Writing Personal Statements for Law School with Examples


Writing Personal Statements for Law School with Examples

So, you have reached the stage in your life where you need to decide on your occupation. What steps do you need to take to move forward confidently? First of all, decide on the educational establishment you want to connect the next four or five years of your life with. After that, the fun part comes. Start looking into the requirements your future alma mater has. 

Table of Contents

If your choice falls for the law school, get ready to deal with a lot of bureaucracy. Managing documents, and most importantly designing them is one of the duties of this occupation. So, what do you need to write a good law school personal statement?

Why is the law school personal statement important?

A boring, flat essay can be the kiss of death. (University of Washington)

A common mistake of most students in completing the task without asking the purpose of it. Every assignment you get is designed to get certain information out of you or check a skill. 

By requiring a personal statement the admissions committee is looking for something. What is the aim then? 

The admission officers handle thousands of student profiles annually. When the candidates have a huge gap in grades, the choice is simple. What happens when they have similar stats? In this case, a personal statement becomes a deal-breaker. While writing this short text, invest as much time and thought. Imagine that you are already one of the candidates whose grades are similar and the committee is looking for significant features. 

What should a law school personal statement do?

Remember that it is not a poetic competition. If you fill the text with sophisticated words it will not make the needed impression. An effective statement is usually a result of thorough self-examination. It reflects whether you know yourself and how you see your future. It also dwells on your ambition. 

Some Suggestions About Writing A Personal Statement

Think of it as your interview. The idea is to show who you are, what you are about as a person - in short, to introduce yourself to the admissions committee. Remember that committee members read hundreds of them; one person, for instance, said he makes it a rule never to read more than twenty at one time. On the other hand, he said, a good one will stay with him throughout the day. We have four specific suggestions.

  1. Always remember that you have two objectives. First, this is your one chance to indicate the kind of person you are, so you want to present yourself as a person who is thoughtful, honest, sincere, and serious. Imagine you were reading the statement, made by a person applying to your law school. What would convince you that this person is the sort you would like to get to know better? It’s less important that you describe unusual events in your life and try to demonstrate what makes you different from others. The topic can be a relatively minor part of your life; but it must say something that is indicative of the sort of person you are.
  2. In addition to showing who you are as a person, your second aim is to demonstrate your writing skills. All lawyers should be able to write well; the essay is your chance to show you can do it. Organization is very important: the essay should have structure and coherence. It should also flow smoothly, and be pleasant to read. Ask for each word and sentence: Why is this here? Is there a better way to put the point? Be sure to vary the length of sentences. Avoid using large, ponderous words; simple, clear, succinct statements are always preferable to wordy, pretentious ones. You should also avoid passive voice. And, finally, be sure to check and double check spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
  3. It’s generally good, though not by any means essential, that you say something about law; you are, after all, applying to law school. But this should not be the major focus. You might, for example, give an indication of why you’re interested in law as a career, or why you want to attend law school. Or you could say something about law as a subject of study: Why are you interested in it? Why is it worth studying?
  4. Finally, for some more specific suggestions. Don’t say you’ve always wanted to be a lawyer, unless there’s some very interesting explanation of your motives. Also avoid personal problems you’ve overcome; don’t try to turn yourself into a victim. Nor should you claim to be interested in the law because you want to make society or the world better. Each of the above is common, and will not do anything to distinguish you from all the other personal statements. Humor is OK, of course, but too much can fall flat or, worse, appear insincere or not serious. On the positive side, you should always have others read what you have written - people who are willing to be frank about the statement’s weaknesses as well as strengths.

Pre-writing brainstorming

The fact that you cannot sit down and write your personal statement in one go does not mean you are not smart enough. Letting yourself think that it is a one hour task is a mistake. Be prepared to create drafts, change the point of view, and proofread your text million times. Only a magician can do it flawlessly in a couple of minutes.

Brainstorming the ideas for your law school statement is vital. Although it seems that all ideas are relevant when it comes to actual writing and word count requirements the issues appear. Put down the life-changing and other memorable events that happened in your life and influenced your decision to go study law. At first, write everything on one piece of paper, and then prioritize them. With the list of priorities, you will know where to start.

How to write your law school personal statement

After brainstorming the ideas, start dwelling on them in the form of an essay. The structure will be similar to a regular essay. Start with an introduction, then the main body and conclusion. Note that every school has different requirements, so the size of the sections will depend on the word count you were given. Follow these tips when writing your law school personal statement:

  • Create a logical structure and transition from one paragraph to another;
  • Include only valid facts from your life (no lies);
  • Avoid humor and sarcasm, it is a semi-formal document;
  • Mind the cliche phrases and stay away from them as much as it is possible;
  • Divide the essay into paragraphs with not more than 5-6 sentences in each;
  • Proofread the text and if possible have it edited by someone else;
  • Tailor your essay to the requirements of a particular school;
  • Make sure to create a different piece for every application you submit.

Remember that although the sense of the text remains the same, every educational establishment has different formal requirements (like word count).

After the first draft of your law school personal statement is done

First - congratulations! Writing the first draft of your personal statement is no small feat. But the work has just begun! Your personal statement should undergo several revisions before submitting. Some tips for revising:

1. Read your essay aloud

By doing so, you will notice small typos and wording issues, as well as larger issues with form, that you wouldn’t otherwise. Reading aloud shifts the way your brain consumes the work, sometimes to great effect. It also helps you get a sense for how much an essay has your voice. You should sound like yourself when you read your essay aloud.

2. Ask for feedback (AND!) for Proofreading

You should have a peer, professor, or admissions advisor read your essay. The core question to ask them to evaluate is, “Do you have a good sense of who I am and why I want to attend law school after reading this?” If the answer is no, revisions are necessary. 

3. For big changes, rewrite instead of editing

This one can be a bit of a pain after investing all the time you have, but if you decide to make a large change in form or content, start again with a blank page. It can be tempting to preserve your existing structure and just slot in the changes where they fit, but you’ll end up with a more cohesive and coherent final product if you start anew. You needn’t trash everything you wrote, of course. Print out a hard copy of your original, keep it on the table beside you, and open a clean doc. 

Conclusion

Examining the work for mistakes and ambiguities is probably a key to success. Regardless of the type of paper you create, grammar and punctuation mistakes are real turn-offs for the admissions committee. Writing a personal statement is a time-consuming assignment, however, a lot is at stake and this short essay can play a decisive role in your admission. So, waste no time and do not postpone this assignment for later. Take care of it now, and if you need assistance, address admissions help online. 

 

Law School Personal Statement Example 1

I believe I was eight years old when my fascination with disasters began. During the next five years I read book after book on the greatest tragedies to befall human kind. I kept newspaper clippings of such mishaps in a neatly organized series of manila envelopes. When a major disaster occurred and I was unable to obtain a newspaper, I would wait until garbage day and go rummaging through my neighbors’ recycling bins to secure the missing article.

This is certainly not a normal interest for an eight year old. We all have a certain fascination with disasters. They remind us of our own mortality, teach us lessons to avoid befalling a similar fate, and help us to appreciate how special life really is. I am still not certain as to the origin of my interest in disasters, or the cause for its demise, but then again my life has been peppered with many unique interests of equally dubious origins and motivations.

At home in my desk drawer is a map book of the greater Seattle area. Sometime ago I found that the map, while superior to its competitors, had numerous inaccuracies and omissions. Since that time I have made hundreds of corrections, additions and updates to its pages. I travel to the site of the map section in question and survey the area with a pencil and a piece of paper. Using the information gathered I draw a true to scale correction with the same symbols and colors as the original map. Finally, I glue the correction to the original directly over the deficient area.

Please bear in mind that I generally consider it sacrilegious to write on or otherwise deface a map. There are over 1,000 maps in my collection, but fewer than twenty have been altered. The majority of these maps are common folded street maps. I would probably be unable to sell any of them for more than their value in recycled paper. I have maps of the one hundred most populous American cities, every state, Canadian province and country on earth. I have them neatly organized in a series of five boxes that I keep in my closet.

For nearly all of my formative years I was shy and lacked confidence. I generally avoided situations involving social interaction. I considered myself odd and out of touch with my perceived notions of normalcy. I was of course very secretive about my eccentric hobbies and habits, to which the preceding paragraphs are only an introduction. I simply assumed that people would reject me when they discovered their extent. A few years ago I would not have selected them as a topic for an essay used to determine my suitability for attending law school, but much has changed since then. I have transformed myself from a socially awkward introvert to a confident and outgoing person.

When I graduated from college in 2002 I decided that being a socially awkward introvert would prove to be a great detriment to my future. I believed that the best way to overcome this obstacle would be to take a job that required constant interaction with people from every level of the social strata. While being a security officer is not the most glorious position one could imagine, it has served my purposes well. The more I interacted with people the more confident, focused, and poised I became. I came to realize that, contrary to my previously held notions, most people found my interests and hobbies unique and stimulating. I am now more socially adept and comfortable with people. Ironically it was my interests and hobbies, which for the longest time colluded to deflate my confidence, that were largely responsible for this change. I have come to realize through the encouragement and recognition of others not only how unique of an individual that they have helped create, but also how beneficial the knowledge and skills that I have gained will prove in the future. It is unlikely that I will be asked to recite the twenty worst airplane crashes or to report on the construction phases of a continuous truss bridge at anytime during the rest of my life.

However, it is likely that I will be asked to sift through large amounts of disparate data, isolating the relevant from the irrelevant. I will be required to find flaws and omissions in the work of others and then either to correct or exploit these weaknesses. I will come across situations where the available data cannot be neatly categorized, where exceptions will have to be made and ambiguities accepted. While the 28 years of my life have given me the skills to solve these, and many other types of problems, it was the last five that now allow me to do so with confidence.

 

Law School Personal Statement Example 2

Why me? I was so surprised when they announced my name as the winner of the $25,000 top-graduating award given at the University of Toronto Faculty of Music. This award was intended to be given to one graduating student in all levels of studies at the faculty who is deemed to make the biggest contribution to the field of music. There were other outstanding students at the faculty who were just as qualified. My face blushes at the thought of that, but a brisk conversation on convocation day with a juror revealed to me that they emphasized public service through leadership in music. My experiences reflected well in that light. As the concertmaster of all eight orchestras I have ever participated in, including the acclaimed Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra and University of Toronto Symphony Orchestra, I negotiated terms and concerns on behalf of the orchestra with management and conductors, mediated among guest artists and resolved conflicts among members and coaches. We brought live music to rural Quebec, hosted workshops in Toronto to kids who are denied access to musical education, and even played side-by-side with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra to attract new generations of young listeners.

On my own initiative, I organized my string quartet to play at places where live music was otherwise unavailable such as Sick Kids Hospital and various retirement homes. I have been featured on recording of important Canadian pieces for CBC Radio and Canadian Music Centre archives in the collective effort of promoting Canadian music and heritage by these prestigious organizations. The celebrated Esprit Orchestra has also hired me as a faculty assistant in their outreach project aimed to decrease gang violence at inner-city schools. I taught a group of troubled teenagers to express and release their sorrow and anger through composing music using graphic notation, which required no musical knowledge. In addition, it was important for me to retain my mother tongue through serving my ethnic community. Whether it was pulling resources together for the Sichuan Earthquake Relief concert, or organizing performances for the annual benefit concerts for UNICEF Canada through U of T Chinese Magazine, my proficiency in reading, writing and oral communication in Chinese has been an asset appreciated on many occasions.

It was through this award that I promised myself to do more for the music industry. The Faculty of Music had faith that I would be the individual who could bring change and positive impact to the field. Thus I was determined to show determination and commitment to the ones who trusted me. It was not long till I found out how I am going to make this contribution. My experiences have bolstered my confidence in my ability to organize, crisis-solve, and lead skills I aspire to further develop in the field of law.

My extensive work experience in the music world has enabled me to gain an insider’s perspective about the operations and challenges that go on behind every production. My understanding of an entertainment lawyer’s job include reviewing contracts offered by record labels and film studios, drafting contracts for tour crew labour agreements, royalty agreements, equipment and venue rentals, and protecting artist from copyright infringement.

All of these tasks not only require the lawyer to hold a firm grasp in legal areas like intellectual property, contract law and labour law, but perhaps more noteworthy is the lawyer’s ample knowledge of how the entertainment industry works. In many instances, entertainment lawyers become acting agents because they inevitably shape an artist’s career when they identify pitfalls in business deals for artists, inform them of the performance rights they have, and which types of contacts to choose.

This could mean filing a suit over lifted music from copyrighted album, negotiating labour terms in contract with unions, ensuring that a stuntman is entitled to adequate medical coverage, or acquiring the rights to use music or lyrics that other artists have written while complying with copyright laws.

The music industry is in dire need of lawyers who can not only bring in the legal expertise necessary to protect and advance the client’s career but can also comprehend their point of view at a profound level. I have met many talents who lacked administrative skill to shield themselves from legal troubles such as infringement of copyright. Thus, with my prolific connections and experience in the arts world, I believe I am in a fitting position to take on this job. I see myself combining the knowledge I accumulated in the arts and my legal expertise with the advantage of my bilingualism to further the careers of fellow artists. I envision myself not as a legal genius or a hotshot litigator, but rather as an unconventional lawyer with a unique perspective that can only be derived from my background and experiences. Compared to other countries such as China, where their lawyers came from a unified background with an undergraduate degree in law, the selection process that the Canadian legal system employs is bound to produce a much more dynamic pool of lawyers: lawyers with extensive knowledge of math, of music, and so on. I yearn to add to this exciting diverse pool of talents, extending myself beyond the glamour of concert halls and finding a niche where music and law intersect.

 

Personal Statement Example 3

My mother tried to teach me the value of education by example. A single parent from the time I was three, she somehow managed to raise me, commute by bus to both of her minimum wage part-time jobs, and squeeze in the occasional class at the community college. We were barely making ends meet, yet one way or another, my mom found the resources, energy, and motivation to make education a priority. She hoped I would make education a priority in my life, too.

Steering me toward college, however, was an uphill battle. We lived on the Eastside of Tacoma, Washington, a high crime neighborhood where few had college on their radar. Even the teachers seemed to have given up on the unlikely prospect of getting us Eastside kids into college. It was the gang recruiters who energetically worked the high school, looking for candidates and showing off the spoils of membership. By the end of tenth grade, many of my friends had joined gangs, and I was teetering on the edge of becoming a full-fledged member. I began to lose sight of the future my mom wanted for me.

By this time, my mom had accepted a full-tuition scholarship to attend graduate school in Syracuse, NY, partly in hopes that if we moved there, I might turn my life around. Despite my 1.43 GPA, my gang leanings, and my unsavory friends, my mom and I retained a spark of hope I might someday go to college.

Yet Syracuse posed new problems. Unlike the Eastside, where the common thread of poverty tended to outweigh differences in race and ethnicity, racism in Syracuse was alive and kicking. The white, college-bound clique at my Syracuse high school referred to me as “Whigger XXX” - a contraction for “White Nigger XXX” - to distinguish me from the obviously collegebound kid named Terrance in my class. This epithet was chosen not because of my ethnicity (I’m Black and can pass for White), but rather because I appeared White and had Black friends. Their bigoted views supported my growing suspicion that college was not intended for people like me. College, it seemed, was for advantaged White kids to consolidate their power and preserve the unjust social order. Coupling this with my experiences growing up in Tacoma, I began to accept the selfdefeating view that “the system” aims to ensure the failure of minorities.

My mom did what she could to defend the value of education, reminding me how foolish I was to let a handful of bigoted teens sabotage my college aspirations. Unfortunately, the “oil-andwater-don’t-mix” attitude wasn’t merely the product of immature high school kids. The Syracuse Police, for example, upheld “unofficial” segregation. In one case, two officers pulled me over after observing me pick up a Black friend in front of the low-income project building where he lived. The first thing the officers asked was, “Who’s got the cocaine?” They searched us, found nothing, and then, to our humiliation, handcuffed each of us to a tree in plain view of rush-hour motorists while they conducted a fruitless 45-minute search for drugs in my car. Before releasing us, the officer in charge explained that the reason he pulled me over was because “White people only go to [that] neighborhood to buy drugs.”

I was barely 18 years old, but had already lost hope in education, respect for the law, and faith in society. I dropped out of high school, moved back to Tacoma, and got a job loading semi-trucks on the graveyard shift. From then on, I sought only attainable pursuits: an apartment, a car with shiny wheels and a loud stereo, and personal trinkets. My friends and I made angry rap music to vent any rage against society the beer didn’t sop up.

In my early twenties, and in the course of rehashing my complaints against society, I began to question my attitude. I realized that by copping out on school, I internalized the stereotype that education is not for my kind and tacitly accepted the self-fulfilling notion that “the system” is both unjust and unchangeable. In effect, I was upholding precisely those social injustices I abhorred. I was not merely a victim of socio-economic circumstance and racism. I was a culpable participant both in my own failure and in the failure of others like me. I finally understood the dire importance of getting an education.

Fueled by these realizations and the moral support of my wife-to-be, I went back to school. I earned my high school diploma at age 22 and started off on the pursuit of a college degree. It would be years, however, before I figured out how to add college successfully to my load of adult responsibilities. I found my groove at age 29. I quit my job, took out as many student loans as necessary to keep up with the mortgage, and embraced the challenges of my new role as stay-athome dad, night student, and future law-school candidate.

I am convinced law school is a good match for me. I find that I thrive in challenging academic environments and take great pleasure in exploring the machinations of my mind. I love to analyze and write arguments, do research, and discuss the fine points of political philosophy and law with my professors and fellow students. Adding this with my desire to solve problems at a fundamental level and help other people, law school is a natural next step for me. I will bring maturity, determination, and compassion to both the classroom and the profession, and I will seek out opportunities to use my future legal knowledge and skills to address issues of social injustice. At age 34, I have finally come around to my mom’s views about education.

 

Personal Statement Example 4

The doors of the subway closed before our eyes, separating us. It was only my mother and I. My father and my three-year-old sister were now on the train without us. It was our second day in Canada, without a word of English, or even a dollar in her pocket, my mother decided we had no option but to sit and wait where we were, hoping my father would come back for us quickly. I recognize this moment as the epiphany of the struggle of many new immigrants, just the first of many obstacles to be faced living a life diaspora, wherein the notion of home would be unclear. The feeling of helplessness and confusion that one is overcome with in an unfamiliar country would be the defining feature of my parents’ struggle to adapt and give us a better life filled with opportunities, one they did not have. This struggle has been both a source of inspiration and curiosity throughout my life. I was six years old when we immigrated to Canada, but over my lifetime my family and I have visited Iran several times, as nearly all of my relatives still live there.

These trips reminded me of the life of restriction, and limited opportunities I would have been subject to as a woman in Iran. Freedom of speech, religion, and association, do not exist in Iran. In fact you are imprisoned, or worse if you speak up against the government. Each trip I was forced to endure a fraction of the social injustices that occur in Iran on a daily basis. In fear of being detained by the Basiji Militia, I experienced first-hand how it feels to be told how to dress, behave, and who to interact with. The reminder of the life I would have had engendered in me a sense of purpose to ensure that such social injustices do not occur in Canada. The stark contrast in the rights afforded to citizens in Iran and Canada is what sparked my interest in the law.

Naturally, when I learned about the law I grew to appreciate the law and democratic ideals that our legal system affords us and have been passionate about the law ever since. My Criminology studies further solidified my desire to be a lawyer. I was enamoured by the objectives and central tenets of the justice system, as well as the centrality of the system to the functioning of society. Additionally, by examining specific landmark cases such as R v. Lavallee [1990], I was able to appreciate the organic nature of the law. Surely I learned of the negative aspects of the justice system as well, such as the overrepresentation of minority populations in prisons, or the treatment of Aboriginal peoples throughout the justice system. Even so, this was a source of inspiration; I was inspired to be part of the change towards a more equitable justice system. My undergraduate studies have taught me to take an interdisciplinary approach to every issue, to dedicate the time to research the relevant issue thoroughly, and to critically analyze it in order to prepare an argument based upon facts. It is also important to note the role my non-academic work has played in my life. My parents’ degrees from Iran were not recognized here, which is why we have always struggled financially. As a result, I provided for my sister and myself by working as a salesperson, while at the same time, at my father's Immigration Consulting Office, without pay. Working twenty to thirty hours in a commission-driven sales environment, as well as an Immigration Office, while being dedicated to my academics, was exhausting. This had an adverse effect on my grades in my first two years, and led to a lesser course load in my second year. 

Fortunately, I was able to find a balance between my academic goals and non-academic responsibilities, and thus achieve grades more representative of my ability in following years. Nevertheless I am proud to say I was able to persevere and graduate Magna Cum Laude and on the Deans Honour Roll. I have grown and accomplished a lot since that unlucky day at the subway station. I believe that law is a central facet to the functioning of society. It can affect the whole of society by either solidifying the beliefs of citizens in the form of a law against a certain act, or prompting a cohesive response against particular aspects of the law, inaugurating its change. I wish to be a part of such a change. My interests, as a result of my experiences, lay in the protection of human rights. I aspire to play a role in ensuring that everyone is treated equally both within the justice system, and throughout society, firstly, in Canada, and eventually on an international scale. I believe that my firsthand experience growing up in a developing country, the passion that I have for law, as well as my fluency in English and Farsi, make me uniquely suited to fulfilling this aspiration. As a minority and an immigrant, as an Iranian and a Canadian woman, my experiences have provided me with a unique lens, which I am confident I will carry through to the University of Toronto, and the legal profession as a whole.

 

FAQ

While what works for one individual will not work for another because the personal statement is so individualized, here are some common mistakes we see from applicants:
  • Restating your resume. Resume restatements are one of the most common errors. We will read your resume in detail. We want the personal statement to tell us something new about you.
  • Listing your qualifications. Don't try to overtly sell yourself to the Admissions Committee. This isn't the place to convince us how qualified you are. Your qualifications will shine through in other parts of your application. Remember, this is the part where we get to know you as an individual.
  • Typos and “tracked changes”. Make sure to upload the correct version of your personal statement into CAS. If you plan to reference law schools by name, please reference the correct school for each application. 
  • Legalese or Latin phrases.  Avoid using legal terms or Latin phrases if you can. The risk you are incorrectly using them is just too high.
  • Extensive discussions of the law and attorneys. It is not necessary to discuss the law, tell us what type of law you want to practice, or convey the extent of your legal experience. Legal experience is not a factor in admission.  It is not the place to demonstrate your knowledge of the law or the role of attorneys. These personal statements do not tell us much about the applicant as an individual.
  • Telling us you'll be a good lawyer because you like to argue.
  • Name-dropping. It is not necessary to cite the names of our faculty and programs from our website in your personal statement unless you are placing the reference in a meaningful context. It detracts from your authenticity. However, if one of our faculty members or something about our community has genuinely inspired you, you are more than welcome to tell us about it.
  • Covering too much information. You don't have to cover your entire life story. Use your discretion - we know you have to make a choice and have limited space. Attempting to cover too much material can result in an unfocused and scattered personal statement.
Make sure your personal statement is about you. Focusing too much on a family member or family history, a social or legal issue, or stories about others is a very common mistake. Even if you tell a moving and interesting story, it will not be a successful personal statement if it does not allow us to get to know you.