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7 Key Ingredients for Law School Personal Statement Success

Personal Statement for Law School and Law School Personal Statement Tips

As you sit down and begin to brainstorm what you will include in your law school Personal Statement, you may find yourself hitting a mental wall. How to write a personal statement for law school? How long should a personal statement for law school be? Should I pre-write in complete sentences? Fragments? I’m anxious about storytelling because I haven’t written down a story about myself, well . . . ever. Below are my top 7 Law School Personal Statement Tips that add up to a Personal Statement recipe that results in application success.

Ingredient 1: Don’t think of this as an essay.

Your Law School Personal Statement is primarily a marketing tool rather than a means of impressing the admissions committee with your vocabulary, syntax, or intellectual horsepower. It is implied that you already deeply understand your topic (you). And the committee will have academic data-points from your transcript and LSAT. What they won’t have, critically, is the thesis that lies at the core of your motivation to apply to law school. You get to share this thesis with them, then elaborate upon it and explain why the school you are applying to is a logical (bonus points: inevitable) next step for you. Essays explore, whereas marketing collateral explains. Remember your focus should be on explaining.

Ingredient 2: Pre-writing is your best friend. Consider jettisoning complete sentences.

I’ve seen many former clients and students I’ve advised create their first Personal Statement for Law School draft using complete sentences, which only served to slow them down, tire them out, and resulted in them not including key details that were important to their law school application story. Brainstorm in bulleted lists before committing to full sentences–think of the drafting phase as a puzzle piece exercise in which you want to find the corners and “easier” as well as critical pieces first. You can fill in the rest later in the process.


Ingredient 3: In your pre-writing phase, jot down vignettes as opposed to generalized ideas.

By “vignettes,” I mean little story snippets from your life. You don’t need to fully dramatize them with dialog or strong imagery just yet. Instead, focus on a “kitchen sink” approach in which you initially include each and every vignette that is remotely relevant to your motivation to apply to law school. Did you once get a traffic ticket and have to appear before a judge? That might not make the final editorial chopping block, but it should be included in this vignette-generating phase. You won’t be able to see linkages between disparate moments in your life unless you lay them all out on the table. Again, refer to the puzzle metaphor.

Law School Personal Statement
Ingredient 4: Pick your biggest winners from your vignette generation.

Imagine that your Law School Personal Statement is a movie with more scenes than you can fit in the final production, and that you’ll need to leave some of them on the cutting room floor. Ideally select 2-3 vignettes that are connected to each other and represent your identity across 2-3 different dimensions. By “dimensions” I mean your intellectual, experiential, familial / relational, cultural, and philosophical influences. If 2-3 key influences are the focal points of your Personal Statement for Law School, the final draft will represent you and your law school motivations more memorably than a single, static influence such as your parents also being lawyers, or a single interaction you had with a lawyer that made you curious about the field.

Ingredient 5: Map out your plan for tying together vignettes that best inform your “why” for law school.

Now that you’ve selected the 2-3 vignettes that would make for the most effective movie trailer for your life’s story and law school motivations, see if you can connect them in a coherent, logical way. Typically one leads to another in some way, shape, or form. For example, maybe a philosophy course you took in college sparked an interest in the topic of justice that made you start volunteering your time at a local prison music program, and several of the guards and inmates you met there changed your perspective on the justice system. Think of the logical steps and progression associated with why law school feels inevitable to you, and order them accordingly.

Law School Personal Statement

Ingredient 6: Chat GPT might be your friend for entry-level school research to include in your Personal Statement.

At the end of your Law School Personal Statement, it is advisable to spend several sentences sharing reasons why Law School X is a particularly strong fit for you, and ChatGPT can help with this process. In my experience using it, the tool returns meaningful information if you’re looking to learn more about popular courses, student clubs, and other on-campus activities at the law school of your dreams, so don’t be shy in using it LexisNexis-style. I don’t, however, recommend letting it write any portion of your actual Personal Statement. Realizing this is tempting, resist the urge! The human being reading your law school application will want to hear your life story in your voice, and in your own unique writing style.

Ingredient 7: Write a MAXIMAL rough draft.

Once you’ve taken all the steps mentioned above, it’s important to give yourself permission to write a very rough first draft of your Personal Statement for Law School that is by all accounts too long, too full of feeling, and in general too-much-of-everything. In subsequent drafts, you will pair it down using the help of a coach, or trusted friend or family member, so be sure to give yourself grace in this initial stage. You may cut 20-30% of what you initially write, but it will be much easier to subtract content than add it. Star Wars: A New Hope was probably 6 hours long in its first screenplay version, but even the portions that didn’t make it to the final cut inform the 2 hour and 1 minute final product.

Personal Statement for Law School

The Icing / Finishing Touches

From here, it’s all about coming back to your subsequent drafts with fresh eyes and perspective. Don’t have too many cooks in your editorial kitchen (too many opinions will confuse you, so limit the number of family and friends who provide input to 1-2, preferably with strong writing skills). Trust your instincts, and before you click submit, do what I’ve recommended my writing students do time and again the past decade: read your final draft aloud. You will catch awkward phrasing you didn’t while skimming it visually, and most importantly, you’ll hear your own authentic voice–one that will hopefully leap off the page and into the admissions committees’ ears when they enjoy your Law School Personal Statement so much, they can’t resist reading it aloud at their next decision-making meeting.

If you’re interested in telling your story to AdComs as persuasively and thoughtfully as possible, schedule a free consultation with us, during which we will dive into your candidacy, look for narrative threads that can help your application rise from the slush, and ultimately secure the law school seat you are vying for.

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