Law School Personal Statement FAQs

What do admissions committees want to see in my personal statement?

Many applicants are looking for a recipe for a successful personal statement when they ask this question, but there isn't one. And, of course, if someone did find the magic formula everyone would follow it and it would quickly cease to be the magic formula. Every successful law school personal statement looks different, because the key is to show what's unique and compelling about you.

Isn't my law school personal statement an opportunity to reinforce the highlights of my academic career and extracurriculars?

Sure, if that's what you want to do-but it's certainly not the best use of some extremely valuable real estate. Your grades, extracurriculars, work experience, LSAT score and other factual information is already included elsewhere in your application, and in most cases you're just wasting space if you use up the few pages of your law school personal statement repeating yourself. The real opportunity is to show the law school admissions committee something they don't already know about you.

Do you have sample law school personal statements I can look at?

Nope. I've certainly seen many excellent law school personal statements and I'm sure that some of those applicants would be happy to share, but it wouldn't do you any good. Someone else's successful personal statement won't help you show law schools what's special about you, so what worked for one person isn't necessarily instructive for any other applicant.

So how am I supposed to know what to write about?

Brainstorming for your law school personal statement requires understanding what makes you tick-what's most important to you, where you excel and what drives you. Most people assume that they know those things about themselves, but when it comes time to put that information down on paper, it often turns out that it's murkier that we realized. Look at the events, experiences, quests, relationships and insights that have meant the most to you in life and figure out what ties them together. And if you're stuck, get someone to brainstorm with you, whether it's a friend or a professional who knows how to tease out the common thread.

I'm not a very good writer; should I hire someone to write my personal statement for me?

No. There are a hundred ethical and practical reasons that you shouldn't cheat on your law school personal statement, and those obviously carry different amounts of weight with different people. But here's one that anyone would be a fool to disregard: you wrote an essay on your LSAT. Most people don't write quite as well under timed conditions as they will in the longer and more careful process of creating a law school personal statement, and law school admissions committees know that. But they're also very likely to notice if you develop a whole new writing style between your LSAT essay and your personal statement.

How can you help me with my law school personal statement?

The answer to that question depends on you-on where you are in the brainstorming and/or writing process, how clear you are on what you want to convey, and how much you understand about what law school admissions committees are really looking for. With some applicants, the process starts with looking at those key events, relationships, beliefs and experiences and identifying what really stands out about that person and should be the core of the statement. Others already know what they want to convey, and it's my job to make sure that's communicated effectively without any background information, through cold reading and pointing out the open questions, missing information and opportunities to enhance impact. The ultimate goal is to allow you to create a law school personal statement that is clear, concise, compelling, consistent and characteristic of you.

Tiffany Sanders is an attorney with nearly two decades of experience as a professional writer, marketer, LSAT instructor and curriculum developer and law school admissions consultant. She has helped hundreds of students along the path to law school and the practice of law.

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