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How to Write a Strong Law School Personal Statement

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As you’re studying for your LSAT, assembling your transcripts, securing letters of recommendation, and saving for your application fees, you may relegate your law school personal statement to the bottom of your list. After all, how hard can it be? Ask some law school applicants, and they’ll tell you: pretty hard! 

While LSAT scores and transcripts are very important aspects of your application, lots of applicants will come in with strong numbers. What can tip the scales in your favor is a well-written, compelling, and informative personal statement. Read on for all the hacks to make sure your statement stands out from the pack. 


As the name suggests, the personal statement is, well…personal! This is your chance to tell admissions your unique story and bring your application to life beyond the cold hard metrics. The personal statement focuses on your background, your character, your values, and what inspired you to pursue law school. It can include your career goals, your academic and professional qualifications/accomplishments, and what drew you to a particular law program. 

Among the skills of a successful lawyer are strong communication, logical thinking, accurate research, and persuasive writing. The personal statement gives you a place to showcase these skills in a more casual, intimate manner. This is not the place to repeat your resume; they already have that document. Instead, they want to get to know you and what sets you apart from all the other applicants. 


Your goal is to tell admissions about yourself, your background, major events or accomplishments in your life, what inspired you to apply to law school, and why you’ve decided to apply to this particular program. That’s a lot to cover! 

Before you get overwhelmed (or even after), take a second to reflect on your life so far. Break your past up into stages and spend a few minutes on each one, jotting down major memories, events, or people that come to mind. What have been the major experiences of your life? Who has been a force for good? What obstacles have you faced at various points? You don’t have to have a dramatic past to write a compelling essay; you just need to write honestly and authentically. At this stage, write everything down—no matter how silly it may seem—because you never know what might inspire you! 


Once you’ve got your list of word associations, start adding in more detail. Let’s say you led a team in your college debate club to a state-wide victory. What else can you remember about that? You jotted down a high school trip to Australia as a key moment—what made that trip so meaningful? Remember that admissions is looking for a personal story, so they want to read about your emotions and perspectives surrounding these moments. Maybe you landed a promotion to head paralegal and found yourself thrust into the middle of a tough case, struggling to catch up. Think about what emotions this brought up for you; rather than feeling overwhelmed, maybe you got excited and realized your full passion for the law. Along with challenges come an opportunity to share how you overcame them!

After you draw out the defining experiences of your life so far (no biggie!), spend some time thinking about your future. Why do you want to go to law school? What are you hoping to get out of it? What do you want to do in the years to come? Do some freewriting in response to these questions, tapping into the emotions, values, and passions that have led you here. 

During this phase of writing, don’t worry about the essay prompt; right now, your focus is on probing your own psyche to understand how you got here and where you hope to go next. 


Looking back at your mountain of brainstorming and freewriting, see if you can pinpoint the most significant moments and themes. By “significant” we mean the most impactful, meaningful, and inspirational parts of your history. This will be very different for each person, and the moments you pick may not have an obvious connection at first. Don’t judge yourself at this stage of the process; instead, allow yourself to figure out what you care about and what you want to make sure admissions knows about you.

Again, your goal in this essay is to paint a picture of yourself that hasn’t been showcased yet in the other pieces of your application and to explain why you’re interested in law school now. You will stand out by choosing not what you think admissions wants to hear, but what is true to you. Think about pivotal moments when your life changed direction. Maybe you were always competitive with your brother as kids, which spurred your high academic achievement, and as adults, helping him through his divorce piqued your interest in working as a mediator. Perhaps your lifelong love of biology led you to an internship in biotech, through which you realized that you were more interested in the legal side of getting drugs made and approved. 


While the specifics of your life won’t change from one personal statement to another, the specifics of each question may, so you’ll need to tailor your essay for each program. Make sure you read each prompt carefully and take note of any specific formatting guidelines regarding length, font, font size, and spacing. It’s critical to follow each institution’s instructions correctly; this will show your strong reading comprehension and attention to detail. If you don’t follow the instructions, they might think you aren’t dedicated or conscientious enough to succeed in their program. 

Let’s take a look at a couple of examples: 


PROMPT EX 1: Stanford

Please describe what aspects of your life experiences, interests, and character would help you make a distinctive contribution to Stanford Law School. Your statement should be approximately two pages in length.

Stanford checks a lot of our boxes: you should already have freewrites about your life experiences, interests, and character. Now they’re asking you to talk about how all of that will prime you to contribute to their school. For more info on that, head on down to Step 5: Research. Note the page limit listed at the end. 

PROMPT EX 2: Fordham

While the topic of this required essay is up to you, the most successful personal statements are those that develop a sense of the applicant and their values, aspirations, and concerns. As Fordham Law School’s motto is “In the Service of Others,” we are also interested in hearing about contributions you would like to make to our student body, the legal profession, and, ultimately, the larger society. Please limit each essay to two double-spaced pages using 11 or 12-point font.

While Fordham also wants to know about you, they want you to dig into your values, aspirations, and potential contributions to not only the school, but also the profession and world at large. Basically, they want you to be more specific about yourself and more broad about the impact you’ll make in the future. Note that Fordham has not only a page limit, but also a specification about spacing and font size. 


Now that you have your schools chosen and your prompts examined closely, you can dig into your research! For schools like Stanford, you’ll need to figure out exactly how your talents and interests fit into their offerings. Look into the course plan, the professors, the internships, the alumni network, and anything else on their website that catches your eye. Which courses excite you? Which professors are you hoping to work with? What clubs or organizations will you join (or found, if they don’t exist already)? How will your academic and work history guide your graduate journey? You’ll need to do this detailed research on each of your schools.

Your research should also extend to the law profession. For schools like Fordham, you’ll have to discuss not only your background and their program, but also how you anticipate fitting into the whole profession and, ultimately, how you’ll affect society. So think about what kind of career you hope to have after you graduate. Do some specific research to make sure you understand what kind of a job and impact you look forward to. It’s very tempting to make general statements like, “make the world a better place,” but that doesn’t tell us anything about what such a place means to you and how you will make it better. 


Okay, you’re now armed with your personal history, background, and chosen themes, along with your school research and your prompts—you are ready to draft! By now, you should actually have a lot of the writing done, and this step should really involve piecing together all the little bits that you’ve accumulated into a cohesive narrative. 

This is where your writing prowess can really shine as you craft a strong introduction, topic sentences, transitions, and a conclusion. The connective tissue of your essay guides the reader through a clear, easy-to-follow journey, but these final pieces can be the toughest sections to write. 

Your introduction is the place to introduce yourself and catch the reader’s attention. Avoid clichés and general statements like, “Ever since I was young…” or “Law forms the basis of our society…” Instead, draw the reader in by painting a picture: “Sprawled on the floor of my older sister’s room, I carefully tore the logic problems out of her puzzle book, moving painstakingly slowly to avoid waking her up and incurring her wrath.” In this example, we have a unique image that could only apply to one applicant and introduces a love of logic in a clear yet engaging way. This essay could go on to show how that love of logic problems led to a philosophy major and the application to law school. 

Your conclusion should concisely summarize the main points of your essay and illustrate why law school is the right step for you. With a strong essay already drafted, you won’t need to add much here, just a send-off that reaffirms your values and motivations for your chosen path. “My years as a professional actor have granted me not only the research, dedication, and improvisational skills necessary to succeed in the courtroom, but also the drive to support the theater community through my future work in arts advocacy.” This sentence succinctly sums up the applicant’s background, qualifications, and future plans. 

As you refine your freewriting, remember to “show not tell.” Anyone can say, “I’m very dedicated,” but how do we know that’s true? Instead, describe an experience that shows this quality: “During my four years of Debate in college, I served in many capacities, including secretary, vice president, and president.” This example sentence shows your dedication through your participation in your debate team while sharing more about your interests and experiences. 

At this stage, don’t worry about word or page limits! It’s always easier to remove content than to add, so just make sure your draft includes everything you want to say regardless of length. 


Once your essay is fully drafted, it’s time for the painful part: editing. Make sure that every word you use serves a purpose; extraneous language only obscures your story. The personal statement should be in a more conversational tone, so use of jargon or other verbiage outside of your regular vocabulary is not necessary here. Similarly, lengthy tangents about general issues not directly related to you can be nixed. This is also the stage to tap into your network and ask your trusted friends, colleagues, or College Essay Advisor to give you feedback. If they come away with a strong sense of who you are and why you’re applying for law school, you’re in great shape! If not, they can help you pinpoint where you’ve veered off track and nudge you back toward answering the prompt. 


This final step may seem superfluous, but mistakes at this juncture can make or break your essay. Read through your essay very carefully and enlist your eagle-eyed friends to do the same. Spell check won’t always catch homonyms like “hear” and “here,” but many admissions officers will. Crucially, make sure you have the right school name in each essay! 

Now that we know how to approach these essays, let’s take a look at a few more prompts. 


PROMPT EX 3: Arizona State

The personal statement should give the committee a better picture of who you are beyond your academic achievements and resume. It should be compelling, show off your writing skills, and include some discussion of why you want to go to law school. It is also an opportunity to highlight specific reasons for your interest in ASU Law. Your personal statement should be no more than two double-spaced, typed pages and in a font size no smaller than 11 point.

ASU says it right off the bat: they don’t want to read a prose version of your resume. They want to know why law school and why ASU in particular. You know what to do here: following our system, you should have a strong draft of your personal story that leads naturally to your decision to apply to law school. Supplement that with your research into ASU’s program, school culture, location, and other aspects of the program to show why ASU is the right place for you. Note that they want a “compelling” story that “show[s] off your writing skills,” so don’t skip those editing and proofreading stages! Let your unique voice shine through. Finally, take note of their formatting instructions as you finalize your essay. 

PROMPT EX 4: University of Utah

Candidates are required to submit a personal statement of no more than (2) two pages in length, with one (1) inch margins, double-spaced, and a font size no smaller than 10-pt. The Admission Committee’s goal is to assemble an intellectually stimulating community of students composed of individuals who have diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

In addition to outstanding academic ability, we seek students whose life experiences, backgrounds and interests will enhance our educational community. This includes, but is not limited to, qualities such as leadership, maturity, organization, knowledge of other languages and cultures, sincere commitment to community service, a history of overcoming disadvantage, extraordinary accomplishment, or success in a previous career. The subject matter of your personal statement is up to you. The personal statement should let the Admission Committee know more about you as a person, and should address the above qualities if that information is not presented in other areas of your application. Issues addressed in your personal statement may include what background, experiences, and events (positive or negative) have affected you. You may address what perspectives and experiences you will bring to classroom discussions and the law school community or what your motivations are for seeking a legal education.

When faced with a long prompt like this, it’s helpful to go piece by piece and even break the prompt’s paragraphs up into bullet points. The first paragraph explains the formatting instructions and a general statement of what they’re looking for. The second paragraph gives some more detail, explaining what they meant in paragraph one by listing some examples of qualities or experiences you can expound upon in your essay. Following our system, you should already have a good sense of what you want to write about, and those topics are very likely to fit into these categories already! Finally, the end of the second paragraph follows the other schools in asking you why law school and what you’ll bring to U of U. 

By breaking up this long prompt, we see that it’s basically asking you the exact same thing as the others, just with some more detailed guidance. As you draft your essay for U of U, highlight or copy and paste into a doc the qualities they mention and refer to them regularly as you draft. Use this as a guide to tweak your personal story and focus more explicitly on some of these suggestions. Not all of them will apply to you, so don’t feel you have to address all of them! 

PROMPT EX 5: Harvard

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.

Harvard takes a slightly different approach than some of our other examples by breaking the personal statement into two separate essays. The second one, the statement of perspective, is very similar to the other schools’ personal statement: this covers your personal journey and how you’ll fit into Harvard’s cohort. The first essay, the statement of purpose, is a whole separate document outlining your interest in law and your future goals. If you’ve followed our system, you should already have some freewrites on this, but Harvard takes it a step further by asking for a full essay only on this topic. Hopefully, you have a strong sense of your motivation for applying and your goals, so all you really need to do here is craft a strong introduction and conclusion. 


By following our handy Law School Personal Statement Guide, you’re sure to write a clear, engaging essay that addresses each school’s prompts and shows why you’re a strong candidate for admission. The key elements all boil down to the skills that will serve you well in law school: reading comprehension, research, logical thinking, and persuasive writing. Think of this as your first taste of what you can look forward to once you matriculate. And remember, College Essay Advisors is always here to help you at every stage of the process. Happy writing! 

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