As you write your personal statement, you should keep in mind some of the qualities that law schools value. Be sure to emphasize these in your personal statement through specific actions and examples.
1. Ethics. Jokes about lawyers aside, law schools and the legal profession value integrity and honesty above all else. Any type of service that emphasizes academic integrity (like ombudsman) or ethical standards is great to emphasize. It’s also important that everything you describe in your personal statement displays your strong sense of ethics.
2. Intellectual Curiosity. Law school consists of a lot of information. Therefore, schools value intellectual curiosity and academic ability. Most law schools have at least one writing-intensive class as well as a class focused on trial advocacy. You should be able to show in your personal statement moments when you went above and beyond to learn something new.
3. Interest in Law. Believe it or not, law schools want applicants who are interested in the law. An important part of law school and legal practice is scholarship – writing and interpreting the law. While it doesn’t matter what your undergraduate major was, law school applicants should have an interest in law from the point of view of history, philosophy, political science, or economics.
4. People Skills. Lawyers work with people. While the stereotype of the lawyer is someone who is argumentative, in fact, law schools want people who can talk to many different types of people without confrontation. Avoid that old adage in your personal statement: “My parents said I should be a lawyer because I like to argue.” This kind of perception shows law schools that you haven’t spent enough time learning what the practice of law is all about.
5. Tenacity. Try, try again. That’s a lawyer’s motto. Sometimes your side wins, and sometimes it loses. But in all cases, a lawyer has to be willing to pick up and try again. In your personal statement, you should show moments when you have overcome obstacles.
While law schools aren’t looking for cookie-cutter applicants, they do want students who show these qualities, which are essential for success in law school and beyond. Remember to show, don’t tell, all of these in your personal statement, and you will set yourself up to be a winning applicant.
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.