Posted by Ann Levine | December 4, 2012
The best personal statements for law school are not overly dramatic tales of woe. They are clearly and concisely written, they are written in a conversational style that makes you likable and real and relatable, and they provide meaningful insight into your decisions and experiences and perhaps even your future goals.
In addition to the points below, please read these posts from applicants about how I helped them use their personal statement to reach their law school admission goals.
There are a lot of sample personal statements online, and – to be honest – I have problems with a lot of them.
The whole point of a law school personal statement is to write something unique to you, that best represents your experiences. You can’t get this from reading a book of essays that worked for specific people. You can’t change your life story to match theirs. You can’t change your voice or writing style to match theirs. So why do so many law school applicants search out sample essays? To help you decide what to write about and how to frame your essay. To know whether you are on the right path. To get ideas when you feel frustrated or lost.
Many of the law school personal statement examples you will find are organized by starting with a quote. I hate that. You have, in most cases, only 2 pages double spaced to make your case. You have only one first sentence to get the reader interested in YOU. How is it a good use of precious space to quote someone whom you’ve never met? I’ve read hundreds of essays like this as a law school admission director and, I’m telling you, my eyes would jump right over a quote. I had limited time to know what each applicant was about. A quote – famous, literary, poignant, or otherwise – unless said directly to you during a formative moment in your life, has no place in your law school personal statement.
Likewise, a title. Not necessary to worry about a clever (but often cheesy) title. “Personal Statement” will do just fine. Why risk turning off the reader right from the beginning?
I’ve also seen sample personal statements talking about mentors. Why? Why would you focus YOUR personal statement on someone else? Whether it’s your grandfather or your mother or your tennis coach putting the focus on them takes the focus away from your decisions and experiences. It also risks looking a bit starry-eyed, idealistic and immature. But, mostly, it makes it seem as though you’re riding on the coattails of someone else’s accomplishments.
For those of you with a legitimate “obstacles overcome” story, you do not need to resort to drama. Simply telling your story in a factual way, providing context for your achievements and goals by sharing meaningful details – that’s your best bet. Don’t start with “And I hid under the table as the glass flew….” Start with explaining to the reader what you’ve been through, how it impacted you, how you grew. For you, no sample essay will work because your story is unique to you.
Categories: Law School Personal Statements