When writing your personal statement for law school, it’s a good idea to include a few school-specific sentences about why each of the schools you are applying to is interesting to you. You shouldn’t be addressing “why do I want to go to law school?” but rather “why your law school is a good fit for me?”
Here’s an example: You live in northern California and are married. You wife works in Silicon Valley, and will most likely be the breadwinner while you are attending law school. So you are looking at Stanford, Boalt Hall, Hastings, Santa Clara, and a few other schools. Do your research on each of these schools by asking yourself the following questions:
• What are each of these schools known for?
• Do these schools have a particular law review you would like to write for? A specialization or curriculum focus that is appealing to you?
• What sets each school apart from all the others?
Use your answers to these questions in your essay to demonstrate real interest in the school.
Proximity to family, location near the beach, or easy access to mountain biking aren’t serious, academic, or professional reasons.
If you are applying right after graduation from college, chances are you don’t mind moving to another location to attend law school. However, if you are a few years out, are settled somewhere, and perhaps have a family, then uprooting your life might not be appealing. You will understandably look for law schools in your area. But no matter if you are 22 or 42, no matter what stage of life you might be in, location really shouldn’t be the main motivation for wanting to attend a school. You want your adcom to read your essay and walk away feeling that you have really given your school selections a lot of thought and have chosen based on serious and substantive data, not convenience.
The ancillary part of this equation: you do not want your reasons to be so generic that the inclusion of the name of any law school in the sentence still makes sense. An example of this might be, “XYZ is particularly appealing to me because of its renowned reputation, outstanding faculty, and exceptional placement of graduates in their chosen career field.” You can make this statement about almost any school, and therefore doing so weakens your essay and gives the readers the impression that you don’t think their school is so special after all.
Make your essay personal. Make it substantive. And you will make it memorable as a thoughtful, deep, and well-researched essay.
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 PostBac Program and teaches writing at all levels.
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