How do you put your heart and soul – and 20-plus years of your life – into a two-page, double-spaced document? The personal statement is often a source of many starts and stops for law school applicants. It’s also a powerful tool through which you can share more about who you are with the admissions committee – which might be why it’s so difficult to write!
Your personal statement is a statement of purpose
First, as we mentioned, your personal statement should be two pages, double-spaced. While it is challenging to condense your life down into just two pages, your personal statement is not meant to be a comprehensive memoir. It is a statement – a statement of purpose – and your purpose is to attend law school and pursue a legal education and career. Therefore, unless you are given a directive to write about something specific, your personal statement should answer the questions “Why do you want to go to law school?” and “Why now?” The narrative should be clear, and your statement should be proofread as many times as possible – and then once more – before you submit it.
When our applicant clients find themselves stuck and haven’t yet been able to get through a draft of their personal statement, we find that it’s helpful to begin with a conversation. We start by asking them, “Why do you want to go to law school?” It might take a couple of follow-up questions to really tease out the answer, but the narrative exists (and it really can fit on two pages!). For instance, we might discuss the applicant’s reasons for putting themselves through the stress of the application process or why now feels like the right time to act on an idea they’ve had for a long time. In the end, their answer could be something like “I have been working for a couple of years and enjoy the work I do but realize I’m missing the knowledge and skills necessary to really effect change.” Or maybe “I come from a family of lawyers and have grown up knowing what I want to do.” Or perhaps “I have seen firsthand the injustice in the world and want to give voice to the voiceless.” Everyone has a reason, and the key is to figure out what that reason is for a particular applicant.
Your personal statement is not a resume
As an applicant, you have over two decades of life to share with the admissions committee, but your personal statement is not meant to be a memoir or a recitation of your resume. You submit a resume with your application, so the committee will have access to all that information. Although your personal statement might provide insight into an aspect of your resume, it should not read like a recounting of it, such as “Sophomore year I interned at X law firm, and it was great, and that lead to another internship at Y Public Defender’s office, but it wasn’t until I took a job as a paralegal at Z firm that I really knew what I wanted to do.”
Your resume and your personal statement should be complementary; they should build on one another to tell a more complete story. Don’t waste valuable essay real estate repeating things the committee already knows. Pick a specific point and then dig deeper and go beyond the banal, superficial, or obvious so the admissions committee learns more about you. What motivated you to apply for your first internship? How did one summer job lead to another? Why was the work at Z so transforming? Peel back the layers to reveal your motivations and lessons learned to create an insightful, engaging personal statement that combines anecdote with analysis and helps the committee get to know you as a unique applicant.
Again, each candidate has two pages with which to demonstrate their ability to convey a point: why they want to go to law school. Make your application stand out by being clear and concise. Let your narrative shine so that the admissions reader knows that you are confident in your decision to pursue your JD and possess both solid reasoning and writing ability. Now get started!
Do you need help crafting your law school personal statement so that it showcases your greatest strengths and abilities? Check out our Law School Admissions Consulting and Advising Services and work one-on-one with an expert advisor who will help you get ACCEPTED.
Sadie Polen has more than ten years of experience in higher education. She reviewed statements of purpose, personal statements, and resumes for political and public service opportunities and made candidate selections for elite programs at Harvard University. She also has experience advising individuals on their career and post-graduation plans. Sadie holds a BS from UC Davis, an EdM from Harvard, and a DEI certificate from Cornell. Want Sadie to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!
- Getting into Law School: What You Need to Know When You Start the Process, a free guide
- What a Law Career Is Really Like, podcast Episode 401
- Sample Law School Personal Statement Essays