You have your rough draft and you’re revising. What should you watch out for?
1. Don’t repeat your resume. Your personal statement shouldn’t be a resume-in-prose. It shouldn’t list awards or various types of praise you’ve received. That information is in your resume and letters.
2. Don’t complain about the legal profession. People tell lawyer jokes, but the admissions committee isn’t interested in what you think is wrong with the legal profession. Remember, you want to join them.
3. Don’t be cute. A touch of light-heartedness can work, but don’t put yourself down, be sarcastic, or write a fake legal memo in lieu of an essay. It just doesn’t work in personal statements.
4. Don’t be vague. This goes back to “show don’t tell.” Don’t make vague statements that sound like they would be found in an advertisement for law school. Show the admissions committee exactly what you mean.
5. Don’t have errors. Your essay should be error-free and easy to read. Avoid too-long sentences and make sure you have someone else proofread it. Law is a writing profession and mistakes are generally inexcusable.
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.