This post teaches you how to write a law school personal statement that stands out with an example of a personal statement that made a candidate be admitted to Colombia Law School.
Writing a personal statement is a vital part of your law school application.
Knowing how to write a good personal statement may make your law school application stand out and increase the chance of admission.
I know writing your first law school personal statement might be hard and writing a dull, flat personal statement can be the kiss of death.
That’s this easy-to-follow guide is divided into six comprehensive steps just to give you tips on how you can write a perfect law school personal statement that guarantees admission to top law schools.
From brainstorming to finally submitting your law school application.
Personal statements can offer J.D. admissions committees “a narrative” about the applicant, which is important because it is rare for law schools to conduct admissions interviews,-Christine Carr, ex-associate director of admission, Boston University School of Law.
So, let’s get right down to it and teach you how to write a law school personal statement that astonishes Top law school admissions committees.
See also: Letter of recommendation for law school (guide + free 3 samples)
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How to write a law school personal statement
The following is the step-by-step guide on how to write a law school personal statement
Step 1: brainstorm
Brainstorming is the first step toward writing a good personal statement.
Brainstorming will help you randomly gather all relevant ideas that you can use in your personal statement.
Here you should think and jot down everything that comes to your mind as far as law school personal statement is cornered.
Don’t limit yourself, that’s why it’s called ‘brain+storm’.
The best trick to brainstorm effectively is through questions and answers.
Just ask yourself questions and answer them like you are telling someone.
Ask yourself ‘who I am? and write everything that comes to your mind. Do not edit, just write freely.
Ask yourself who do I want to become?
Ask yourself, how do I come to love the law?
Ask yourself why you want to study law.
Think about Why you can manage it?
Make the list of your Superlatives-your worst and greatest moment in your life, hobby, what excites you the most, your most pride, etc.
Just think about your childhood life, your family background, your strengths, your weakness, think! think! think!
Have you brainstormed enough? Now you are ready for the next step
Step 2: organize your ideas
Now you have a list of memories, thoughts, ambitions, goals, traits, etc.
It’s time to organize your ideas into a well-versed personal statement
So how do you do it?
The first thing I recommend you to leave what you have brainstormed for one or two days, then come back to read what you have written, you will now read everything with fresh eyes and mind. This will help you organize your ideas a little better.
On organizing your ideas cancel anything that appears to sound untrue to you and keep everything that sparkles your interest.
Then prioritize what sparked your interest either logical or chronological.
Step 3: Read and understand school instructions
Before writing your personal statement, make sure you read and understand the instructions of the law school you apply to regarding the personal statements.
This step is vital.
Where necessary make it your first thing to do.
Each school will have its own instructions, so avoid writing a generic statement for all schools
Some schools will ask about your academic and personal background, work experience, activities, etc.
Schools often seek information on matters that relate to their desire to have diverse student bodies
Most law school persona statements instructions are based on a number of words, what to include on your statement, page limit, font size, font style, line spacing, etc.
for example, the following are the sample instructions from the University of Washington
Tell an interesting, informative story and personal story about yourself in 700-1400 words (double-spaced).
Check the school’s requirements for the exact word count or page limit. Share aspects of your life that are not apparent from your transcript(s), resume, or letters of recommendation. Here are some topics to consider.
Brainstorm ideas and pick the ONE with the strongest story.
Describe a personal challenge you faced and/ or a hardship you overcame.
Discuss your proudest personal achievement or a unique hobby that reveals who you are (climbing a mountain, inventing recipes, winning a contest, writing poems).
Tell about how becoming consciously aware of a personal value or characteristic has changed the way you view yourself.
Describe your passions and involvement in a project or pursuit and the ways in which it has contributed to your personal growth and goals.
Do not rehash what is already on your resume.
Note: describing the event should only be about 1/3 of your essay. The rest should be a reflection on how it changed you and how it shaped the person you are today
You may read those instructions and other relevant information on law school personal statements here
Step 4: start writing
Now you know the instructions and you have the ideas.
It’s time to write your personal statement.
The first paragraph is your chance to impress the admission committee instantly.
Week introduction can make your statement boring so avoid it at all costs.
How do you make it?
The opening line of the statement should be a declarative phrase that sums up the applicant’s tone or aim, such as “I have always been interested in international finance.”
The candidate would then go on to explain “why” they are interested in this area of financial law and what in their particular history and experience has motivated them to take this course of action.
Also according to Shemmassian consulting, start the first paragraph of your law school personal statement with a story.
Therefore to make the first paragraph of your law school statement impressive, start with a great story that expresses your goal or tone.
To see how it works, look at the following example from Eric’s personal statement which made him admitted to Columbia law school, as shared by shemmassian consulting.
After less than four minutes of waiting on the front lawn of my private property for my uncle to arrive, I was arrested and forced into a squad car without a reason for my arrest.
As he tightened the cold handcuffs on my wrists, the arresting officer asked my age. Perplexed, I informed him I was eighteen years old. “Great,” he exclaimed, as he slammed the door in my face while he exchanged smiles with his partner. Oblivious, I waited in the back seat, as he drove down the block, anxiously awaiting an explanation for my arrest.
Less than thirty seconds after forcing me into the car, the police officer jumped out of the car, pursued an unsuspecting boy riding his bike in the neighborhood, aggressively pulled him from his moving bike, and placed him in handcuffs. After throwing the boy in the back seat with me, the cop sped off—leaving the boy’s bike behind on the sidewalk to be stolen.
The caravan of police proceeded to rampage the area arresting more young men walking through the neighborhood.
Now you know how to start your personal statement like a winner.
Then, you need to proceed like a winner.
Body paragraphs is a place to show your why’s
Here you must show the admission committee;
- Why do you care about the law
- Why do you want to become a lawyer?
- any prior professional work related to law
- Why do you apply for law school?
While doing all that, you must connect everything with your story.
The following is how Eric did that
[proceed from where it ends in the first paragraph above]
On the ride to the police station, I repeatedly asked the officer the reason for my arrest.
After a few minutes of ignoring my questions, he said he arrested us for loitering. After arriving at the police station, the cops expressed their disapproval of my choice of clothing.
At that moment it was clear that I was profiled based on my appearance alone.- [here Eric try to demonstrate some legal issues he suffered personally, this shows why he care about the law]
A couple of hours later, my mother arrived and demanded my release. When releasing me, the cops repeatedly apologized to my mother insisting that they did not know they had a “good kid.”
The whole experience left me wondering how many people, besides the ones I witnessed, are wrongfully arrested or wrongfully convicted, due to their appearance, ignorance, and lack of access to quality legal advice and representation.- .- [here Eric try to demonstrate some legal problems that many people face, this also shows why he care about the law]
During this experience and others similar to it, I was most uncomfortable with the feeling of being helpless and not well-informed about my rights.
I did not like that my lack of knowledge prevented me from defending my rights and the rights of others.
This experience was just one of the many instances where I witnessed a person in power abuse their authority to trample the rights of people who were not knowledgeable of their rights and did not have the resources necessary to access legal advice.
My ignorance of my rights during these types of experiences was frustrating and also frightening.
Being at the mercy of an apparently ethically unsound figure of authority who seemed to make arbitrary and capricious decisions, that could greatly impact my life, was very unsettling.- [here Eric is connecting all legal problems in the preceding paragraphs-this show why he need to become a lawyer]
Witnessing grave miscarriages of justice has inspired me to equip myself with the tools necessary to fight unjust situations.
These experiences have definitely fostered my desire to educate and advocate for those disadvantaged individuals and communities.[here Eric clearly state why he need to become a lawyer- to fight grave miscarriages of justice]
My experiences in the Columbia Law School Law Clinic reaffirmed my interest in advocating for socioeconomically challenged individuals and communities.
During my time in the law clinic, I have been exposed to a plethora of pro bono opportunities and organizations.
Some of the causes I’ve been able to dedicate my time to include: assisting an innocent man, who was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for eighteen years, with his exoneration; helping asylum seekers, who face the threat of being killed in their home country because of their sexuality or regional violence, through the asylum application process; assisting disabled and elderly Hurricane Sandy victims gain access to much needed food benefits; and assisting small business owners with filing their organizational documents with the state.
Coming from a socioeconomically challenged background myself and being able to assist with matters that I can empathize and sympathize with has made me yearn for more knowledge that would better equip me to help indigent people in need of legal assistance. [Here Eric describe his prior professional work and shows why he wants to join law school]
In his personal statement, Eric chose to write about a particularly sensitive period in his life.
He proved that he will strive to correct that injustice for many years to come.
After telling your story and demonstrating your whys now it’s time to conclude your personal statement.
There are several ways to do that.
The most effective way to end your personal statement is to link up with your introduction and body paragraphs.
Let’s see how Eric did that
I am sure that at the Columbia University School of Law I will be able to access a quality legal education that will challenge and prepare me for my future as an advocate for the more vulnerable members of society.
I know that Columbia Law School will provide an intellectually nurturing environment that offers a bounty of experiential learning opportunities that are beneficial to my preferred learning style, and continue to surround me with individuals that will contribute to my growth and push me to strive for more.
Columbia Law will also allow me to utilize my unique perspective, experiences, and skills to continue to make valuable contributions to the Columbia University community in and outside of the classroom.
Eric began his statement by showing how his rights were violated by police and then discuss the massive miscarriage of justice. He concludes by showing how Columbia law school will help him to fight massive miscarriages of justice.
Step 5: edit edit edit
Now you have the first draft of your personal statement.
It’s time to refine it into a masterpiece.
To effectively edit your statement, after finishing the first draft, leave it for one or two days before reading it again.
After a cool time, pick it up, find a cool place and read it aloud
By reading it aloud you will notice all typos and grammar errors.
You will also sense if your statements portray your personal real voice.
Correct all typos and everything that does not align with your feelings.
Instead of editing, rewrite all paragraphs that need big changes.
Repeat that until you feel better about your personal statement.
Now you have done the editing,
Ready to submit? Not yet
Step 6: ask for feedback
After editing your personal statement then you should ask someone else to review it
This will help you to detect all mistakes you overlooked.
Here you can ask a friend, professor, or admissions advisor to read your statement.
Kindly ask them to honestly tell you if they get a good idea of who you are and why you want to go to law school after reading your personal statement.
If the answer is yes, then you are ready to submit your personal statement.
If the answer is no, you should discuss the areas to improve and make all the necessary changes until you secure a yes.
Rule of thumb in writing a law school personal statement
- Be specific
- Always remember it is a personal statement, so make it personal (always use I )
- Be genuine
- Use active tone
- Write clearly and concise
- Use formal language
- Avoid grammar mistakes- use tools like Grammarly to proofread your personal statement.
As we have seen, a personal statement is a vital part of a law school application.
So the following is how you can write a perfect law school personal statement
- Organize your ideas
- Read and understand school instructions
- Start your first paragraph with a story that expresses your goal or tone.
- In body paragraphs, show your motives behind studying law
- In conclusion, link up with your introduction and body paragraphs.
- Edit, edit edit
- Ask for feedback
Tada! You are now ready to submit your personal statement