1. Ask yourself if you want to go to law school. If the answer is, “I want this!” then find a way to say it in a heartfelt, mature, determined, engaging way in your personal statement.
4. The top law schools seem to ask very little of you in your application for potentially very high returns. This is somewhat deceptive because many of the people you are competing against will invest enormous amounts of time and energy in crafting and honing their two- or three-page personal statements. They may even utilize a professional editing service. Invest time in your personal statement. This is not the two-page essay you whipped off in college the night before and got an “A.” This is a difficult genre that requires several drafts.
5. People can think faster than they can read, so they are able to think about other things when they read your personal statement. Ideally, your essay will grab their attention so that they focus solely on you.
1. The law school professors will be reading your personal statement closely and will immediately be able to spot good writers, with polished ideas, elegant structure, and no errors.
2. Read through thirty personal statement samples. You will quickly see how they all start to sound the same. Now imagine your audience reading through thousands of law school personal statements. Try to find a way to make your writing style and content stand out from the crowd.
The main body of the personal statement is full of specific details and action verbs, which is great because visual learners can imagine the office in vivid detail. By far, the second-to-last paragraph packs in the most value to the admissions committee for the space used, but the background story is important for this paragraph to be so powerful. The writer could plant more indicators of his positive qualities and characteristics throughout the background story. For example, he could mention how he used his oral communication skills to communicate with his design team and supervisors, so that the admissions committee knows he feels, like they inevitably do, that mastery of oral communication skills is important.
This applicant demonstrated he has strong written communication skills by writing a compelling statement, using logos, pathos, ethos, and mythos. Logos is used as evidence of excellence when he discusses the substantial funds invested in his intellectual potential, and the use of his analytical ability to keep the company afloat in the same waters where others have foundered. He uses touches of pathos lightly when he describes the “primordial soup of intellectual invention” inside the cramped office. And the analogy, in which he compares his small start-up and the industry leader to David and Goliath, uses both pathos and mythos to excellent effect: The story is one everyone knows; just by invoking the names, the writer brings another powerful story to his narrative without using valuable space. This mythic story becomes a theme woven throughout the essay. It is a rhetorical device that establishes a connection in the reader’s mind between this candidate and a king, or leader, known for his compassionate ethos. This reader has also composed the statement so that he comes across as an authoritative, competent, thoughtful, and honest leader.
This is an excellent personal statement because it shows this candidate has had a tangible impact on organizations, and probably on the global economy. The statement keeps the reader engaged by giving a meaningful story with background, context, conflict, and resolution. It also provides a peek into the mysterious and increasingly legendary world of Silicon Valley start-ups. This is a good model for someone who has been out of college for a while, but who hasn’t been working in a law firm. The essay is focused on career goals, with career history to back it up. This person is a doer, not a dreamer. The writer shows a depth of technical knowledge and strong analytic reasoning skills that go way beyond linear thinking, especially when he describes finding new solutions to highly technical problems that do not violate patents. The statement creates desire in the admissions committee to admit this person because other companies seek to hire the applicant and venture capitalists are willing to support the applicant with substantial funds. This statement will inspire members of the admissions committee to act on the applicant’s behalf because he has reached way beyond the safety net of college, and succeeded.
This list, culled from discussions with admissions directors, lists the ten biggest mistakes applicants often make on their law school personal statements. Most of these were discussed above.
4. Avoid a boring introduction that loses the reader’s attention. Admissions committees read thousands of law school personal statements, and a boring introduction will result in the reader skimming over rather than fully considering your personal statement.
2. Do not “write like a lawyer.” Lawyers are fond of “legalese,” or using long and often redundant words. The best law school personal statements display clear and succinct writing that is well within the specified word limitations.