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Join the Crowd
You’re reading this article because you have absolutely no idea what to write your law school personal statement about. Take a deep breath and relax—you are not alone.
For example, take a look at the following tweets about law school personal statements:
- “This Personal Statement for Law School apps is killing me.”
- “Writing my law school personal statement for the third time.”
- “My personal statement is [expletive]. I don’t have any work experience in law firms . . . like other people.”
- “Personal statement for law school is harder than I thought.”
- “This personal statement might be the death of me… I hate law school already.”
- “This law school personal statement will be the death of me. Hands down the most ambiguous two pages I’ve ever written.”
As you can see, for many applicants, the hardest part about applying to law school is coming up with a personal statement topic. It’s hard to write about yourself—we get it.
But if we asked you to tell us what makes your best friend unique and interesting, you would be able to respond without hesitation.
- “He traveled the world for six months and loves learning about new cultures.”
- “She volunteers all of her spare time at the local homeless shelter.”
- “He is hilarious and can always cheer me up when I’m feeling sad.”
So what’s the problem with writing about yourself?
Why You Are Having Difficulty
Applicants who have a hard time coming up with a personal statement idea generally fall into two categories:
In the first category are the people who have spent their whole lives doing things that improve their resume. Jobs, research assistant positions, clubs, fraternities/sororities, volunteer activities, study abroad trips, etc. You name it, they have done it. These applicants face the “paradox of choice.” Because they have so many great experiences to choose from, they are overwhelmed and do not know where to begin.
In the second category are the people who have few experiences. Quality instead of quantity. A person in this category may be a student who put him or herself through college while working a full-time job in a service position, such as a waiter or bartender. Maybe someone in this category graduated from college several years ago and has since been working in a full-time position to earn a living. These applicants are full of self-doubt because they believe that their experiences are not impressive enough for law school.
Applicants in both categories also face another problem. They think that they must conform themselves to what other applicants are doing. They don’t want to choose the wrong topic. But when it comes to personal statements, there is no right or wrong answer. There is only good execution and poor execution. It is better to choose a sincere and genuine topic than a random topic chosen only because you think that you should write about it.
The good news is that working in a legal profession is not a prerequisite to attending law school. That’s right—you don’t need to have worked in any legal capacity to get into law school.
Most law school admission committee members know that most applicants have no legal experience. In fact, many law school graduates do not even have legal experience. Get this out of your head right now. Eliminate your self-doubt.
The Goals of the Personal Statement
Although we could write pages about the goals of the personal statement, this article is about choosing a personal statement topic. Therefore, we will limit our advice to two short tips:
Your first goal, if possible, is to be as unique as you can. Make yourself standout from the thousands of applicants.
Your second goal should be to tell a good story that makes the reader like, respect, or admire you. You do this by only writing about one or two interesting experiences. You do not do this by simply retyping your entire resume.
For more personal statement tips, read: How to Write a Great Personal Statement.
Law School Personal Statement Ideas
Gradvocates has compiled a list of personal statement ideas. Please note that some topics won’t be applicable to you. For example, if you have absolutely zero interest in public-interest law, then do not write about how you want to get a law degree to help make the world a better place.
Spark and solidification: This topic involves writing about what sparked your interest in becoming a lawyer. Explain the steps that you took to explore that interest. Put particular emphasis on the event that solidified your desire to attend law school.
Desirable Qualities: This topic involves writing about one or two of your best qualities and then providing examples of these qualities through one or two experiences. For example, if you assert that you are “hardworking,” then you could write about how you worked and went to school full time during college. If your quality is “a desire to serve your community,” then you can write about specific things that you accomplished that show that quality. The quality you talk about should have some sort of connection to the practice of law. For example: hardworking, perseverance, serving your community, or leadership.
Overcoming Difficulty: This topic involves writing about difficulties that you have overcome in your life. If you choose this topic, you must make it clear that the experience fostered specific qualities in you that make you a good fit for law school.
First-hand injustice: This topic involves writing about an injustice that you witnessed or experienced and how it made you want to become a lawyer, so you can help change the status quo. Be careful, as this topic can come across as extremely cliché. If you choose this topic, then it is not sufficient to just explain the injustice and how you want to advocate for those affected by it. Make it clear why specifically becoming a lawyer, as opposed to a counselor or volunteer, is necessary to help out. You must also realize that this is a personal statement, and so you cannot just write an essay on a social problem. Be sure to include your own thoughts and feelings.
Change of Careers: This topic is for older applicants who have been working in a different career for several years before realizing that they want to attend law school. Write about what your previous career involved and what exactly made you want to pursue law instead. For example, applicants in this category may be scientists who want to practice intellectual-property law, or a teacher who wants to work to reform the education system (this latter example overlaps with “First-hand injustice” discussed above). Another real example involves a firefighter who decided to obtain a law degree after successfully representing himself in a multi-million dollar lawsuit against his municipality for employment discrimination.
Still Stuck? Gradvocates Can Help
The Gradvocates Editing team can help you pick your topic. Every purchase of Law School Personal Statement Editing comes with unlimited email interaction with our editing team. After purchasing personal statement editing, send us an email so we can help you come up with a great topic for your personal statement. You can then submit it for editing whenever you are ready.
If You Will Apply Next Cycle…
If you will not apply to law school for another cycle, please be sure to read: Engineering Your Personal Statement Topic: Do Something Worth Writing. That article explains that if you absolutely do not have anything to write about, you can actually use the time from now until you apply to law school to choose impressive experiences that you will write your personal statement around. You can essentially come up with a great personal statement idea and make it happen, so you don’t find yourself in this situation when you are ready to apply.
We hope that his article has served as a great starting point for writing your law school personal statement. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can help you in any way.
List of Personal Statement Prompts by School
Postby rolark » Thu Jul 16, 2009 4:56 pm
For everyone starting to work on their personal statements but unable to access the actual applications since we're in the off-season, I thought it might be helpful to post the prompts. This any applicant can focus on a piece of writing that hits the major bases of the schools s/he is most interested in.
If you have any, post them below and I'll add them. I'll try to keep them in US News ranking and put the length stipulations in bold. I think I only copied what I found to be most important, so if anyone has the full length prompts for the schools below, that would be great.
Personal Statement — Don't have the exact wording, but think it was something along the lines of "use the essay you sent to other schools."
250 Word Essay — Most applicants to Yale Law School have outstanding academic records and LSAT scores. Faculty readers look to the two required essays to obtain a nuanced picture of each applicant. The 250-word essay helps readers to evaluate an applicant’s writing, reasoning, and editing skills, as well as to learn more about the applicant’s intellectual and personal interests and ability to think across disciplines. The subject is not limited; the choice of topic itself may be informative to the readers.
Personal Statement — Candidates to Columbia Law School are required to submit a personal essay or statement supplementing required application materials. Such a statement may provide the Admissions Committee with information regarding such matters as: personal, family, or educational background; experiences and talents of special interest; reasons for applying to law school as they may relate to personal goals and professional expectations; or any other factors that you think should inform the Committee's evaluation of your candidacy for admission. This statement should be printed on a supplementary sheet or two and should be returned to the Law School with other application materials. If applying electronically, you must submit an electronic attachment.
Q: How long should my Personal Statement/Essay be?
A: While there is no official page limit, a good guideline is two double-spaced pages, using readable fonts and margins. Your personal statement/essay should be clear, concise and an example of your best writing. It should also be free from spelling and grammatical errors
Personal Statement — Please provide more information about yourself in a written personal statement. The subject matter of the essay is up to you, but keep in mind that the reader will be seeking a sense of you as a person and as a potential student and graduate of Berkeley Law.
Berkeley Law seeks to enroll a class with varied backgrounds and interests. If you wish, you may discuss how your interests, background, life experiences and perspectives would contribute to the diversity of the entering class. If applicable, you may also describe any disadvantages that may have adversely affected your past performance or that you have successfully overcome, including linguistic barriers or a personal or family history of cultural, educational or socioeconomic disadvantage.
Your personal statement should be limited to four double-spaced pages. Please include your name and LSAC account number on each page of the statement. If you are applying electronically, use an electronic attachment, and include your name on each page, instead of your signature.
Personal Statement — Don't have the exact prompt, but I think it was pretty open.
Optional Essays — Supplemental essays allow you an opportunity to provide us with relevant information that you were not able to include elsewhere in your application materials. If you wish, write one or two essays (but no more) on the following topics. Each essay should be about one page.
1) Describe your current hopes for your career after completing law school. How will your education, experience, and development so far support those plans?
2) If you do not think that your academic record or standardized test scores accurately reflect your ability to succeed in law school, please tell us why.
3) What do you think are the skills and values of a good lawyer? Which do you already possess? Which do you hope to develop?
4) How might your perspectives and experiences enrich the quality and breadth of the intellectual life of our community or enhance the legal profession?
5) Why Michigan?
Personal Statement — The admissions committee requires that every applicant submit an original example of written expression. The purpose of this personal statement is to provide you with as flexible an opportunity as possible to submit information that you deem important to your candidacy. You may wish to describe aspects of your background and interests--intellectual, personal, or professional--and how you will uniquely contribute to the Penn Law community and/or the legal profession. Please limit your statement to two pages, double spaced.
Optional Essays — If you wish, you may write an additional essay on any of the following topics. These optional essays allow you an opportunity to provide the admissions committee with additional relevant information that you were not able to include in your personal statement. Please limit optional essays to one page, double spaced. When transmitting electronically, use the electronic attachment option.
1) Why are you interested in pursuing your legal education at Penn Law?
2) Describe how your background or experiences will contribute to or enhance the diversity of the Penn Law community (e.g., based on your culture, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, ideology, age, socioeconomic status, academic background, employment experience, etc.).
3) If you do not think that your academic record or standardized test scores accurately reflect your ability to succeed in law school, please tell us why.
4) Discuss a time when you voiced an unpopular opinion.
Personal Statement — PLEASE ATTACH TO YOUR APPLICATION A PERSONAL STATEMENT that will give the Admissions Committee any information you believe relevant to the admissions decision that is not elicited elsewhere in the application. (Use an electronic attachment if applying electronically.) The statement is your opportunity to tell us about yourself; it may address your intellectual interests, significant accomplishments or obstacles overcome, personal or professional goals, educational achievements, or any way in which your perspective, viewpoint, or experiences will add to the richness of the educational environment of the School of Law.
What sort of information do you like to see in a personal statement?
Include with your application a personal statement that will give the Admissions Committee any information you believe relevant to the admissions decision that is not elicited elsewhere in the application. The statement is your opportunity to tell us about yourself; it may address your intellectual interests, significant accomplishments, obstacles overcome, personal or professional goals, educational achievements, or any way in which your perspective, viewpoint, or experiences will add to the richness of the educational environment of the School of Law.
Do you put a word limit on the length of personal statements?
No, we invite applicants to write essays that are long enough to express whatever they think the Admissions Committee should know. That said, applicants should remember that succinctness is a virtue.
Personal Statement — You are required to submit a personal statement. The statement is your opportunity to introduce yourself to the admissions committee and should include (1) what you think have been your significant personal experiences beyond what may be reflected in your academic transcripts and on your resume, and (2) your personal and career ambitions. There is no required length.
Optional Essays: You are welcome to supplement your personal statement with optional essays. You may submit a Duke-specific essay by letting us know why you want to go to law school and why you have decided to apply to Duke. You may also choose to submit an essay that describes how you will enhance the educational environment of the Law School and contribute to the diversity of the student body. Because we believe that diversity enriches the educational experience of all our students, Duke Law School seeks to admit students from a variety of academic, cultural, social, ethnic, and economic backgrounds. If you choose to submit the diversity essay, tell us more about your particular life experiences with an emphasis on how the perspectives that you have acquired would contribute to the intellectual community of the Law School.
Personal Statement — You may write your personal statement on any subject of importance that you feel will assist us in our decision. (please double-space)
Personal Statement — Please provide a separate essay not to exceed two double-spaced typed pages, no less than 12 point font (or use an electronic attachment). In this essay you may discuss any attributes, experiences or interests that would enable you to make a distinctive contribution to the law school and/or the legal profession.
Public Interest Essay — Please write an essay of no more than four double-spaced pages responding to the following: We are interested in knowing about the concept and vision for your future public interest practice. This can derive from your personal or professional experience, your philosophy of how public interest practice relates to contemporary issues, your approach to problem solving, or some other relevant criteria of your own choosing. How do you hope that your public interest career will develop, and what are the means by which you expect to achieve your public interest goals?
Personal Statement — Please present yourself to the Admissions Committee by writing a personal statement. You may write about your background, experiences, interest in law,
aspirations, or any topic that you feel will help readers of your application get a sense of you as a person and prospective law student. If you are applying
electronically, please attach your statement to the electronic application form. Please limit your statement to two pages and provide your name and LSAC
number (if available) on each page.
Personal Statement — The admissions committee gives careful attention to your personal statement. We are particularly interested in your motivation for studying law, your academic background, and qualities you possess that may enhance the diversity of our student body. If you are a college senior or recent graduate, you may wish to mention your work history and extracurricular activities. If you have spent a year or more in the work force after college, tell us about your employment experience; enclose a resume to illustrate your chronological work history.
There is no specific word or page requirement or limit for your personal statement. However, the committee values carefully crafted essays that are clear, concise, and compelling.
Personal Statement — What significant personal, social or academic experiences have contributed to your decision to study law? Please respond in two pages.
Optional Essay — In addition to your Personal Statement, you may wish to provide information regarding your ethnic, cultural or family background that is relevant to your development. You may also choose to discuss particular achievements, including obstacles overcome, that have not already been addressed in this application. Please respond in one page.
Personal Statement — The University of Minnesota’s award-winning legal writing program recognizes that written communication is vital to the success of our graduates. All first-year students receive intensive individual instruction and writing credits are required during all three years at Minnesota. In making admissions decisions, Minnesota carefully considers the applicant’s writing ability as demonstrated by the personal statement and other submissions.
This application requires that you present yourself in a personal statement. This essay may be on a subject of your choice and may be used to assess not only your writing skills, but your judgment, passions and analytical abilities. Your decision about what to present and how will assist us in evaluating you as a potential student and alum of the University of Minnesota Law School.
We suggest that your essay be at least two and not more than five typewritten pages long. No single spacing please. If there are ancillary matters that you wish to explain, such as breaks in your education or any other particular issue, please submit a separate essay or electronic attachment
Personal Statement — Every year we receive many applications with similar academic credentials. In order to get a better sense of our applicants, we require a “personal statement” on a topic of your choosing. This allows you to demonstrate your ability to communicate effectively and concisely through your writing. Sharing this information provides another opportunity for us to get to know you beyond your academic record. Your personal statement should not exceed two pages double spaced.
Last edited by rolark on Sat Aug 08, 2009 10:45 am, edited 6 times in total.