1. Law schools want people who are likable. Contrary to any bad lawyer jokes, law schools are looking for people who like people. They are looking for people who will contribute to classroom discussions and engage with other students in a positive way. This attribute can be shown through the personal statement as well as thoughtful letters of recommendation from people who know you and your work well.
2. Law schools are looking for people who are interesting. Grades and LSAT scores are important, but law schools also want people with interests outside of school. Anything that you’ve engaged in for a significant length of time can qualify.
3. Law schools want a diversity of backgrounds. Sometimes people think they should enter the law because they are good at debate. But, in fact, law schools look for people of all backgrounds – people who’ve studied the liberal arts, people who’ve studied economics, people who’ve studied political science, people who’ve studied the physical sciences.
4. Law schools want people who are eager to learn. Most law schools do not anticipate that you know exactly what type of law you’d like to practice when you apply. While many applicants have some experience in a legal setting, it’s not essential to emphasize that you understand the law. Instead, you should focus on what about the study of law interests you. Is it working with people? Is it analytic thinking? Is it writing and research? As many schools move to an emphasis on advocacy and hands-on experiences during the third year, it can also help to think about what sort of clinical experience you’d like to gain.
5. Law schools wants people who can write well. While law is changing as a field, the cornerstone of law school is reading and writing. Law schools will look to your personal statement to see how clearly you can express yourself.
Jessica Pishko graduated with a J.D. from Harvard Law School and received an M.F.A. from Columbia University. She spent two years guiding students through the medical school application process at Columbia’s PostBacc Program and teaches writing at all levels.