagine myself in Sandra’s shoes. She hadn’t finished high school, was in a completely new environment, and had almost no understanding of how things worked in the US. Even the harsh New England winter must have seemed unnatural to her. Having lived abroad for a couple of years, I could relate on some level; however, the circumstances of my stay overseas were completely different. I went to Spain after graduating from college to work in an elementary school, improve my Spanish skills, and see a bit of the world…I had to ask hundreds of questions and usually make a few attempts before actually accomplishing my goal. Frustrating though it was, I didn’t have so much riding on each of these endeavors. If I didn’t have all the necessary paperwork to open a bank account one day, I could just try again the next day. Sandra won’t be afforded the same flexibility in her immigration process, where so much depends on the ability to abide by inflexible deadlines and procedures. Without someone to guide her through the process, ensuring that all requirements are met, and presenting her case as persuasively as possible, Sandra will have little chance of achieving legal status in the United States…
Before starting at my current position at Joyce & Associates, an immigration law firm in Boston, I had long considered a career in law. Growing up, I was engaged by family and school debates about public policy and government. In college, I found my constitutional law courses challenging and exciting. Nonetheless, it wasn’t until I began working with clients like Sandra that I became convinced that a career in law is the right choice for me. Playing my part as a legal assistant in various immigration cases, I have been able to witness how a career in immigration advocacy is both intellectually stimulating and personally fulfilling. I have seen the importance of well-articulated arguments and even creativity in arguing a client’s eligibility for an immigration benefit. I have learned that I excel in critical thinking and in examining detail, as I continually consider the consistency and possible implications of any documents that clients provide in support of their application. But most importantly, I have realized how deserving many of these immigrants are. Many of the clients I work with are among the most hardworking and patriotic people I have encountered…
I am equally confident that I would thrive as a student at Boston University, where I would be sure to take full advantage of the many opportunities available. The school’s Asylum and Human Rights Clinic and Immigration Detention Clinic would offer me invaluable experiences in various immigration settings…Given my experiences in an immigration firm, I know that I would have much to offer while participating in these programs, but even more to learn. And while I find BU’s immigration programs to be especially appealing, I am equally drawn to the Boston University experience as a whole…I hope to have the opportunity to face those challenges and to contribute my own experiences and drive to the Boston University community.”
This statement makes excellent use of opening with an experience that sets the writer's motivation to attend law school in motion. We're introduced to another person in the story in the introduction, before the author swivels and transitions to how she'd imagine herself in Sandra's shoes.
This transition shows empathy, and although the author could relate to her client's struggles on a more superficial level, she understood the gravity of her situation and the hardships that awaited her.
The author backpedals to show how she's cultivated an interest in law in college and explored this interest to know it's the right choice for her. The conclusion does an excellent job of referencing exactly how BU Law will help her achieve her mission. To recap, this personal statement was effective because:
- She started her personal statement with a story
- Although the writer focuses on an event with another person, she moves the focus back to her
- The author’s statement shows qualities like empathy, compassion, and critical thinking without explicitly stating it
- She connects her experiences to her motivation to attend law school
- This statement has movement: it references the author’s past, present, and future
- She ends her statement by explaining in detail why BU Law is the right school for her
Although this personal statement worked, circling back to the opening anecdote in the conclusion, even with a brief sentence, would have made the conclusion more impactful and fortified the common thread of her narrative.
How to Write Personal Statement For Law School: FAQs
Do you still have questions about how to write a personal statement for law school? Read on to learn more.
1. What Makes a Good Personal Statement for Law School?
Generally, an excellent personal statement tells a relevant story, showcases your best qualities, is personal, and creatively answers the prompt. Depending on the prompt, a good personal statement may describe your motivation to attend law school or why a school, in particular, is perfect for you.
2. Should I Write a Separate Personal Statement for Each School?
Depending on the prompts, you may be able to submit the same or similar law school personal statements to different schools. However, you’ll likely need more than one version of your statement to apply to different schools. Generally, students will write a few versions of their statements to meet personal statement instructions.
3. How Long Should My Law School Personal Statement Be?
Law school personal statement length requirements vary by school, but you can generally expect to write approximately two pages, double-spaced.
4. What Should You Not Put In a Law School Personal Statement?
Your law school personal statement shouldn’t include famous quotes, overly sophisticated language, statements that may offend others, and unhelpful or inappropriate information about yourself.
5. What Do I Write My Law School Personal Statement About?
The answer depends on the prompt you need to answer. Consider your experiences and decide which are impactful, uncover your personality, show your motivation to attend law school, or show your impressive character traits.
6. Does the Personal Statement Really Matter for Law School?
Top LSAT scores and high GPAs may not be enough, especially at the T-14 law schools. Due to the high level of competition, you should take advantage of your personal statement to show why you’re an excellent candidate. So yes, they do matter.
Writing A Law School Personal Statement is Easy With Juris
Writing a personal statement can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be. Juris Education is committed to helping you learn how to write a law school personal statement with ease. We help future law school students develop their narratives, evaluate writing to ensure it’s in line with what law schools expect, and edit statements to perfection.
A stellar law school personal statement helps you stand out and can help you take that last step to attending the law school of your dreams.
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How to Write a Great Law School Personal Statement
Are you ready to tackle your law school personal statement? Clear and concise writing is a vital skill for law students, but writing about yourself can be daunting. It's hard to winnow your life experiences down to a couple of pages or find one topic to focus on.
Yet, your personal statement is a critical part of the application process . When combined with your resume, application, and LSAT score, it forms a complete picture of who you are and why you're a perfect fit.
With these steps, you'll overcome obstacles while developing prose that supports a favorable application decision.
Does a personal statement matter for law school?
Yes, your personal statement for law school is vital. It provides insights that aren't apparent on your transcripts. Engaging prose helps you stand out in a competitive space resulting in acceptance at your most-desired schools.
For the 2020-2021 academic year, the number of applicants to law schools rose by 1.6%, with 63,206 applicants submitting 381,698 applications, according to the Law School Admission Council . You're competing with students who may have similar LSAT scores , grade point averages, and professional experience. When facing identical transcripts from hardworking students, often the only differentiator is the personal statement.
After all, admissions officers want to know the person behind the hard data. That's where your law school personal statement comes into play. With a standout essay, you capture admissions officers' attention and an amazing narrative sticks in their heads. Your story should emphasize valuable traits, such as:
How do you write a good law school personal statement?
Writing a great law school personal statement doesn't come without hard work. Although you've written plenty of essays during your college experience, a strong narrative requires genuine reflection. You need to dig deep to uncover an aspect of your life that led to a significant change or put you on your current path.
Of course, intelligent prose doesn't always come out in the first draft. So prepare to spend a good chunk of time building your narrative and adjusting your statement for flow. Starting is often the hardest part of writing. Fortunately, you can follow these steps to nail your law school personal statement.
Review law school personal statement requirements
Begin by scouring the application packet materials and college websites. Look for key information about the length and page format of your personal statement. The guidelines should answer important questions like:
- How long should your personal statement be for law school?
- What is the maximum word count for a personal statement?
- How do you format a personal statement?
Next, write down any required prompts to answer in your essay. For instance, some schools may ask why you're applying or why you want a JD degree. Organize program details using a spreadsheet or project management software like Trello. Create a card or row for each program, then list important facts about its mission, goals, and community.
Also, check to see if any programs offer law school personal statement examples. Read through samples to get an idea of what admissions officers expect. Lastly, some colleges accept other types of statements as well, such as a diversity statement or an addendum. For best results, complete all options.
Diversity statement for law school
A diversity statement defines what makes you different. It sounds or looks similar to your law school personal statement. But, it differs because you don't need to tie up your narrative into a neat package that ends with an epiphany. Instead, it may cover an experience that explains your values or desire to work towards inclusivity.
Law school application addendum
An addendum is a way to overcome lower scores, a gap in education, or other concerns where you fall short in your official papers and transcripts. Addendums are short, concise, and honest. Explain your reason and demonstrate that you've met and overcome your challenge.
Brainstorm potential personal statement topics
Some people prefer to jump right into writing. However, your life story is pretty lengthy, so it's essential to narrow down your subject matter. Focus your attention by reflecting on your life and coming up with some topics to write about. Consider ideas like:
- Personal challenges, hardships, or completed goals
- A turning point in your life
- Unique hobbies or personal interests
- Special achievements or awards, not listed in-depth on your initial application
- A situation or environment that changed you or your values
- A project that got results and you're passionate about
- Your upbringing, culture, education, or a personal or professional experience
While brainstorming, go through your transcripts, application, and resume. Are there any gaps or missing details that your personal statement could cover? Perhaps you listed volunteer work with a local animal shelter on your application. Could you delve into this topic further? Aim to share a unique story where your personal growth is the main focus.
Explore your subject for clarity and insights
Sure, your chosen topic may be fresh on your mind. However, your personal statement for law school is more than describing an event. You need to show admission officers how this experience shaped you. It's vital to dig into how it impacted your values, traits, and feelings.
Many students report spending hours or days considering their topic, digging through memories, and compiling their subject matter. If you have access to photos, documents, or other things that'll jog your mind, then now is the time to pull them out. Sometimes even listening to your favorite songs can help you remember the moment.
Uncover a unique angle
Mark Twain once said that no story ideas are original. That holds true for personal statements as well. Plenty of law school applicants face difficult decisions, adversity, or enlightening experiences. Your essay isn't a retelling of an event. It focuses on your feelings and growth. And the story of you is unique, as no one shares your exact emotions or reactions.
Your goal is to explore an angle that sets your story apart from others. Overcome obstacles by taking a break during brainstorming. Come back to your topic with fresh eyes and hammer out your main idea.
Sum up your idea and start writing
Now you're looking at your topic, an angle, and you've pulled up those old memories. Do your best to sum it up and conclude it with a few sentences. This is your main point, and what every paragraph should lead the reader back to. Use these sentences as a reference point while writing.
Some students prefer to create a general outline before writing. Others produce a few key sentences and start typing. All personal statements for law school use a narrative arc with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Include:
- A captivating introduction that draws the reader into your life
- Body paragraphs that naturally flow towards a conclusion
- A decisive conclusion that delivers a lasting impression
During the rough draft, forget about length, grammar, or other specifics. Instead, just write. Get everything out on the pages. You'll have plenty of time later to refine, clarify, and structure your personal law school statement. Once you're done, read it over, make a few edits, and walk away.
Turn a draft into your personal law school statement
With a rough draft in hand, assess every word to ensure your story meets your objectives. Your goal is to recreate the moment and invite the reader into your account. Mold your rough draft into a final piece by focusing on a coherent structure.
Flow. A logical progression of ideas, with a clear arc, is essential. Your reader should glide through your personal statement naturally.
Length. Eliminate wordy phrases, overly difficult words, and descriptions that don't support your conclusion.
Personalization. Pay attention to subtle differences in law schools, from their communities to purpose. If you can genuinely work this into your personal statement, then do so.
Character decisions. It's okay to include other characters in your personal statement, but ultimately you want to return the focus to yourself.
Revise and edit several times
Few applicants write a stellar personal statement the first time. Get the best results by putting your draft through a comprehensive editing and revision process. This goes beyond using your word processing spell checker. Invest in human and technical tools to ensure the best results. Take steps such as:
- Double-check that your essay meets formatting and length requirements.
- Make sure you've answered any writing prompts.
- Personalize your statement to the specific school and program.
- Use a tool like Grammarly or ProWritingAid to correct grammar and style issues.
- Run your document through the Hemingway App to catch hard-to-read sentences and more.
Lastly, it’s essential to get help editing your personal statement. Fresh eyes and unbiased opinions allow you to refine your narrative. Obtain assistance from law school forums, writing centers, and social media communities. Or, ask fellow students or mentors to review your essay.
Create an impressive law school personal statement
Make your application packet stand out with a genuine and captivating personal statement for law school. Although writing your essay may seem like a challenging task, once you break it down into steps, it'll be easier to develop a cohesive statement that's sure to win admission officers’ attention.
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2 Law School Personal Statements That Succeeded
These examples of law school essays were critical components of successful law school applications.
Sincerity is an essential ingredient of a compelling law school admissions essay, one J.D. admissions expert says. (Getty Images)
Deciding what to say in the law school personal statement is the most challenging part of the admissions process for some applicants.
"Even people who are good writers often have a hard time writing about themselves," says Jessica Pishko, a former admissions consultant and writing tutor at Accepted, a Los Angeles-based admissions consulting firm. "That is perfectly normal."
Pishko, who coached law school applicants on how to overcome writer's block, says, "If you can find the thing that you really care about, that is who you are, and talking about that is a great way to write about yourself."
Why Law Schools Ask for Personal Statements
Personal statements can offer J.D. admissions committees "a narrative" about the applicant, which is important because it is rare for law schools to conduct admissions interviews, says Christine Carr, a law school admissions consultant with Accepted who previously was an associate director of admissions at Boston University School of Law .
The statement can help explain an applicant's reasons for wanting to attend law school , Carr adds.
"It can then add 'color' to a one-dimensional process," Carr wrote in an email. "The personal statement also allows the applicant to showcase writing ability. Law school and the legal profession require a clear and concise writing style that can be displayed by the applicant in the personal statement."
Personal statements often help admissions committees make difficult decisions, Carr says. "Given a relatively robust applicant pool, institutions often have more 'numerically' qualified applicants – LSAT and GPA – than they can admit," she explains.
Qualitative admissions factors, including not only personal statements but also resumes and recommendation letters , help to humanize applicants and "allow committees to build a community of law students not solely based on the quantifiable measures of test scores and transcripts," Carr says.
"Law schools are looking to fill classrooms with engaging and qualified students. The personal statement can provide insight into an applicant's personality and potential as a member of the school's community," she says.
What a Great Personal Statement Accomplishes
Excellent law school personal statements convey the essence of who an applicant is, experts say.
"The personal statement is the quickest way to get an overview, not only of the applicant's professional life and background, but in terms of what they emphasize, a clear indication of what the applicant themself, values," Jillian Ivy, CEO and founder of IvyCollegeEssay.com, a company that provides guidance on admissions essays, wrote in an email.
The statement "also gives admissions a snapshot of how well each applicant writes, if they understand how to brand or market their best traits, and thereby demonstrate that they know where their own strengths lie," Ivy adds.
A strong personal statement will articulate an applicant's vision for his or her future, including an explanation of short-term and long-term goals, and it will delineate how a J.D. degree will help an applicant get to where he or she wants to go, Ivy says.
"The more competitive the law school, the more admissions wants to see a level of understanding, drive and ambition within the personal statement," she explains, adding that applicants should clarify why they want to attend a particular law school and how that school can assist them on their career journey. "The schools want to see that the applicant has taken the time to understand what their particular program offers, and what makes it different."
How to Structure a Law School Personal Statement
The beginning of a solid law school personal statement ought to be intriguing, experts say.
"The statement should begin with a strong intro sentence, that summarizes the applicant's goal or tone," Ivy says. "For example, 'I have always been interested in international finance.' From there, the applicant would go on to describe 'why' they are interested in this area of financial law, and what in their unique background and experience has led them to pursue this path."
A personal statement provides context for the experiences that have prepared the applicant for law school and led him or her to pursue a legal career, experts say. It's also ideal to have a thoughtful ending "that ties the statement up," Ivy says.
An important point to address in a law school personal statement is what "sparked" the applicant's interest in law, Ivy says. She adds that law school admissions readers are aware that J.D. hopefuls' career goals may change between the time they apply to law school and the day they graduate.
Nevertheless, it can still be useful for an applicant to provide an explanation of what particular area of law he or she wants to learn more about and what type of lawyer he or she would like to become, if that is something the applicant is clear about, Ivy says.
An effective personal statement will also explain an applicant's background and how it has shaped him or her, Ivy adds. "It's connecting the dots back to anything at all that can be relevant ... to your new interest and what you want to pursue professionally."
Applicants should tailor their personal statement to each law school where they submit an application, Ivy adds. " Harvard Law School is very different than Columbia Law School even though both of them are excellent schools," she explains. "So each has their own approach to learning and to learning about law in particular."
Law school admissions committees appreciate when applicants make it clear that they have done thorough research on the school and its J.D. program . This reassures admissions officers that an applicant will be a good fit and make a valuable contribution to his or her law school class, Ivy explains.
Experts advise that a law school personal statement should align with the content in the rest of the law school application . Ideally, the essay will emphasize a selling point that is conveyed elsewhere in the application, but not simply repeat information.
In order for a personal statement to be effective and stand out, experts say, it needs to be both representative of who the applicant is and distinctive from personal essays that others have written.
How to Start Writing a Law School Personal Statement
Carr notes that writing a law school personal statement can be intimidating because it isn't easy to convey the essence of decades of events "into two pages double-spaced." She says law school hopefuls are often unsure about which portions of their life would be most meaningful and interesting to an admissions committee.
"Some applicants have a tendency to throw the 'kitchen sink' at committees and write about everything," Carr explains. But that's a mistake, Carr says, adding that J.D. personal statements should be "clear and concise."
Carr suggests that J.D. applicants concentrate on answering the central question of a law school personal statement, "Why law school?" Once they have brainstormed answers to that question, they should focus on a specific aspect or theme that explains their rationale for pursuing a career as an attorney, Carr says.
Ivy suggests that law school hopefuls who are struggling to decide what to write about in their law school personal statement should make a bullet-point list of the various topics they could focus on alongside brief one-sentence descriptions of each topic. The process of recording ideas on a piece of paper can clarify which ideas are most promising, she says.
"The strong ones will rise to the surface," she says, adding that once an applicant has narrowed down his or her list of essay ideas to only a few, it can be valuable to solicit feedback from trusted individuals about which of the remaining essay concepts is the very best.
Law school admissions experts suggest that applicants recall the various pivotal moments in their lives that shaped their identity, and then consider whether there is any idea or thesis that ties these events together.
Focusing on a central concept can help ensure that a law school personal statement does not simply list accomplishments in the way that a resume or cover letter might, experts say. Plus, an idea-driven essay can give law school admissions officers insight into the way a J.D. applicant's mind works.
A personal statement should illustrate the positive attributes the applicant has that would make him or her successful as a law student and lawyer. Sometimes the best way for an applicant to show his or her character strengths is to recount a moment when he or she was challenged and overcame adversity, experts say.
Experts advise law school hopefuls to write multiple drafts of their personal statement to ensure that the final product is top-notch.
They also recommend that applicants solicit feedback from people who understand the law school admissions process well, such as law school admissions consultants, and from people who know them well, such as close friends or family members. Getting input from friends and family can help ensure that an applicant's essay authentically conveys their personality, experts say.
Once the statement is finalized, Carr advises, the applicant should thoroughly proofread it more than once.
Mistakes to Avoid in Law School Personal Statements
A scatterbrained or disorganized approach in a law school personal statement is a major no-no, experts warn.
Ivy suggests that J.D. hopefuls avoid "rambling," adding that top law schools want to identify individuals who demonstrate that they are highly focused, ambitious, driven and persistent. "If you can hit those four things in your essay, then that's going to stand out, because most people don't know how to do that," she says.
Because it's important for a law school personal statement to be coherent and streamlined – like the law school resume – it's prudent to use an outline to plan the essay, Ivy says. The most common mistake she sees in J.D. personal statements is the lack of logical flow.
"Instead of a linear line, they're cycling around, and they'll touch on something, and then they'll come back to it again three paragraphs later," she says, adding that an unstructured essay is "just messy" and will not make a positive impression during the law school admissions process.
Experts warn that law school personal statements should not be vague, melodramatic and repetitive. The essay should not merely describe a person that the applicant met or recount an event – it needs to convey the applicant's personality.
Plus, language should be specific and clear. Absolutes like "never" or "always" are typically not the best words to use, experts warn, and it's important to not overshare personal information.
In addition, J.D. hopefuls should understand that they have a lot to learn about the law since they have not gone to law school. They should recognize that the individuals reading their essays probably know a great deal about the law, so they should not write essays that lecture readers about legal issues, experts warn.
Grammatical and spelling errors can tarnish an otherwise good personal statement, so it's important to avoid those, according to experts. It's also essential to follow any formatting rules that a law school outlines for personal statements.
Additionally, though many law school hopefuls are tempted to begin their personal statement with a dramatic anecdote, they should resist because doing so will most likely make a negative impression, experts warn. An aspiring attorney does not need to have suffered a tragedy in order to write a compelling law school personal statement, and describing something bad that has happened does not automatically lead to an effective essay.
Furthermore, when a J.D. applicant submits a generic law school personal statement that could go to any school, he or she is missing an opportunity to explain why a particular school is a great fit, experts suggest. Another common mistake, they say, is when applicants use a positive adjective to describe themselves rather than sharing an anecdote that demonstrates that they have this good quality.
Additionally, when a law school hopeful includes storytelling in his or her essay, it's best to focus on a single specific anecdote, because speaking in generalities is neither interesting nor convincing, experts say.
An applicant who writes a contrived essay based purely on what he or she believes a law school wants may come across as phony, experts say. It's essential, they say, for a personal statement to articulate what special perspective a prospective student could bring to a law school class.
Law School Personal Statement Examples
Below are two law school admissions essays whose authors were accepted to their top-choice law schools. The first is written by Waukeshia Jackson, an intellectual property attorney who earned her J.D. from the Paul M. Herbert Law Center at Louisiana State University—Baton Rouge . The second essay is written by Cameron Dare Clark, a Harvard Law School graduate.
Pishko says these two personal statements demonstrate the necessity of sincerity in an admissions essay. "It has to be sincere, and it has to be you and what you want to write about and why you want to go to law school.”
Both essays are annotated with comments from the authors about how the essays were written as well as comments from Pishko about passages that resonated best and how the essays could be improved.
Searching for a law school? Get our complete rankings of Best Law Schools.
Getting Into Law School
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How to Write A Standout Law Personal Statement
A law personal statement is essential when applying to enrol on an LLB law course as an undergraduate or an LLM degree as a postgraduate. Get advice and tips on writing good law personal statements.
Our Guide to Law Personal Statements
- Find out the word count and the right structure
- See how universities use personal statements
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You’ll need to write a law personal statement if you’re applying for the LLB or other types of law degrees via UCAS . You will also have to write one if you’re applying to study law at postgraduate level.
What is a Law Personal Statement?
The personal statement is a piece of writing which you send off with your UCAS application to different universities . It’s capped at 4,000 characters (so will often end up running for about one side of A4), and serves as the best way to differentiate yourself from other applicants to the most competitive courses. In short, it’s the personal statement which is the truly ‘personal’ part of your application. This is your chance to grab the attention of the admissions team, who will often use the personal statement as the easiest way to pick between candidates with other similar metrics (e.g. predicted A Level grades which meet the entry requirements ). Other universities ( Oxbridge specifically ) place even more emphasis on your personal statement, using it as a way to decide who to invite to interview (and then as a source of discussion during interviews). Put simply, it’s an important part of your application.
For law specifically, a subject which is known to be both competitive and highly academic, the personal statement is even more crucial. The University of Law have a page outlining some law personal statement tips , but this article seeks to present our views on some of the most crucial elements of a successful personal statement for studying law at university – from what you should do to what you shouldn’t, structure, content and more, this article will get you well on your way.
How Universities Use Your UCAS Law Personal Statement
If a lot of students applying for law degree courses have achieved the basic entry requirements, university admissions teams use UCAS law personal statements to decide who is more suited to their learning programme. Some universities take this a step further with, for example, with the LNAT , which is taken into consideration alongside your personal statement.
Some law schools will read every personal statement and score them. They then use this score alongside your qualifications and grades to decide whether to offer you an interview. Other law universities don’t give as much consideration to personal statements and will only use them to decide between students who have borderline entry requirements.
Law schools may refer to your personal statement on results day if you don’t get the grades you need. A good personal statement could be the difference in securing a university place if you don’t get the grades you hoped for.
Planning Your Statement
Plan a clear structure.
First thing’s first, you’re going to need a clear structure. There are a few reasons for this. First, having a clearly planned out structure before you start writing will limit the amount of ‘waffle’ you could accidentally end up putting into your writing (more on that in our next point). Second, a clear structure allows your reader (those university admissions teams) to enjoy the personal statement more by increasing the smoothness of the reading experience associated with a well thought out body of text (remember, they’ll be reading hundreds, if not thousands, of these). Third, you’re applying to study law – the personal statement is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that you can produce well planned, structured writing (as is crucial for any humanities subject). The theme of the personal statement serving a dual purpose (presenting the content itself but also showcasing your writing abilities) will come up again throughout this article – it’s super important to bear in mind.
There is no one-size-fits-all structure that your personal statement should take, and you should allow yourself to be guided largely by the content you’re looking to present. It is a good idea, however, to feature a particularly catchy opening leading into an introductory section, a main body (structure however best suits the content) and at least a line or two of concluding material at the end.
Leading on from our last point, being concise is key. Not only does this allow you to demonstrate your clarity of writing (as all law students and aspiring lawyers need as a key skill ), but it also increases the amount of content (or explanation of that content) you’re able to pack into 4,000 characters. For example, have you written ‘on the other hand’? ‘Conversely’ is 2 words/7 characters shorter, and serves the exact same purpose. Also consider whether you’re repeating yourself. Conciseness is best achieved by proofreading.
Manage Your Tone
Throughout your personal statement, it’s best to take a relatively formal tone. Your content is the part that allows your personality and individualism to shine through. Also avoid humour – it’s simply too risky without knowing the preferences of the individual whose desk your personal statement will eventually land on.
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Writing Your Statement
Proofreading is essential for a personal statement, and you’ll likely go through many rounds of drafts. Having concise writing is key (see the point above), but even more important is the fact your personal statement needs to avoid any errors in spelling or grammar. These are easily correctible and may reflect badly on you as a student applying to an essay-based subject at university. It’s fine if you personally struggle with spelling or grammar – see our next point for a way to combat that.
Your personal statement, while being innately ‘personal’, is best improved by showing it to a range of people. Although there will naturally (and sadly) be a difference in the quality of assistance you will receive based on the quality of your sixth form/college, be proactive in seeking out the best people possible to read over it and give you feedback. Are there any teachers at your school who studied on the university course you now find yourself applying to? Can you find current students/alumni of that course on LinkedIn and ask if they’d be willing to spare a few minutes to glance over it for you? The more input you get (from people who have more experience than you on this topic), the more secure you’ll feel in defending why you’ve written what you have.
Capital Letter Checks
If you’ve successfully followed the tips above, you’re likely to have a personal statement with a great deal of specific references in it. There’s an easy way to roughly check this – visually scan down your personal statement and see how many capital letters there are. If you’ve got very few, it’s likely that you may have included a fair amount of ‘waffle’. If you can spot quite a few capital letters, that’s a sign that you’ve probably included the specifics – great job! Where ‘I’ve read many legal books’ might throw up a red flag, ‘I’ve read X and Y books’ means you’re on a great path.
Get to Know Your Course
Demonstrate your interest by improving your understanding
Perfecting Your Statement
Keep it personal.
Attempting to present a broad overview of your degree’s content (e.g. trying to do a broad sweep of UK legal history) is useless, impossible, and ultimately pretty boring to read. It also means you’ll end up with something that skims the surface of many things. Remember, this is a ‘personal’ statement. The best way to approach it is to drill down deep into one or two particular niches that interests you (again, rather than skimming the surface of a huge range of topics). This keeps your personal statement fresh and interesting to read for the admissions team. Have you developed an interest in a particular piece of legislation that’s just come out? You could spend a paragraph going into some detail here – and the contents of that paragraph are what comes next.
Show – Don’t Tell
This is one of the most important pieces of advice possible. Once you’ve found a particular area of interest to talk about in your personal statement, you need to back that up with specific, tangible examples. Some people will also advise that you try and keep this content relatively recent in order to demonstrate an engagement with world affairs. Although not compulsory, this can still be a useful avenue to explore. ‘I’m really interested in the new Online Safety Bill’ is generic, proves very little, and could apply to anyone. ‘My interest in the new Online Safety Bill led me to read X book and watch X documentary, after which I considered X issues’ is specific to you, demonstrates a tangible interest in these topics, and is simply far more interesting to read. This idea of constantly building on what came before allows you to demonstrate a thread running throughout your essay (helping your structure present itself as clear in the process). This is where you’ll often hear people say that your personal statement needs to ‘flow’.
The range of things that you could ‘show’ is vast – books related to your course are a great starting point. If you know one of your top choice universities employs a particularly prominent member of faculty, perhaps you’d be interested to have a look at their writing and include that too. Other such content could include documentaries, conferences, events, or work experience. Now your personal statement is looking far more personal.
Academic vs Extra-Curricular
Balancing the proportion of academic to extra-curricular content in your personal statement is not an easy task, especially when you’re likely to hear that certain top universities like Oxbridge heavily favour the former. Law is also an intensely academic subject. With that in mind, it’s only natural to place a heavy emphasis on the academic side. However, if you’ve got extra-curricular content which you feel you could successfully link to your degree course in some way (e.g. ‘For my swimming club, I researched current health and safety regulations to make sure we are compliant’ – ‘I am in a swimming club’, conversely, doesn’t hold much value), then do feel free to include that too.
In short, while writing law personal statements may appear a challenge, following our top tips will allow your application to excel. Be clear, be specific, be you.
Watch this video from Solent University Law School, Southampton, which is packed with great tips on how to write a strong personal statement for law.
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Law Personal Statement Examples
Our law personal statement examples for university, as well as our top rated personal statements , should inspire you to write your own unique statement for university, and help you understand how previous students have successfully gained a place to study for a law degree.
How to write a law personal statement.
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What is a law personal statement?
A law UCAS personal statement should detail why you are a great candidate for a law degree by drawing on all your skills, experience and strengths.
For many years, law has been a popular and competitive course, so it's important you make your personal statement the best it can be.
Attention to detail and the ability to form an argument are two of the most important skills required to become a good lawyer, as well as being able to support ideas with evidence.
Our law personal statement examples above will help you put together your own, unique statement, and our personal statement template and editing services can also provide further guidance.
University admissions tutors want to see you are a dedicated student that can bring value to their department, so spend as much time as possible writing the perfect statement!
How do I write a law personal statement?
A good law personal statement should include:
- career plans
- skills (e.g. analytical, problem solving, etc.) and
Make sure you provide examples of everything to back up what you are saying, and remember - don't tell lies, or use homour (this isn't the time or place).
Before submitting your UCAS form, give your law personal statement to friends, family and tutors for feedback and incorporate any amendments that you think will improve your statement further.
What should I include in my law personal statement?
- First of all, look at university websites (particularly those you are applying to) for any tips and advice they have on personal statements for their law degrees. Any information straight from the horse's mouth is always a bonus!
- Demonstrate your aptitude for the course you’ve chosen. For example, a criminal law personal statement might mention some work experience with the local police, while an international law personal statement might reference some extra reading you’ve done on international cases.
- Talk about your work experience - whether you have worked in a shop or cafe, or volunteered at a local community centre, make sure you include any relevant skills you learned during this time. For example, the laws on tipping staff, or how many hours you are allowed to work as a volunteer.
- The best law personal statements always show passion for the subject, and why pursuing law is so important to you.
For more help and advice on what to write in your law personal statement, please see:
- Personal Statement Editing Services
- Personal Statement Tips From A Teacher
- Analysis Of A Personal Statement
- The 15th January UCAS Deadline: 4 Ways To Avoid Missing It
- Personal Statement FAQs
- Personal Statement Timeline
- 10 Top Personal Statement Writing Tips
- What To Do If You Miss The 15th January UCAS Deadline.
How do I write a law personal statement introduction?
You should write about your initial interest in law, but make sure you explain where this interest came from, and isn't just a last-minute decision because you had to pick a subject to study.
An anecdote often works well here (if you have one) to help draw the reader in and act as a hook for your statement. For example, you might talk about an injustice you witnessed as a child, or how a family member's experience with the law made you want to learn more about it.
If you look through the law personal statement examples on our website, you'll see that this applicant about how a visit to their local Magistrate's court impacted their career choice:
"I first became interested in studying law after visiting my local Magistrates' Court in Melbourne, Australia. After witnessing the impact a lawyer could have on the outcome of a case and on a person's life I saw that a career in law offered a career in which my work made an impact in the world around me and a career in which I could directly see the consequences of my work."
Try not to start your personal statement with something mundane, such as a definition or explanation of law. Remember, you don’t need to prove you know what the subject is (or try to teach to the admissions tutor who already knows their stuff!). You need to demonstrate your passion and enthusiasm for it, which is the type of student the university will want on their course.
If you choose to explain why you want to study law, mention the skills or knowledge you’ll build, and how you hope to grow as a person. You can then mention any career plans or future ambitions you have as a concluding paragraph at the end.
How do I write a law personal statement conclusion?
As mentioned above, it's a good idea to talk about your future plans in the last few sentences of your law personal statement. However, this isn't a must, and if you prefer, you can round off your statement with your hobbies and extracurricular activities, and what you've gained from these. For example, this applicant chose to talk about sports they play and their part-time job, and how these activities have helped them to balance their studies with other commitments:
"Outside school, I have participated in badminton and swimming activities, and worked part time throughout my final school year. This has enabled me to learn to balance the requirements of study with extra-curricular activities, and develop valuable skills which will see me succeed in university and beyond."
Another applicant chose to talk about why they had decided to apply to study at a university in the UK:
"I chose to study in the UK, because in my opinion, it has the best universities in Europe. The United Kingdom has continuously developed its educational system for centuries, the result of this being important values, such as refinement and modernity.
It is the ideal place for a young and motivated student to study in order to have a shining career. It will surely give me the chance to trace a clear line between law and morality."
However you decide to conclude your statement, try to end it on a positive note that will leave a lasting impression on the admissions tutors.
You can read other conclusions that applicants have used in the past over at our law personal statement examples section.
What can I do with a law degree?
There are many career options available to those wanting to study law at university. These include:
- Chartered legal executive
- Legal secretary
- Patent attorney
For more information about careers with a law degree, please see Prospects and the Law Society .
What are the best UK universities for law?
Currently, the best universities in the UK for studying law are:
For more information on UK university rankings for law, please see The Complete University Guide and The Times Higher Education .
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Stanford Law Personal Statement Examples for
To apply to Stanford Law, one of the most competitive law schools in the US , you’ll need to leverage everything you’ve got, and looking at Stanford Law personal statement examples will help immensely in crafting one of the most noteworthy components of your application.
In this article, we will provide a quick overview of what goes into a personal statement, what the format should be for Stanford Law, and then provide some example statements for your perusal.
>> Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here . <<
Article Contents 10 min read
What to include in a personal statement.
Unlike with other admissions essays, in which you have law school admissions essay topics , the only topic in a law school personal statement is you. What you’re going to talk about is your story, how you came to be applying to law school, and what your aspirations and dreams are.
The objective of your personal statement is to introduce yourself to the admissions committee as a unique person. This is why you focus on your story – because anybody could have a similar law school resume or transcript to yours, but only you have your specific story.
Check out the top Harvard Law School personal statement examples in this video:
You can focus on two or three main points or events in your life, taking yourself from your first inkling of wanting to be in law, to your current condition of applying to law school, and along the way talking about accomplishments you’ve had and lessons you’ve learned. These might take the form of law school extracurriculars , jobs, courses, or other growth events in your life, but you should choose only the best – the ones that give the clearest, most impressive picture of who you are.
You want to include anything that will make you fit in with Stanford Law in particular. While you don’t need to specifically mention Stanford, you should look out for any way you can synchronize your values or ambitions with those of your chosen school.
You will be following a standard essay format. When thinking about how to write a college essay , you can’t go wrong if you focus on three main areas: the introduction, body, and conclusion.
- Remember how to start a college essay : with a “hook” sentence – the opening statement that grabs the reader’s attention. Use something that forces the reader to keep reading, even if they didn’t have to as part of their job.
- The rest of the introduction sets up the body of the essay. Your introduction should quickly establish what you’re going to talk about next.
- The body of the essay contains one or two main ideas – don’t go beyond this, you don’t have the space – and drives forward to the conclusion.
- The conclusion wraps up the essay. You might want to talk about your career goals and aspirations here.
The best way to approach formatting your story is chronological. Other structures might work, but a chronological story is easier to write and easier to follow as a reader.
We almost lost everything, and I spent a large part of my high school days not knowing if my parents would have a job tomorrow. They are entrepreneurs and small business owners, and everything seemed great until they hired an employee I’ll call “John,” who caused them no end of trouble. John put so much effort into not working that he could have been a millionaire if he put the same effort into jobs. At the end of his employment with my parents, John got injured on the job and locked our family into legal battles for almost two years.
My dad stayed up late at night, looking over the legal documents. He didn’t understand them but looking them over made him feel a lot better. I was a night owl, so I was often right there with him, and at first, he didn’t really talk to me. But, as the nights went on, he started to talk to me about the documents and what was happening with the case. I think it was his way of venting stress. But for myself, I was fascinated by the documents, and I started to read them closely.
I discovered something strange: what should have been opaque to me – all the legal jargon – didn’t seem terribly impenetrable. So, I started to look up the terms I didn’t know and make my way through the case. This improbable incident started me on my journey toward law school. The law was something I was developing a passionate interest in, that I enjoyed reading about, and that was affecting me and my family on a deeply personal level.
At some point – I don’t even know how – I managed to work up the courage to ask our lawyer if he would mind talking to me about his job and what went into it. He agreed, although I think at first, he thought I was only interested in what was going on with my family’s case. Soon, he understood that what I wanted to know was everything, and he suggested that I shadow him for a couple of days to see what a lawyer went through on a day-to-day basis. I accepted with enthusiasm.
He showed me the nitty-gritty of the daily life of a lawyer, thinking I would be frustrated by the paperwork and how slow the law moved. I wasn’t. I was fascinated from end to end. Once, while discussing case law, I offered several insights I had obtained while going through my parents’ files at home. While these insights were hardly novel and had certainly not been overlooked by our attorney, he was impressed by my acumen and told me so. He wrote me a wonderful letter of recommendation to study pre-law in college.
As I progress in my college journey, I continue to be a bit of an anomaly. While many of my peers seem to seek the heady thrills of courtroom law, I am content to sit at a desk and scrutinize documents for the optimal strategies, precedents, and data necessary to operate as a lawyer.
I had a cruel introduction to the law, but it ended in the best possible way. Not only did my parents win their case against their former employee, but I also found a vocation in life that fascinates me endlessly, and for which I have an aptitude. It is rare to receive such a fine gift as a job you are truly excited about, but I say without reservation that I cannot wait to study law and start practicing. Ultimately, I want to work in the corporate sector and handle the complex cases that come along with any employers and businesses. This is how I first came to love the study of law, and it’s what I’m most passionate about pursuing.
Want to learn how to get into law school with a low GPA? Check out this infographic:
Pacing back and forth during a brief recess, I wasn’t sure where I could go next. I was due back in the courtroom at any moment, and I couldn’t seem to stop sweating. Perspiration cut down my temple like condensation on a water glass. I felt like I was made of water when I should be made of stone. The jury were implacable, unreadable – a team of twelve poker players, or so it seemed. I heard the bell, mopped my brow, and strode out to my desk to meet the rest of the trial.
The cafetorium had been outfitted with a judge’s bench, and I can still remember my buddy Rod sitting up there, playing the role of the court. He had joked that he wished we were holding a mock trial based on England’s justice system because then he could wear a powdered wig.
I was taking part in an ongoing program with my school during which we staged mock trials to get to know the legal system better and learn various aspects of the law, particularly trial law, as well as how to study for and present cases. All of this was in partnership with several local law offices, which generously donated time and resources to our school so that we could get the best possible legal education.
Most of the mock trials were based on high-profile cases, but we also had more obscure or completely fabricated cases so that we could experience a trial with less knowledge and fewer biases or preconceptions concerning what would occur. In this particular case, the trial that I was getting so sweaty over, it was a fabricated case about a shooting incident, and I was acting as prosecutor.
Mr. Thompson was my advisor. He came from a law firm called Gould and Partners, and if you didn’t know him professionally, you’d think Mr. Thompson was nothing but easygoing and jovial. In court, he was an absolute pit bull. Mr. Thompson was generous with his time and with giving me access to his work. I had sat in court several times as a member of the public and watched him work. Gone was the joviality, replaced by tenacity, and although never angry or inappropriate, Mr. Thompson was always direct and powerful whenever he took the floor.
I tried to channel this energy into my own trial, and as I walked from the recess room – which was really just the cafetorium’s supply closet – I locked eyes with Mr. Thompson at our desk, who nodded. Then, I went into my closing arguments.
In the days preceding the mock trial, Mr. Thompson had looked over the case I had prepared. He grilled me, just as if I was on trial, and made sure I knew the case inside and out.
“If you’re nervous,” he told me, “Just think back to all this prep stuff – the boring stuff, for most people – and remember that it isn’t paperwork. It’s stonework. This is your foundation.”
I swear I could feel those stones beneath my feet as my shoes clicked on the linoleum. That foundation was solid, and my arguments were delivered without another bead of sweat trickling down my forehead. I knew the case backward and forward; I had learned from experience with these mock trials to prepare thoroughly. It felt good and right, and when the jury returned a guilty verdict, Mr. Thompson shook my hand.
“This feeling never goes away,” he said. “You’re made of stone now.”
I was getting snowed under between work, school, and family life. My father had recently had an invasive operation performed, and while he was recovering nicely, he was frequently on my mind during my studies. It made any additional responsibilities unfeasible for me that year.
I was taking a Victimology course, and we had been assigned group projects. Our presentation was going to be on victim statistics, both in terms of how to accurately gather data and how to read those data to best serve future victims and prevent crime. This was a huge subject, and I was at first quite grateful to have the benefit of a team to rely on. It became apparent to me, however, that I could not rely on all team members equally.
It always seems to be the case that there is one team member who just isn’t as effective in their role in the group as the others are. In this case, I had a classmate named Stacy who was habitually late to meetings and who didn’t understand the material. Working with Stacy became a large hurdle on my path to becoming a lawyer.
My journey into law started back in high school when I got involved with every kind of club that I could think of and found that I most loved our model UN, debate club, and classes on political science and civics. This led me to a series of conversations with our career counsellor, who helped me choose law as a good career path for my skillset and interests. Along the way, I have dealt with all manner of hang-ups and problems.
My first major hurdle was the sheer amount of knowledge there was on the subject, and it often felt like I would never get it all sorted out in my head. Of course, there are so many different kinds of law to go into as well, which meant that there was a tremendous amount of potential information to learn. Through these experiences, I was forced to develop better study habits and better time management skills. I’m glad I did, too, because thanks to better scheduling, I have more time to continue getting involved in all kinds of clubs and activities, like student government, which I have been in since starting my undergrad.
However, all those obstacles were nothing compared to Stacy. My main problem here was that all other obstacles were about the amount of work there was to be done. I could improve my own study habits myself. I could employ my organizational skills to narrow down my legal readings and get all the information I needed. I could even grapple with problems in student government or in the debate club because I was up against or working with people who were as passionate as I was. Although it was hard, we all wanted the same things.
However, Stacy needed a different motivator because she just wasn’t as dedicated as we were; she was contemplating switching majors and wasn’t sure she would need victimology. Once I found that out, I had a conversation with her. It was friendly, over cups of tea in the cafeteria after a team meeting. I told Stacy that I liked to stay organized, and if she wanted to, I might be able to help. I helped her work through logical possibilities, which amounted to two real choices: drop the course or give it everything she had to help us. She elected to stay the course, work harder, and help us out. She committed.
I learned something invaluable through working with Stacy. It was a strange obstacle to encounter: trying to accomplish something with someone who isn’t on my wavelength. My attempt at mediation – calm, friendly, but professional – was a new way to approach adversity for me. I hope to build on that approach going forward, as I think it will be very useful when I am trying to be part of or lead a team at a firm, or when I am in negotiations with other firms and their clients.
Stacy and I are still friends, my dad is fully recovered, and I’m on track to head into law school with the best experiences I could possibly have, showing that I have persistence as well – a much-needed quality of fine lawyers.
Stanford says that statements should be “about 2 pages” long. While you could go a little more than 2 pages, try not to fill 3 pages completely. In fact, in this case, less is more, and you should probably aim for a little less than 2 pages. This means that your personal statement will be, on average, 600–1,000 words.
Stanford doesn’t officially say, but most essays are written double-spaced, so you can assume double-spaced.
Yes. This isn’t a spelling test, but you won’t leave a good impression with bad syntax.
It’s not necessary, but you can. The statement is focused on you, personally, not Stanford, but it’s not off-limits.
Spend a good amount of time with it. A little time each day for 2–3 weeks is good, giving you time to write, re-write, edit, proofread, or use a law essay writing service to check your work.
Not formally, but every aspect of your application is part of the complete picture you give to Stanford, so take it as seriously as you would if it was graded. You may even wish to work with a law school advisor to ensure that this crucial component of your application is the best it can be.
Law school acceptance rates place Stanford as the second most difficult school to get into, at least in the US.
Not directly. You would need to contact Stanford and ask to make the correction.
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