law school essay format
- Clear theme – Yes, this takeaway is in this essay as well as the preceding three. In fact, for any effective essay, you need a clear theme.
- Effective use of specifics and anecdote – Whether referencing the “bleak Wisconsin winter,” the fact her mother added “barbecued brisket” to her menu in Texas, or the cultural challenges she faced in Bolivia, she effectively illustrates her ability to deal with change and adapt throughout her life.
- A conclusion that shows her evolution and growth – She subtly, but clearly reveals an evolution in her adaptability from complete adoption of the mores of her surroundings in New Jersey to more nuanced adaptability where she chooses what she wants to adopt and reject as she deals with change as an adult. Finally, while change is something she has to deal with throughout most of the essay by the conclusion she views it as an opportunity for growth.
Surprised at this unexpected approach, her consultant asked if she had any creative writing experience. The client said she didn’t. The consultant said that she too lacked creative writing experience and suggested they discuss what the client had done as opposed to what she hadn’t. This essay is the result of that (and other) conversations. It is an oldie but goodie.
Every law school application has directions about the substance and format of the personal statement you need to write. Whatever those directions are — follow them. You could write a terrific essay, but if it doesn’t address the topic requested, admissions committee members will wonder why you didn’t follow their directions.
“There is no formula for a successful personal statement, and different individuals will find different topics to be well-suited to them. Applicants have, for example, elaborated on their significant life experiences; meaningful intellectual interests and extracurricular activities; factors inspiring them to obtain a legal education or to pursue particular career goals; significant obstacles met and overcome; special talents or skills; issues of sexual or gender identity; particular political, philosophical, or religious beliefs; socioeconomic challenges; atypical backgrounds, educational paths, employment histories, or prior careers; or experiences and perspectives relating to disadvantage, disability, or discrimination. Any of these subjects, and many more, could be an appropriate basis for communicating important information about yourself that will aid us in reaching a thoughtful decision. The length of your personal statement is up to you.”
You will submit your resume in a separate portion of your law school application, so there is no need to expand on that here. Use this portion to let your voice come through and to give the admissions committee the opportunity to get to know you on a personal level.
When you are trying to be yourself in your personal statement, it often leads to another question: how emotional I should be in my writing. Incorporating emotion into your personal statement could make it more interesting and easier to read, but if you overdo it you can sound like you’re whining, begging, or trying to write a sob story—which can in turn be perceived as disingenuous.
In case you’re not comfortable with Word headers, I’ve made a correctly formatted .docx file with a one-line header. Click here to download the sample text, then substitute your information for the placeholders.
I prefer a one-line header. Put your name on the left, your LSAC number in the middle, and the words “Personal Statement,” followed by a page number, on the right. It looks like this:
How Do I Get Started?
- Ask yourself why you want to go to law school and why you wish to practice law.
- Inform yourself about the schools to which you would apply, and ask yourself why you are interested in those schools specifically and what you would contribute to them.
- Read through personal statement samples, and ask yourself how you will stand out from them.
- Create an outline to determine the structure of your personal statement.
- Attend a personal statement workshop hosted by the NYU Preprofessional Advising Center.
- Discuss possible personal statement topics with a prelaw advisor.