Making a Statement: Your Law School Admissions Essay

Of all the elements of your application to law school, the admissions essay, also known as a personal statement, is the single place where you can make your voice heard. Your admissions essay is what differentiates you from the hundreds of other applicants scrambling to earn a position in law school next fall. It is where you show how you are unique and the value that you bring to the institution. The personal statement is where the admissions committee learns about you apart from your academics. It is where you set yourself apart from other law school applicants.

The personal statement is more than a resume or curriculum vitae.

Your law school admissions essay is not a relaying of your resume or a description of your transcript. This is where you discuss noteworthy accomplishments and experiences that do not appear in your application. Your personal statement should provide details and context behind an experience or accomplishment listed on your CV. The critical thing to remember is that your personal statement must contribute something beyond the other parts of your law school application.

Your admissions essay must emphasize your strengths.

Similar to the graduate admissions essay, the law school personal statement emphasizes your positive attributes. Stating your strengths is not enough. You must provide clear examples and illustrations of those strengths. How have these strengths helped you solve problems? What are some of the experiences that make you who you are and how have these positive qualities helped you overcome adversity? How have these experiences made you a better person?

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An effective personal statement expresses why you are suited to a career in law.

Explain why you want to become a lawyer with less emphasis on your desire and much more emphasis on what underlies that desire. The admissions committee knows that you want to become a lawyer – you’ve applied to law school. Instead, they want to know why you want to become a lawyer. “Saving the world,” is not a good reason because it is a cliché that many applicants will use. Be genuine and you will create a unique and sincere response that the committee will appreciate. Discuss the experiences that have influenced your desire to study law, the experiences you have sought to determine that a career in law is for you, and what you bring to the table. Remember that schools are interested in turning out productive graduates so your job is to show them that you have the capacity and motivation to graduate. Convince the admissions committee that you are a good fit for the program – and a good risk for law school.

Avoid an overly personal admissions essay

Stay professional. Don’t get too personal or share material that is unprofessional. Distance yourself from other applicants by explaining what sets you apart in experience, character, and competence.

Know the most common prompt for law school admissions essays.

The specific prompts vary by institution, but nearly all offer statements to simply “tell us about yourself.” Some law school applications add that the personal statement may address your intellectual interests, significant accomplishments, obstacles overcome, personal or professional goals, educational achievements, or any way in which your perspective, experience, or viewpoint will contribute to the richness of the program. What does this mean? This prompt gives you a wide license to describe yourself as you see fit. Another common prompt asks you about your plans for the future. This is also an opportunity to discuss your experiences as you see fit because your explanation of your hopes for the future should stem from who you are today.

In other words, regardless of topic or prompt, your personal statement for law school should touch upon three central themes: 1) why do you want to practice law? 2) qualifications and experience; and 3) what are the qualities that separate you from other applicants? If you can respond to these questions in an informed and sincere way, you’ll be prepared for any law school admissions essay prompts that come your way.

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