- Home & Garden
Master the Five-Paragraph Essay
The five-paragraph essay is one of the most common composition assignments out there, whether for high school or college students. It is a classic assignment because it presents an arena in which writers can demonstrate their command of language and punctuation, as well as their logic and rhetorical skills. These skills are useful not only for classroom assignments and college application essays, but even in the business world, as employees have to write memorandums and reports, which draw on the same skills.
Mastering the five-paragraph essay is doable, and here are some tips.
Components of a Good Essay
The five-paragraph essay lives up to its name, because is has five paragraphs, as follows: an introductory paragraph that includes a thesis, three body paragraphs, each which includes support and development, and one concluding paragraph.
Its structure sometimes generates other names for the same essay, including three-tier essay, one-three-one, or a hamburger essay. Whether you are writing a cause-and-effect essay, a persuasive essay, an argumentative essay or a compare-and-contrast essay, you should use this same structure and the following specifics.
Keys to Introductory Paragraphs
Any introductory paragraph contains from three to five sentences and sets up the tone and structure for the whole essay. The first sentence should be a so-called hook sentence and grabs the reader. Examples of hook sentences include a quote, a joke, a rhetorical question or a shocking fact. This is the sentence that will keep your readers reading. Draw them in.
What Makes a Thesis Statement
The last sentence should be your thesis statement, which is the argument you are going to make in the essay. It is the sentence that contains the main point of the essay, or what you are trying to prove. It should be your strongest claim in the whole essay, telling the reader what the paper is about. You should be able to look back at it to keep your argument focused. The other sentences in this paragraph should be general information that links the first sentence and the thesis.
Content of Supporting Paragraphs
Each of the next three paragraphs follows the same general structure of the introductory paragraph. That is, they have one introduction sentence, evidence and arguments in three to five sentences, and a conclusion. Each one of them should define and defend your thesis sentence in the introduction.
The first body paragraph should be dedicated to proving your most powerful point. The second body paragraph can contain your weakest point, because the third body paragraph can, and should, support another strong argument.
Concluding Paragraph Tips
Your concluding paragraph is important, and can be difficult. Ideally, you can begin by restating your thesis. Then you can recall or restate all three to five of your supporting arguments. You should summarize each main point. If you have made similar arguments multiple times, join those together in one sentence.
Essentially, in the concluding or fifth paragraph, you should restate what your preceding paragraphs were about and draw a conclusion. It should answer the question: So what? Even if the answer seems obvious to you, write it down so that your reader can continue to easily follow your thinking process, and hopefully, agree with you.
A Note on Compare and Contrast
Let’s look a little more closely at the compare-and-contrast essay, which is a very common assignment. It can be a confusing one due to the terms used. Comparing two items is to show how they are alike. Contrasting two items is to show how they are different. One way to approach this essay is to make a grid for yourself that compares or contrasts two items before you start writing. Then, write about those characteristics. Do not try to write about both. The name of the essay is actually misleading.
Keep these pointers in mind when you need to write a five-paragraph essay, and your end result will be clear in its argument, leading your reader to the right conclusion. Often, that conclusion is to agree with you, and who doesn’t like to be right?
MORE FROM LIFE123.COM
What's Your Question?
10 Great Essay Writing Tips
Knowing how to write a college essay is a useful skill for anyone who plans to go to college. Most colleges and universities ask you to submit a writing sample with your application. As a student, you’ll also write essays in your courses. Impress your professors with your knowledge and skill by using these great essay writing tips.
Prepare to Answer the Question
Most college essays ask you to answer a question or synthesize information you learned in class. Review notes you have from lectures, read the recommended texts and make sure you understand the topic. You should refer to these sources in your essay.
Plan Your Essay
Many students see planning as a waste of time, but it actually saves you time. Take a few minutes to think about the topic and what you want to say about it. You can write an outline, draw a chart or use a graphic organizer to arrange your ideas. This gives you a chance to spot problems in your ideas before you spend time writing out the paragraphs.
Choose a Writing Method That Feels Comfortable
You might have to type your essay before turning it in, but that doesn’t mean you have to write it that way. Some people find it easy to write out their ideas by hand. Others prefer typing in a word processor where they can erase and rewrite as needed. Find the one that works best for you and stick with it.
View It as a Conversation
Writing is a form of communication, so think of your essay as a conversation between you and the reader. Think about your response to the source material and the topic. Decide what you want to tell the reader about the topic. Then, stay focused on your response as you write.
Provide the Context in the Introduction
If you look at an example of an essay introduction, you’ll see that the best essays give the reader a context. Think of how you introduce two people to each other. You share the details you think they will find most interesting. Do this in your essay by stating what it’s about and then telling readers what the issue is.
Explain What Needs to be Explained
Sometimes you have to explain concepts or define words to help the reader understand your viewpoint. You also have to explain the reasoning behind your ideas. For example, it’s not enough to write that your greatest achievement is running an ultra marathon. You might need to define ultra marathon and explain why finishing the race is such an accomplishment.
Answer All the Questions
After you finish writing the first draft of your essay, make sure you’ve answered all the questions you were supposed to answer. For example, essays in compare and contrast format should show the similarities and differences between ideas, objects or events. If you’re writing about a significant achievement, describe what you did and how it affected you.
Stay Focused as You Write
Writing requires concentration. Find a place where you have few distractions and give yourself time to write without interruptions. Don’t wait until the night before the essay is due to start working on it.
Read the Essay Aloud to Proofread
When you finish writing your essay, read it aloud. You can do this by yourself or ask someone to listen to you read it. You’ll notice places where the ideas don’t make sense, and your listener can give you feedback about your ideas.
Avoid Filling the Page with Words
A great essay does more than follow an essay layout. It has something to say. Sometimes students panic and write everything they know about a topic or summarize everything in the source material. Your job as a writer is to show why this information is important.
MORE FROM QUESTIONSANSWERED.NET
2 Law School Personal Statements That Succeeded
These examples of law school essays were critical components of successful law school applications.
Sincerity is an essential ingredient of a compelling law school admissions essay, one J.D. admissions expert says. (Getty Images)
Deciding what to say in the law school personal statement is the most challenging part of the admissions process for some applicants.
"Even people who are good writers often have a hard time writing about themselves," says Jessica Pishko, a former admissions consultant and writing tutor at Accepted, a Los Angeles-based admissions consulting firm. "That is perfectly normal."
Pishko, who coached law school applicants on how to overcome writer's block, says, "If you can find the thing that you really care about, that is who you are, and talking about that is a great way to write about yourself."
Why Law Schools Ask for Personal Statements
Personal statements can offer J.D. admissions committees "a narrative" about the applicant, which is important because it is rare for law schools to conduct admissions interviews, says Christine Carr, a law school admissions consultant with Accepted who previously was an associate director of admissions at Boston University School of Law .
The statement can help explain an applicant's reasons for wanting to attend law school , Carr adds.
"It can then add 'color' to a one-dimensional process," Carr wrote in an email. "The personal statement also allows the applicant to showcase writing ability. Law school and the legal profession require a clear and concise writing style that can be displayed by the applicant in the personal statement."
Personal statements often help admissions committees make difficult decisions, Carr says. "Given a relatively robust applicant pool, institutions often have more 'numerically' qualified applicants – LSAT and GPA – than they can admit," she explains.
Qualitative admissions factors, including not only personal statements but also resumes and recommendation letters , help to humanize applicants and "allow committees to build a community of law students not solely based on the quantifiable measures of test scores and transcripts," Carr says.
"Law schools are looking to fill classrooms with engaging and qualified students. The personal statement can provide insight into an applicant's personality and potential as a member of the school's community," she says.
What a Great Personal Statement Accomplishes
Excellent law school personal statements convey the essence of who an applicant is, experts say.
"The personal statement is the quickest way to get an overview, not only of the applicant's professional life and background, but in terms of what they emphasize, a clear indication of what the applicant themself, values," Jillian Ivy, CEO and founder of IvyCollegeEssay.com, a company that provides guidance on admissions essays, wrote in an email.
The statement "also gives admissions a snapshot of how well each applicant writes, if they understand how to brand or market their best traits, and thereby demonstrate that they know where their own strengths lie," Ivy adds.
A strong personal statement will articulate an applicant's vision for his or her future, including an explanation of short-term and long-term goals, and it will delineate how a J.D. degree will help an applicant get to where he or she wants to go, Ivy says.
"The more competitive the law school, the more admissions wants to see a level of understanding, drive and ambition within the personal statement," she explains, adding that applicants should clarify why they want to attend a particular law school and how that school can assist them on their career journey. "The schools want to see that the applicant has taken the time to understand what their particular program offers, and what makes it different."
How to Structure a Law School Personal Statement
The beginning of a solid law school personal statement ought to be intriguing, experts say.
"The statement should begin with a strong intro sentence, that summarizes the applicant's goal or tone," Ivy says. "For example, 'I have always been interested in international finance.' From there, the applicant would go on to describe 'why' they are interested in this area of financial law, and what in their unique background and experience has led them to pursue this path."
A personal statement provides context for the experiences that have prepared the applicant for law school and led him or her to pursue a legal career, experts say. It's also ideal to have a thoughtful ending "that ties the statement up," Ivy says.
An important point to address in a law school personal statement is what "sparked" the applicant's interest in law, Ivy says. She adds that law school admissions readers are aware that J.D. hopefuls' career goals may change between the time they apply to law school and the day they graduate.
Nevertheless, it can still be useful for an applicant to provide an explanation of what particular area of law he or she wants to learn more about and what type of lawyer he or she would like to become, if that is something the applicant is clear about, Ivy says.
An effective personal statement will also explain an applicant's background and how it has shaped him or her, Ivy adds. "It's connecting the dots back to anything at all that can be relevant ... to your new interest and what you want to pursue professionally."
Applicants should tailor their personal statement to each law school where they submit an application, Ivy adds. " Harvard Law School is very different than Columbia Law School even though both of them are excellent schools," she explains. "So each has their own approach to learning and to learning about law in particular."
Law school admissions committees appreciate when applicants make it clear that they have done thorough research on the school and its J.D. program . This reassures admissions officers that an applicant will be a good fit and make a valuable contribution to his or her law school class, Ivy explains.
Experts advise that a law school personal statement should align with the content in the rest of the law school application . Ideally, the essay will emphasize a selling point that is conveyed elsewhere in the application, but not simply repeat information.
In order for a personal statement to be effective and stand out, experts say, it needs to be both representative of who the applicant is and distinctive from personal essays that others have written.
How to Start Writing a Law School Personal Statement
Carr notes that writing a law school personal statement can be intimidating because it isn't easy to convey the essence of decades of events "into two pages double-spaced." She says law school hopefuls are often unsure about which portions of their life would be most meaningful and interesting to an admissions committee.
"Some applicants have a tendency to throw the 'kitchen sink' at committees and write about everything," Carr explains. But that's a mistake, Carr says, adding that J.D. personal statements should be "clear and concise."
Carr suggests that J.D. applicants concentrate on answering the central question of a law school personal statement, "Why law school?" Once they have brainstormed answers to that question, they should focus on a specific aspect or theme that explains their rationale for pursuing a career as an attorney, Carr says.
Ivy suggests that law school hopefuls who are struggling to decide what to write about in their law school personal statement should make a bullet-point list of the various topics they could focus on alongside brief one-sentence descriptions of each topic. The process of recording ideas on a piece of paper can clarify which ideas are most promising, she says.
"The strong ones will rise to the surface," she says, adding that once an applicant has narrowed down his or her list of essay ideas to only a few, it can be valuable to solicit feedback from trusted individuals about which of the remaining essay concepts is the very best.
Law school admissions experts suggest that applicants recall the various pivotal moments in their lives that shaped their identity, and then consider whether there is any idea or thesis that ties these events together.
Focusing on a central concept can help ensure that a law school personal statement does not simply list accomplishments in the way that a resume or cover letter might, experts say. Plus, an idea-driven essay can give law school admissions officers insight into the way a J.D. applicant's mind works.
A personal statement should illustrate the positive attributes the applicant has that would make him or her successful as a law student and lawyer. Sometimes the best way for an applicant to show his or her character strengths is to recount a moment when he or she was challenged and overcame adversity, experts say.
Experts advise law school hopefuls to write multiple drafts of their personal statement to ensure that the final product is top-notch.
They also recommend that applicants solicit feedback from people who understand the law school admissions process well, such as law school admissions consultants, and from people who know them well, such as close friends or family members. Getting input from friends and family can help ensure that an applicant's essay authentically conveys their personality, experts say.
Once the statement is finalized, Carr advises, the applicant should thoroughly proofread it more than once.
Mistakes to Avoid in Law School Personal Statements
A scatterbrained or disorganized approach in a law school personal statement is a major no-no, experts warn.
Ivy suggests that J.D. hopefuls avoid "rambling," adding that top law schools want to identify individuals who demonstrate that they are highly focused, ambitious, driven and persistent. "If you can hit those four things in your essay, then that's going to stand out, because most people don't know how to do that," she says.
Because it's important for a law school personal statement to be coherent and streamlined – like the law school resume – it's prudent to use an outline to plan the essay, Ivy says. The most common mistake she sees in J.D. personal statements is the lack of logical flow.
"Instead of a linear line, they're cycling around, and they'll touch on something, and then they'll come back to it again three paragraphs later," she says, adding that an unstructured essay is "just messy" and will not make a positive impression during the law school admissions process.
Experts warn that law school personal statements should not be vague, melodramatic and repetitive. The essay should not merely describe a person that the applicant met or recount an event – it needs to convey the applicant's personality.
Plus, language should be specific and clear. Absolutes like "never" or "always" are typically not the best words to use, experts warn, and it's important to not overshare personal information.
In addition, J.D. hopefuls should understand that they have a lot to learn about the law since they have not gone to law school. They should recognize that the individuals reading their essays probably know a great deal about the law, so they should not write essays that lecture readers about legal issues, experts warn.
Grammatical and spelling errors can tarnish an otherwise good personal statement, so it's important to avoid those, according to experts. It's also essential to follow any formatting rules that a law school outlines for personal statements.
Additionally, though many law school hopefuls are tempted to begin their personal statement with a dramatic anecdote, they should resist because doing so will most likely make a negative impression, experts warn. An aspiring attorney does not need to have suffered a tragedy in order to write a compelling law school personal statement, and describing something bad that has happened does not automatically lead to an effective essay.
Furthermore, when a J.D. applicant submits a generic law school personal statement that could go to any school, he or she is missing an opportunity to explain why a particular school is a great fit, experts suggest. Another common mistake, they say, is when applicants use a positive adjective to describe themselves rather than sharing an anecdote that demonstrates that they have this good quality.
Additionally, when a law school hopeful includes storytelling in his or her essay, it's best to focus on a single specific anecdote, because speaking in generalities is neither interesting nor convincing, experts say.
An applicant who writes a contrived essay based purely on what he or she believes a law school wants may come across as phony, experts say. It's essential, they say, for a personal statement to articulate what special perspective a prospective student could bring to a law school class.
Law School Personal Statement Examples
Below are two law school admissions essays whose authors were accepted to their top-choice law schools. The first is written by Waukeshia Jackson, an intellectual property attorney who earned her J.D. from the Paul M. Herbert Law Center at Louisiana State University—Baton Rouge . The second essay is written by Cameron Dare Clark, a Harvard Law School graduate.
Pishko says these two personal statements demonstrate the necessity of sincerity in an admissions essay. "It has to be sincere, and it has to be you and what you want to write about and why you want to go to law school.”
Both essays are annotated with comments from the authors about how the essays were written as well as comments from Pishko about passages that resonated best and how the essays could be improved.
Searching for a law school? Get our complete rankings of Best Law Schools.
Getting Into Law School
- 2 Law School Admissions Essays That Succeeded
- How to Write a Law School Resume
- A Law School Resume That Made the Cut
- Work Experience and Law School Admission
- What Is a Good LSAT Score?
Tags: law school , law , graduate schools , education , students
Best Global Universities
You May Also Like
Ask about mba career services.
Cole Claybourn Nov. 7, 2023
Answering Law School Interview Questions
Gabriel Kuris Nov. 6, 2023
Disadvantaged Medical School Applicants
Renee Marinelli, M.D. Nov. 6, 2023
9 Law School Application Errors to Avoid
Gabriel Kuris Oct. 30, 2023
How to Write a Strong MBA Resume
Sammy Allen Oct. 26, 2023
LSAT Without Logic Games: What to Know
Gabriel Kuris Oct. 23, 2023
Mentors Are Important for Premeds
Zach Grimmett Oct. 17, 2023
Writing a 'Why This Law School' Essay
Gabriel Kuris Oct. 16, 2023
Physiology Prep Before Med School
Kathleen Franco, M.D., M.S. Oct. 10, 2023
How Law Schools Judge Applicants' Grades
Gabriel Kuris Oct. 9, 2023
18 Law School Personal Statement Examples That Got Accepted!
This blog contains law school personal statement examples written by applicants who were successfully accepted to multiple law schools after working with our admissions experts as part of our application review programs . Your law school personal statement is one of the most important parts of your application and is your best opportunity to show admissions officers who you are behind your numbers and third-party assessments. Because of its importance, many students find the personal statement to be daunting and demanding of the full scope of their skills as writers. Today we're going to review these excellent law school personal statement examples from past successful applicants and provide some proven strategies from a former admissions officer that can help you prepare your own stellar essay.
>> Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here . <<
Article Contents 44 min read
Law school personal statement example #1.
When I was a child, my neighbors, who had arrived in America from Nepal, often seemed stressed. They argued a lot, struggled for money, and seemed to work all hours of the day. One day, I woke early in the morning to a commotion outside my apartment. Police officers were accompanying my neighbors out of the building. They were being deported. In my teens, I was shocked to see that our kind, friendly neighbors had exhausted their last chance to stay in America as they lost a court appeal.
Since that time, I have worked closely with the many immigrant families in my neighborhood, and now university town. I began by volunteering at a local community center. Together with social workers, I served food and gave out clothes to new arrivals. My diligent work ethic led to more responsibility, and I received training in basic counseling techniques, first aid skills and community services. Soon, I was tasked with welcoming new community members and assessing their health and social needs. I heard the many difficult stories of those who had traveled thousands of miles, often through several countries, risking everything to reach a safe, welcoming country. I was proud to contribute in some small way to making America welcoming for these individuals.
The community center is where I had my first formal contact with legal aid lawyers, who were a constant source of knowledge and support for those who needed assistance. I was struck by the lawyers’ ability to explain complex legal processes to nervous and exhausted incomers: law, I realized, was about more than procedure. I decided that I, too, would strive to balance a wealth of technical knowledge with my caring, compassionate personality.
As soon as I enrolled in university, I knew I had the chance to do so. In my very first week, I signed up to volunteer at the university’s legal aid center, where I worked closely with law professors and students on a range of cases. Academically, I have focused on courses, such as a fourth-year Ethics seminar, that would help me develop rigorous critical reasoning skills. More importantly, I knew that, given my experience, I could be a leader on campus. I decided to found a refugee campaign group, Students4Refugees. Together with a group of volunteers, we campaigned to make our campus a refugee-friendly space. I organized a series of events: international student mixers, an art installation in our student commons, and concerts that raised over $5,000 for the charity Refugee Aid. I am proud to say that my contributions were recognized with a university medal for campus leadership.
I have seen time and again how immigrants to the United States struggle with bureaucracy, with complex legal procedures, and with the demands of living in a foreign and sometimes hostile climate. As I plan to enter law school, I look back to my neighbors’ experiences: they needed someone who knew the law, who could negotiate with the authorities on their behalf, who could inform them of their rights—but they also needed someone who would provide a caring and compassionate outlet for their stresses. I know that Townsville University’s combination of academic rigor, legal aid services, and history of graduates entering labor and non-profit sectors will allow me to develop these skills and continue making contributions to my community by advocating for those in need.
- Thematic consistency: It focuses on just one theme: justice for immigrants. Each paragraph is designed to show off how enthusiastic the student is about this area of law. Personal statements—including those for law school—often begin with a personal anecdote. This one is short, memorable, and relevant. It establishes the overall theme quickly. By constraining their essay’s focus to a single general theme, the writer can go into great depth and weave in emotional and psychological weight through careful and vivid description. The personal statement isn’t a standard 3-paragraph college essay with a spotlight thesis statement, but it conveys similar impact through presenting a central focus organically, without resorting to simply blurting out “the point” of the piece.
- Shows, rather than tells: Connected to this, this statement focuses on showing rather than telling. Rather than simply telling the reader about their commitment to law, the applicant describes specific situations they were involved in that demonstrate their commitment to law. “Show don’t tell” means you want to paint a vivid picture of actions or experiences that demonstrate a given quality or skill, and not simply say "I can do X." Make it an experience for your reader, don't just give them a fact.
- Confident, but not arrogant: Additionally, this personal statement is confident without being boastful—leadership qualities, grades, and an award are all mentioned in context, rather than appearing as a simple list of successes.
- Specific to the school: It ends with a conclusion that alludes to why the applicant is suitable for the specific school to which they’re applying and points to their future career plans. Thoroughly researching the law school to which you’re applying is incredibly important so that you can tailor your remarks to the specific qualities and values they’re looking for. A law essay writing service is really something that can help you integrate this aspect effectively.
What Should a Law School Personal Statement Do?
1. be unique to the school you’re applying to.
Students are always asking how to write a personal statement for law school, particularly one that stands out from all the rest. After all, advice from most universities can often be quite vague. Take this zinger from the University of Chicago : “Write about something personal, relevant, and completely individual to you… Just be yourself.” Every school will have different requirements or content they want to see in a personal statement. This is why it’s a good idea to review specific guidelines for the school to which you’re applying. For example, you can read Yale Law School personal statement examples , Stanford Law personal statement examples , and an NYU personal statement to get an idea of what these schools look for.
2. Demonstrate your skills and capabilities
For motivated students with the world at their fingertips, it’s a tough ask to narrow your character down into a few hundred words! But this is exactly the point of such generic guidelines—to challenge aspiring law students to produce something unique and convincing with minimal direction by the university. Law is, after all, a profession that demands your language to be persuasive, and the personal statement is merely one of many exercises where you can demonstrate your language skills.
3. Meet basic requirements
While the law school personal statement is about far more than just following essay directions, you still need to keep basic formatting and length restrictions in mind. Most law schools ask for a 2-page personal statement, but lengths can range from 2-4 pages. Georgetown Law School , for instance, recommends a 2-page personal statement but explicitly states that there is no official minimum or maximum. In general, length does not make a personal statement better. Rambling, meandering sentences and tiresome descriptions will only hurt the impact of your ideas, especially considering how many thousands of pages admissions committees have to churn through each year.
In short, keep to 2 double-spaced pages, and only go below or above this is if you absolutely have to, and if the school to which you're applying allows it. You want to keep things as widely applicable as possible while drafting your personal statement, meaning that you don't want to draft a 4 page letter for the one school that allows it, and then have to significantly rewrite this for your other schools. Stick to 2 pages.
4. Embody what the school is looking for
Lastly, many law schools won’t offer hyper-specific prompts, but will give you general law school admissions essay topics to follow. For instance, the University of Washington’s law school provides a number of topics to follow, including “Describe a personal challenge you faced” or “Describe your passions and involvement in a project or pursuit and the ways in which it has contributed to your personal growth and goals.” These topics may feel specific at first, but as you begin drafting, you’ll likely realize you have dozens of memories to choose from, and numerous ways of describing their impact. While drafting, try to explore as many of these options as possible, and select the best or most impactful to use in your final draft.
Want to write the perfect law school personal statement? Watch this video:
Law School Personal Statement Example #2
In my home community, the belief is that the law is against us. The law oppresses and victimizes. I must admit that as a child and young person I had this opinion based on my environment and the conversations around me. I did not understand that the law could be a vehicle for social change, and I certainly did not imagine I had the ability and talents to be a voice for this change. I regularly attended my high school classes because I enjoyed the discussions and reading for English and history, and writing came easily to me, but I wasn’t committed to getting good grades because I felt I had no purpose. My mindset changed as I spent time with Mark Russell, a law student who agreed to mentor and tutor me as part of a “high school to law school” mentorship program. Every week, for three years, Mark and I would meet. At first, Mark tutored me, but I quickly became an “A” student, not only because of the tutoring, but because my ambitions were uncorked by what Mark shared with me about university, the law, and his life. I learned grades were the currency I needed to succeed. I attended mock trials, court hearings, and law lectures with Mark and developed a fresh understanding of the law that piqued an interest in law school. My outlook has changed because my mentor, my teachers, and my self-advocacy facilitated my growth. Still, injustices do occur. The difference is that I now believe the law can be an instrument for social change, but voices like mine must give direction to policy and resources in order to fight those injustices.
Early in my mentorship, I realized it was necessary to be “in the world” differently if I were to truly consider a law career. With Mark’s help and the support of my high school teachers, I learned to advocate for myself and explore opportunities that would expand my worldview as well as my academic skills. I joined a Model UN club at a neighboring high school, because my own school did not have enough student interest to have a club. By discussing global issues and writing decisions, I began to feel powerful and confident with my ability to gather evidence and make meaningful decisions about real global issues. As I built my leadership, writing, and public speaking skills, I noticed a rift developing with some of my friends. I wanted them to begin to think about larger systemic issues outside of our immediate experience, as I was learning to, and to build confidence in new ways. I petitioned my school to start a Model UN and recruited enough students to populate the club. My friends did not join the club as I’d hoped, but before I graduated, we had 2 successful years with the students who did join. I began to understand that I cannot force change based on my own mandate, but I must listen attentively to the needs and desires of others in order to support them as they require.
While I learned to advocate for myself throughout high school, I also learned to advocate for others. My neighbors, knowing my desire to be a lawyer, would often ask me to advocate on their behalf with small grievances. I would make phone calls, stand in line with them at government offices, and deal with difficult landlords. A woman, Elsa, asked me to review her rental agreement to help her understand why her landlord had rented it to someone else, rather than renewing her lease. I scoured the rental agreement, highlighted questionable sections, read the Residential Tenancies Act, and developed a strategy for approaching the landlord. Elsa and I sat down with the landlord and, upon seeing my binder complete with indices, he quickly conceded before I could even speak. That day, I understood evidence is the way to justice. My interest in justice grew, and while in university, I sought experiences to solidify my decision to pursue law.
Last summer, I had the good fortune to work as a summer intern in the Crown Attorney’s Office responsible for criminal trial prosecutions. As the only pre-law intern, I was given tasks such as reviewing court tapes, verifying documents, and creating a binder with indices. I often went to court with the prosecutors where I learned a great deal about legal proceedings, and was at times horrified by human behavior. This made the atmosphere in the Crown Attorney’s office even more surprising. I worked with happy and passionate lawyers whose motivations were pubic service, the safety and well-being of communities, and justice. The moment I realized justice was their true objective, not the number of convictions, was the moment I decided to become a lawyer.
I broke from the belief systems I was born into. I did this through education, mentorship, and self-advocacy. There is sadness because in this transition I left people behind, especially as I entered university. However, I am devoted to my home community. I understand the barriers that stand between youth and their success. As a law student, I will mentor as I was mentored, and as a lawyer, I will be a voice for change.
What’s Great about this Second Law School Personal Statement?
- It tells a complete and compelling story: Although the applicant expressed initial reservations about the law generally, the statement tells a compelling story of how the applicant's opinions began to shift and their interest in law began. They use real examples and show how that initial interest, once seeded, grew into dedication and passion. This introduction implies an answer to the " why do you want to study law? ” interview question.
- It shows adaptability: Receptiveness to new information and the ability to change both thought and behavior based on this new information. The writer describes realizing that they needed to be "in the world" differently! It's hard to convey such a grandiose idea without sounding cliché, but through their captivating and chronological narrative, the writer successfully convinces the reader that this is the case with copious examples, including law school extracurriculars . It’s a fantastic case of showing rather than telling, describing specific causes they were involved with which demonstrate that the applicant is genuinely committed to a career in the law.
- Includes challenges the subject faced and overcame: This law school personal statement also discusses weighty, relatable challenges that they faced, such as the applicant's original feeling toward law, and the fact that they lost some friends along the way. However, the applicant shows determination to move past these hurdles without self-pity or other forms of navel-gazing. Additionally, this personal statement ends with a conclusion that alludes to why the applicant is suitable for the specific school to which they’re applying and points to their future career plans. The writer manages to craft an extremely immersive and believable story about their path to the present, while also managing to curate the details of this narrative to fit the specific values and mission of the school to which they’re applying.
What’s Great About This Third Law School Personal Statement?
- Description is concise and effective: This writer opens with rich, vivid description and seamlessly guides the reader into a compelling first-person narrative. Using punchy, attention-grabbing descriptions like these make events immersive, placing readers in the writer's shoes and creating a sense of immediacy.
- Achievements are the focus: They also do a fantastic job of talking about their achievements, such as interview team lead, program design, etc., without simply bragging. Instead, they deliver this information within a cohesive narrative that includes details, anecdotes, and information that shows their perspective in a natural way. Lastly, they invoke their passion for law with humility, discussing their momentary setbacks and frustrations as ultimately positive experiences leading to further growth.
Want more law school personal statement examples from top law schools?
- Harvard law school personal statement examples
- Columbia law school personal statement examples
- Cornell law school personal statement examples
- Yale law school personal statement examples
- UPenn law school personal statement examples
- Cambridge law school personal statement examples
Law School Personal Statement #4
What’s great about this fourth law school personal statement.
- Engaging description: Like the third example above, this fourth law school personal statement opens with engaging description and first-person narrative. However, the writer of this personal statement chooses to engage a traumatic aspect of their childhood and discuss how this adversity led them to develop their desire to pursue a career in law.
- Strong theme of overcoming adversity: Overcoming adversity is a frequent theme in personal statements for all specialties, but with law school personal statements students are often able to utilize uniquely dramatic, difficult, and pivotal experiences that involved interacting with the law. It may be hard to discuss such emotionally weighty experiences in a short letter but, as this personal statement shows, with care and focus it's possible to sincerely demonstrate how your early struggles paved the way for you to become the person you are now. It's important to avoid sensationalism, but you shouldn't shy away from opening up to your readers about adverse experiences that have ultimately pointed you in a positive direction.
Why "show, don't tell" is the #1 rule for personal statements:
Law School Personal Statement Example #5
What’s great about this fifth law school personal statement .
- Highlights achievements effectively: This writer does a fantastic job of incorporating their accomplishments and impact they had on their community without any sense of bragging or conceit. Rather, these accomplishments are related in terms of deep personal investment and a general drive to have a positive impact on those around them—without resorting to the cliches of simply stating "I want to help people." They show themselves helping others, and how these early experiences of doing so are a fundamental part of their drive to succeed with a career in law.
- Shows originality: Additionally, they do a great job of explaining the uniqueness of their identity. The writer doesn't simply list their personal/cultural characteristics, but contextualizes them to show how they've shaped their path to law school. Being the child of a Buddhist mother and a Hindu father doesn’t imply anything about a person’s ability to study/practice law on its own, but explaining how this unique aspect of their childhood encouraged a passion for “discussion, active debate, and compromise” is profoundly meaningful to an admissions panel. Being able to express how fundamental aspects of law practice are an integral part of yourself is a hugely helpful tactic in a law school personal statement.
If you\u2019re heading North of the border, check out list of law schools in Canada that includes requirements and stats on acceptance. ","label":"Tip","title":"Tip"}]' code='tab2' template='BlogArticle'>
Law School Personal Statement Example #6
What’s great about this sixth law school personal statement .
- Weaves in cultural background: Similar to the writer of personal statement #5, this student utilizes the cultural uniqueness of their childhood to show how their path to law school was both deeply personal and rooted in ideas pervasive in their early years. Unlike the writer of statement #5, this student doesn't shy away from explaining how this distinctiveness was often a source of alienation and difficulty. Yet this adversity is, as they note, ultimately what helped them be an adaptable and driven student, with a clear desire to make a positive impact on the kinds of situations that they witnessed affect their parents.
- Describes setbacks while remaining positive: This writer also doesn't shy away from describing their temporary setbacks as both learning experiences and, crucially, springboards for positively informing their plans for the future.
What’s Great About This Seventh Law School Personal Statement?
- The writer takes accountability: One of the hardest things to accomplish in a personal statement is describing not just early setbacks that are out of your control but early mistakes for which you must take responsibility. The writer of this personal statement opens with descriptions of characteristics that most law schools would find problematic at best. But at the end of this introduction, they successfully utilize an epiphany, a game-changing moment in which they saw something beyond their early pathological aimlessness, to clearly mark the point at which they became focused on law.
- The narrative structure is clear: They clearly describe the path forward from this moment on, showing how they remained focused on earning a law degree, and how they were able to work through successive experiences of confusion to persist in finishing their undergraduate education at a prestigious university. Of course, you shouldn't brag about such things for their own sake, but this writer makes the point of opening up about the unique feelings of inadequacy that come along with being the first person in their family to attend such a school, and how these feelings were—like their initial aimlessness—mobilized in service of their goal and the well-being of others. Their statement balances discussion of achievement with humility, which is a difficult but impactful tactic when done well.
Law School Personal Statement Example #8
What’s great about this eighth law school personal statement .
- Shows commitment to the community: Commitment to one’s community is a prized value in both law students and law professionals. This writer successfully describes not only how they navigated the challenges in their group environments, such as their internship, the debate team, etc., but how these challenges strengthened their commitment to being a positive part of their communities. They don’t simply describe the skills and lessons they learned from these challenging environments, but also how these challenges ultimately made them even more committed to and appreciative of these kinds of dynamic, evolutionary settings.
- Avoids negative description: They also avoid placing blame or negatively describing the people in these situations, instead choosing to characterize inherent difficulties in terms neutral to the people around them. In this way, you can describe extremely challenging environments without coming off as resentful, and identify difficulties without being accusatory or, worse yet, accidentally or indirectly seeming like part of the problem. This writer manages to convey the difficulty and complexity of these experiences while continually returning to their positive long-term impact, and though you shouldn’t seek to “bright-side” the troubles in your life you should absolutely point out how these experiences have made you a more capable and mature student.
Watch this for more law school personal statement examples!
Law School Personal Statement Example #9
What’s great about this ninth law school personal statement .
- The writer effectively describes how their background shaped their decision to pursue law: Expressing privilege as adversity is something that very few students should even attempt, and fewer still can actually pull it off. But the writer of this personal statement does just that in their second paragraph, describing how the ease and comfort of their upbringing could have been a source of laziness or detachment, and often is for particularly well-off students, but instead served as a basis for their ongoing commitment to addressing the inequalities and difficulties of those less comfortable. Describing how you’ve developed into an empathic and engaged person, worked selflessly in any volunteer experiences, and generally aimed your academic life at a career in law for the aid of others—all this is incredibly moving for an admissions board, and can help you discuss your determination and understanding of exactly why you desire a career in law.
- The student shows adaptability, flexibility, and commitment: Additionally, this writer is able to show adaptability while describing their more prestigious appointments in a way that’s neither self-aggrandizing nor unappreciative. One of the big takeaways from this statement is the student’s commitment and flexibility, and these are both vitally important qualities to convey in your law school personal statement.
Law School Personal Statement Example #10
What’s great about this tenth law school personal statement .
Shows passion: If you’re one of the rare students for whom service to others has always been a core belief, by all means find a novel and engaging way of making this the guiding principle of your personal statement. Don’t overdo it—don’t veer into poetry or lofty philosophizing—but by all means let your passion guide your pen (well…keyboard). Every step of the way, this student relates their highs and lows, their challenges and successes, to an extremely earnest and sincere set of altruistic values invoked at the very beginning of their statement. Law school admissions boards don’t exactly prize monomania, but they do value intense and sustained commitment.
Shows maturity: This student also successfully elaborates this passion in relation to mature understanding. That is, they make repeated points about their developing understanding of law that sustains their hopefulness and emotional intensity while also incorporating knowledge of the sometimes troubling day-to-day challenges of the profession. Law schools aren’t looking for starry-eyed naivete, but they do value optimism and the ability to stay positive in a profession often defined by its difficulties and unpredictability.
Every pre-law student blames their lack of success on the large number of applicants, the heartless admissions committee members, or the high GPA and LSAT score cut offs. Check out our blog on law school acceptance rates to find out more about the law school admission statistics for law schools in the US . Having taught more than a thousand students every year, I can tell you the REAL truth about why most students get rejected:
Need tips on your law school resume?
8 Additional Law School Personal Statement Examples
Now that you have a better idea of what your law school personal statement should include, and how you can make it stand out, here are five additional law school personal statements for you to review and get some inspiration:
Law school personal statement example #11
According to the business wire, 51 percent of students are not confident in their career path when they enroll in college. I was one of those students for a long time. My parents had always stressed the importance of education and going to college, so I knew that I wanted to get a tertiary education, I just didn’t know in what field. So, like many other students, I matriculated undecided and started taking introductory courses in the subjects that interest me. I took classes from the department of literature, philosophy, science, statistics, business, and so many others but nothing really called out to me.
I figured that maybe if I got some practical experience, I might get more excited about different fields. I remembered that my high school counselor had told me that medicine would be a good fit for me, and I liked the idea of a career that involved constant learning. So, I applied for an observership at my local hospital. I had to cross “doctor” off my list of post-graduate career options when I fainted in the middle of a consultation in the ER.
I had to go back to the drawing board and reflect on my choices. I decided to stop trying to make an emotional decision and focus on the data. So, I looked at my transcript thus far, and it quickly became clear to me that I had both an interest and an aptitude for business and technology. I had taken more courses in those two fields than in any others, and I was doing very well in them. My decision was reaffirmed when I spent the summer interning at a digital marketing firm during my senior year in college and absolutely loved my experience.
Since graduating, I have been working at that same firm and I am glad that I decided to major in business. I first started as a digital advertising assistant, and I quickly learned that the world of digital marketing is an incredibly fast-paced sink-or-swim environment. I didn’t mind it at all. I wanted to swim with the best of them and succeed. So far, my career in advertising has been challenging and rewarding in ways that I never could have imagined.
I remember the first potential client that I handled on my own. Everything had been going great until they changed their mind about an important detail a day before we were supposed to present our pitch. . I had a day to research and re-do a presentation that I’d been preparing for weeks. I was sure that I’d be next on the chopping block, but once again all I had to was take a step back and look at the information that I had. Focusing on the big picture helped me come up with a new pitch, and after a long night, lots of coffee, and laser-like focus, I delivered a presentation that I was not only proud of, but that landed us the client.
Three years and numerous client emergencies later, I have learned how to work under pressure, how to push myself, and how to think critically. I also have a much better understanding of who I am and what skills I possess. One of the many things that I have learned about myself over the course of my career is that I am a fan of the law. Over the past three years, I have worked with many lawyers to navigate the muddy waters of user privacy and digital media. I often find myself looking forward to working with our legal team, whereas my coworkers actively avoid them. I have even become friends with my colleagues on the legal team who also enjoy comparing things like data protection laws in the US and the EU and speculating about the future of digital technology regulation.
These experiences and conversations have led me to a point where I am interested in various aspects of the law. I now know that I have the skills required to pursue a legal education and that this time around, I am very sure about what I wish to study. Digital technology has evolved rapidly over the last decade, and it is just now starting to become regulated. I believe that this shift is going to open up a more prominent role for those who understand both digital technology and its laws, especially in the corporate world. My goal is to build a career at the intersection of these worlds.
Law school personal statement example #12
The first weekend I spent on my undergrad college campus was simultaneously one of the best and worst of my life. I was so excited to be away from home, on my own, making new friends and trying new things. One of those things was a party at a sorority house with my friend and roommate, where I thought we both had a great time. Both of us came from small towns, and we had decided to look out for one another. So, when it was time to go home, and I couldn't find her, I started to worry. I spent nearly an hour looking for her before I got her message saying she was already back in our dorm.
It took her three months to tell me that she had been raped that night. Her rapist didn't hold a knife to her throat, jump out of a dark alleyway, or slip her a roofie. Her rapist was her long-term boyfriend, with whom she'd been in a long-distance relationship for just over a year. He assaulted her in a stranger's bedroom while her peers, myself included, danced the night away just a few feet away.
I remember feeling overwhelmed when she first told me. I was sad for my friend, angry on her behalf, and disgusted by her rapist's actions. I also felt incredibly guilty because I had been there when it happened. I told myself that I should have stayed with her all night and that I should have seen the abuse - verbal and physical harassment- that he was inflicting on her before it turned sexual. But eventually, I realized that thinking about what could, should, or would've happened doesn't help anyone.
I watched my friend go through counseling, attend support groups, and still, she seemed to be hanging on by a thread. I couldn't begin to imagine what she was going through, and unfortunately, there was very little I could do to help her. So, I decided to get involved with the Sexual Assault Responders Group on campus, where I would actually be able to help another survivor.
My experience with the Sexual Assault Responders Group on campus was eye-opening. I mostly worked on the peer-to-peer hotline, where I spoke to survivors from all walks of life. I was confronted by the fact that rape is not a surreal unfortunate thing that happens to a certain type of person. I learned that it happens daily to mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and friends. I also learned that most survivors try to manage this burden on their own, afraid of judgment and repercussions and fearful of a he-said-she-said court battle.
I am proud to say that I used my time in college to not only earn an education, but also to advocate for survivors of sexual assault. I protested the university's cover-up of a gang rape that took place in one of the fraternity houses on campus. I spearheaded a 'no means no' campaign to raise awareness about consent on campus. I also led several fundraising campaigns for the Sexual Assault Responders Group that allowed us to pay for legal and mental health counselors for the survivors who came to us for support.
One of the things that this experience helped me realize is that sexual assault survivors often do not know where to turn when the system tries to tell them that it'd be best to just keep quiet and suffer in silence. My goal is to become one of those people that they can turn to for counsel and support. I believe that a law degree would give me the knowledge and tools that I need to advocate for survivors on a more significant scale.
Need tips for your law school optional essays? Check out this infographic:
Law school personal statement example #13
I grew up in two different worlds. My world at home was full of people of various skin tones and accents. It was small, loud, and often chaotic in the best ways. I remember walking home and getting to experience music from across the world before I got to my apartment building. Loud reggaeton and afrobeat were always playing somewhere in the distance. Aunties and uncles usually stopped by unannounced and slipped money in your palm when they hugged you goodbye. And the smell of fried plantains was almost always present.
My other world was in school. It was a much quieter, more organized world with white hallways, navy blazers, and plaid skirts. It was full of people who did not look or sound like me and teachers who thought my hair was "interesting." It was also full of great books and engaging debates about everything from foreign policy to the influence of Jazz on hip hop.
I lived in these two worlds because I was born and raised in Xtown, but I went to a private school in a much richer neighborhood. I loved both of my worlds, but I hated that I had to act differently in both of them. When in school, I had to "code switch" to sound like I belonged there. When I was at home, all the people who shared the interests I was developing in school were either working or in college, so I had no one to talk to about them.
My words never felt more divided until I started considering a career in law. I remember telling one of my uncles that I wanted to become a lawyer and his response was, "So you want to become the man, huh?"
I wasn't surprised by his response, or at least I shouldn't have been. One of the things that I know for sure about the first world I lived in is that many of its inhabitants do not trust the law. I had believed this for so long simply because of the conversations that I would hear around me. However, in my second world, I was learning about all of these great freedoms and rights that the law was designed to give all Americans, and I wanted to bring those to my community.
I started working on this during the summer before my final year of high school. I got an internship with the legal aid office in my neighborhood and spent three months learning from people who, like me, had grown up in Xtown and wanted to help people. During my time in the legal aid office, I understood that the people in my community did not trust the law for two main reasons: 1. They did not understand a lot of it, and 2. It had been used against people like us many times.
I remember one particular case that Ms. Sharma - the lawyer I was learning from then and who still mentors me today - handled that summer. It was the case of a young mother who had received a notice of eviction from her landlord two days after refusing his advances. The man claimed that she violated her contract because she made homemade shea butter that she sold on Etsy. Ms. Sharma had me look through her rental agreement. After she confirmed that I was right in determining that the young mother had not violated her contract, she contacted the landlord to advise him that what he was doing was intimidation and sexual harassment.
My experiences in the legal aid office with Ms. Sharma opened my eyes to the disgusting behavior of human beings, but it also gave me the opportunity to see that the law was my opportunity to use what I learned in my second world to help the community that I was raised in. I returned to school with a new motivation that followed me to college. In addition to completing my bachelor's degree in sociology and African American studies, I spent most of my college years participating in legal internships and community outreach programs.
I believe that these experiences have given me the foundation I need to be a successful law student and, eventually, a lawyer who can truly be an advocate for members of his community.
Law school personal statement example #14
One day, my parents noticed that the other children in my age group had been speaking and communicating, but I had not. At first, they thought that my lack of speech was just me being shy, but eventually, they realized that on the rare occasions that I did speak, my words were practically incomprehensible. It wasn't long before they took me to a specialist who diagnosed me with a severe phonological disorder that hindered my ability to verbalize the basic sounds that make up words.
I started going to speech therapy when I was three years old. I saw numerous speech therapists, many of whom believed that I would never be able to communicate effectively with others. Lucky for me, my parents did not give up on me. I went to speech therapy thrice a week until the 8th grade, and I gave every single session my all. I also spent a lot of time in my room practicing my speech by myself. My efforts paid off, and even though I didn't become a chatterbox overnight, I could at least communicate effectively.
This was a short-lived victory, though. A year later, my speech impediment was back, and my ability to articulate words was once again severely limited. This complicated matters because it was my freshman year of high school, and I was in a brand-new school where I did not know anyone. Having been bullied in middle school, I knew first-hand how vicious kids can be, and I didn't want to be the butt of any more jokes, so I didn't try to speak at school. I knew that this was preventing me from making new friends or participating in class and that it was probably not helping my impediment, but I was not ready to face the fact that I needed to go back to speech therapy.
Eventually, I stopped resisting and went back to speech therapy. At the time, I saw it as accepting defeat, and even though my speech improved significantly, my self-confidence was lower than it had ever been. If you ask any of my high school classmates about me, they will likely tell you that I am very quiet or timid – both of which are not true, but they have no way of knowing otherwise. I barely spoke or interacted with my peers for most of high school. Instead, I focused on my studies and extracurricular activities that didn't involve much collaboration, like yearbook club and photography.
It was only when I was getting ready for college that I realized that I was only hurting myself with my behavior. I knew I needed to become more confident about my speech to make friends and be the student I wanted to be in college. So, I used the summer after my high school graduation to get some help. I started seeing a new speech therapist who was also trained as a counselor, and she helped me understand my impediment better. For example, I now know that I tend to stutter when stressed, but I also know that taking a few deep breaths helps me get back on track.
Using the confidence that I built in therapy that summer, I went to college with a new pep in my step. I pushed myself to meet new people, try new things, and join extracurricular organizations when I entered college. I applied to and was accepted into a competitive freshman leadership program called XYZ. Most of XYZ's other members were outgoing and highly involved in their high school communities. In other words, they were the complete opposite of me. I didn't let that intimidate me. Instead, I made a concerted effort to learn from them. If you ask any of my teammates or other classmates in college, they will tell you that I was an active participant in discussions during meetings and that I utilized my unique background to share a different perspective.
My experience with XYZ made it clear to me that my speech disorder wouldn't hold me back as long as I did not stand in my own way. Once I understood this, I kept pushing past the boundaries I had set for myself. I began taking on leadership roles in the program and looking for ways to contribute to my campus community outside of XYZ. For example, I started a community outreach initiative that connected school alumni willing to provide pro bono services to different members of the community who were in need.
Now, when I look back at my decision to go back to speech therapy, I see it as a victory. I understand that my speech impediment has shaped me in many ways, many of which are positive. My struggles have made me more compassionate. My inability to speak has made me a better listener. Not being able to ask questions or ask for help has made me a more independent critical thinker. I believe these skills will help me succeed in law school, and they are part of what motivates me to apply in the first place. Having struggled for so long to speak up for myself, I am ready and eager for the day when I can speak up for others who are temporarily unable to.
“ You talk too much; you should be a lawyer.”
I heard that sentence often while growing up because Congolese people always tell children who talk a lot that they should be lawyers. Sometimes I wonder if those comments did not subconsciously trigger my interest in politics and then the law. If they did, I am grateful for it. I am thankful for all the experiences that have brought me to this point where I am seeking an education that will allow me to speak for those who don’t always know how to, and, more importantly, those who are unable to.
For context, I am the child of Congolese immigrants, and my parents have a fascinating story that I will summarize for you:
A 14-year-old girl watches in confusion as a swarm of parents rush through the classroom, grabbing their children, and other students start running from the class. Soon she realizes that she and one other student are the only ones left, but when they both hear the first round of gunshots, no one has to tell them that it is time to run home. On the way home, she hears more gunshots and bombs. She fears for her survival and that of her family, and she starts to wonder what this war means for her and her family. Within a few months, her mother and father are selling everything they own so that they can board a plane to the US.
On the other side of the town, a 17-year-old boy is being forced to board a plane to the US because his mother, a member of parliament and the person who taught him about the importance of integrity, has been executed by the same group of soldiers who are taking over the region.
They met a year later, outside the principal’s office at a high school in XXY. They bonded over the many things they have in common and laughed at the fact that their paths probably never would have crossed in Bukavu. Fast forward to today, they have been married for almost two decades and have raised three children, including me.
Growing up in a Congolese household in the US presented was very interesting. On the one hand, I am very proud of the fact that I get to share my heritage with others. I speak French, Lingala, and Swahili – the main languages of Congo – fluently. I often dress in traditional clothing; I performed a traditional Congolese dance at my high school’s heritage night and even joined the Congolese Student Union at Almamatter University.
On the other hand, being Congolese presented its challenges growing up. At a young age, I looked, dressed, and sounded different from my classmates. Even though I was born in the US, I had picked up a lot of my parents’ accents, and kids loved to tease me about it. Ignorant comments and questions were not uncommon. “Do you speak African?” “You’re not American! How did you get here?” “You don’t look African” “My mom says I can’t play with you because your parents came here to steal our jobs”. These are some of the polite comments that I heard often, and they made me incredibly sad, especially when classmates I considered my friends made them.
My parents did not make assimilating any easier. My mother especially always feared I would lose my Congolese identity if they did not make it a point to remind me of it. She often said, “Just because you were born in America doesn’t mean that you are not Congolese anymore.” On one occasion, I argued that she always let me experience my Congolese side, but not my American side. That was the first time she told me I should be a lawyer.
Having few friends and getting teased in school helped me learn to be comfortable on my own. I Often found refuge and excitement in books. I even started blogging about the books I read and interacting with other readers online. As my following grew, I started to use my platform to raise awareness about issues that I am passionate about, like climate change, the war in Congo, and the homeless crisis here in XXY. I was able to start a fundraising campaign through my blog that raised just under $5000 for the United Way – a local charity that helps the homeless in my city.
This experience helped me understand that I could use my skills and the few tools at my disposal to help people, both here in America and one day, maybe even in Congo. I realized that I am lucky enough to have the option of expanding that skillset through education in order to do more for the community that welcomed my grandparents, uncles, aunties, and parents when they had nowhere else to go.
The journey was not easy because while I received immense support and love from my family for continuing my education, I had to teach myself how to prepare and apply to college. Once there I had to learn on my own what my professors expected of me, how to study, how to network, and so much more. I am grateful for those experiences too, because they taught me how to be resourceful, research thoroughly, listen carefully, and seek help when I need it.
All of these experiences have crafted me into who I am today, and I believe that with the right training, they will help me become a great attorney.
Law School Personal Statement Example #16
During my undergraduate studies, in the first two years, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do with my career. I enjoyed doing research, but I found that I became more interested in presenting the research than the process of contributing to it. I spoke to most of my science professors to ask if I could participate in their research. I worked in biology labs, chemistry labs, and in psychology classrooms working on a variety of projects that seemed meaningful and interesting. I gained new perspectives on study habits and mental health; the influence of music on the human mind; and applications of surface tension. I noticed that I was always taking the lead when we were presenting our findings to peers and research groups. I enjoyed yielding questions and addressing the captivating the audience with engaging gestures and speech. This was what led me to consider a career in law.
I always thought that I would become a scientist, so when I discovered that there were aspects of law that could be considered “scientific”, I was all ears. Still during my second year of undergraduate studies, I wanted to join an environmental awareness group, but noticed there weren’t any active. So, I took it upon myself to create my own. I wanted to do cleanup projects across the city, so I mapped out parks and areas that we could walk or drive to. I advertised my project to other students and eventually gained approximately fifteen students eager to help out. I was struck by the pollution in the water, the negligence of park maintenance. I drafted a letter to the municipal government and petitioned for a stricter environmental compliance approach. I wanted to advertise fines to hold polluters accountable, as there were hardly any to enforce the rules. A letter was returned to me stating that the government would consider my request. I felt a sense of gratification, of purpose; I discovered that I had the ability to enact change through policy. This drew me closer to the prospect of building a future in law, so I looked at other avenues to learn more.
I still wanted to find a way to bring together my love of science and discourse/communication. As a science student, I had the privilege of learning from professors who emphasized critical thinking; and they gave me a chance to learn that on my own. I took an internship as an environmental planner. There, I helped present project ideas to various groups, updating demographic/development information, and managing planning processes. I engaged in analytical thinking by looking at maps and demographic information to develop potential plans for land use. It was also the experience I was looking for in terms of a balance between science and oral communication. Using data analysis, I spoke to other planners and review boards to bring ideas together and execute a plan.
Through science, I learned how to channel my curiosity and logical thinking; as an advocate, I learned how to be creative and resourceful. Presenting research findings and being questioned in front of a group of qualified researchers, having to be sharp and ready for anything, taught me how to be more concise in speech. Developing an advocacy group dedicated to improving my community showed me what it lacked; it opened my eyes to the impact of initiative and focused collaboration. I was eager to begin another science project, this time with the environment in mind. It was titled “determining and defining the role of sociodemographic factors in air pollution health disparities”. I compiled and summarized relevant research and sent it over to a representative of the municipal government. In a couple of weeks, my request to increase advertising of fines in public areas was agreed to.
This Juris Doctor/Master in Environmental Studies program will allow me to continue deepening my knowledge of environmental law. With my goal of developing a career in environmental affairs, overseeing policies that influence land protection/use, I know that this program will give me the tools I need to succeed. With my experience working with large groups, I also believe I will fit into the larger class sizes at your institution. I understand the value of working together and how to engage in healthy discourse. With your Global Sustainability Certification, I will equip myself the expertise I need to produce meaningful change in environmental policy.
Here's how a law school advisor can help you with your application:
Law School Personal Statement #17
Growing up in a poor neighborhood, what my friends used to call “the ghetto”, I was always looking for my way out. I tried running away, but I always ended up back home in that tiny complex, barely enough room to fit all my brothers and sisters with my parents. My dad was disabled and couldn’t work, and my mother was doing her best working full-time as a personal-support worker. There was nothing we could do to get out of our situation, or so it seemed. It wasn’t until years later when I started my undergraduate degree that ironically, after I found my way out, that I began looking for a way to come back. I wanted to be a voice for people living in those bleak conditions; hungry, without work. Helpless.
Getting my degree in social work was one of the best decisions of my life. It gave me the tools to lobby for solutions to problems in poor communities. I knew my neighborhood better than anyone because I grew up there. I had the lived experience. I started working with the local government to develop programs for my clients; the people living in those same neighborhoods. We worked to provide financial assistance, legal aid, housing, and medical treatment—all things sorely lacking. My proudest moment was securing the funds and arranging surgery for my father’s bad hip and knees. I’m currently working on a large project with one of the community legislators to lobby for a harm reduction model addressing addiction in our communities.
With five years of experience as a social worker, I knew it was time for a career change when I learned that I could have more influence on public opinion and legislative decisions as a social-security disability lawyer. I knew firsthand that people victimized from racism, poverty, and injury needed more help than they were currently allotted. I knew that, from becoming and advocate and communicating with influential members of the local government, that I could do more with a law degree helping people attain basic needs like disability benefits, which are often denied outright.
This desire to help people get the help they need from local programs and government resources brought me to Scarborough, a small town outside of Toronto. I was aware of some of the issues afflicting this community, since I’d handled a few clients from there as a children’s disability social worker. Addiction and homelessness were the two main ones. I worked with children with ADHD or other physical/mental disabilities impairing their ability to attend school and function normally. I helped many of them get an IEP with the details of the special services they require, long overdue. I made sure each child got the care they needed, including special attention in school. Also noticing that so many of these families lacked proper nutrition, I organized a report detailing this finding. In it, I argued that the community needed more funds targeting lowest income families. I spoke directly with a legislator, which eventually got the city on board with developing a program more specifically for the lowest income families with residents under 18.
My goal has always been to be a voice for the inaudible, the ignored, who’ve been victimized by inadequate oversight from the ground up. Many of these groups, as I’ve witnessed firsthand, don’t have the luxury of being their own advocates. They are too busy trying to support their families, to put food on the table for their children. I’ve realized that it isn’t quite enough to work directly with these families to connect them with resources and ensure they get the support they need. Sometimes the support simply doesn’t exist, or it isn’t good enough. This is why I’m motivated to add a law degree to my credentials so I can better serve these people and communities. As a future social-security disability lawyer, I want to work with local governments to assist clients in navigating an assistance system and improving it as much as possible. This program will give me the access to a learning environment in which I can thrive and develop as an advocate.
Law School Personal Statement #18
“You’re worthy and loved”, I said to a twelve-year-old boy, Connor, whom I was supervising and spending time with during the Big Brother program at which we met. A few tears touched my shoulder as I pulled him into me, comforting him. He was a foster child. He didn’t know his parents and never stayed in one place longer than a few months; a year if he was lucky. I joined the program not expecting much. I was doing it for extra credit, because I wanted to give back to the community somehow and I thought it would be interesting to meet people. He confided in me; he told me that his foster parents often yelled at each other, and him. He told me he needed to escape. I called Child Protective Services and after a thorough investigation, they determined that Connor’s foster parents weren’t fit for fostering. He was moved, yet again, to a different home.
I wrote an op-ed detailing my experience as a Big Brother. I kept names anonymous. I wanted people to know how hard it was for children in the welfare system. Many of them, like Connor, were trapped in a perpetual cycle of re-homing, neglect, and even abuse. He and other children deserve stability and unconditional love. That should go without saying. I sent the op-ed to a local magazine and had it published. In it, I described not only the experience of one unfortunate kid, but many others as well who saw their own stories being told through Connor. I joined a non-profit organization dedicated to improving access to quality education for young people. I started learning about disparities in access; students excluded by racial or financial barriers. I was learning, one step at a time, how powerful words can be.
With the non-profit organization, I reached out to a few public schools in the area to represent some of our main concerns with quality of education disparities. Our goal was to bring resources together and promote the rights of children in education. We emphasized that collaboration between welfare agencies and schools was critical for education stability. Together, we created a report of recommendations to facilitate this collaboration. We outlined a variety of provisions, including more mechanisms for child participation, better recruitment of social service workers in schools, risk management and identification strategies, and better support for students with child protection concerns.
The highlight of that experience was talking to an assembly of parents and school faculty to present our findings and recommendations. The title of the presentation was “The Power of Words”. I opened with the story I wrote about in the op-ed. I wanted to emphasize that children are individuals; those trapped in the welfare system are not a monolith. They each have unique experiences, needs, and desires they want to fulfill in life. But our tools to help them can be improved, more individualized. I spoke about improving the quality of residential care for children and the need to promote their long-term development into further education and employment. Finally, I presented a list of tools we created to help support a more financially sustainable and effective child welfare system. The talk was received with applause and a tenuous commitment from a few influential members of the crowd. It was a start.
Although I lost contact with Connor, I think about him almost every day. I can only hope that the programs we worked on to improve were helping him, wherever he was. I want to continue to work on the ground level of child welfare amelioration, but I realize I will need an education in law to become a more effective advocate for this cause. There are still many problems in the child welfare system that will need to be addressed: limited privacy/anonymity for children, service frameworks that don’t address racism adequately, limited transportation in remote communities, and many more. I’ve gained valuable experience working with the community and learning about what the welfare system lacks and does well. I’m ready to take the next step for myself, my community, and those beyond it.
Assuredly, but this length varies from school to school. As with all important details of your law school application, thoroughly research your specific schools’ requirements and guidelines before both writing and editing your personal statement to ensure it fits their specifics. The average length is about 2 pages, but don’t bother drafting your statement until you have specific numbers from your schools of choice. It’s also a good idea to avoid hitting the maximum length unless absolutely necessary. Be concise, keep economy of language in mind, and remain direct, without rambling or exhaustive over-explanation of your ideas or experiences.
You should keep any words that aren’t your own to a minimum. Admissions committees don’t want to read a citation-heavy academic paper, nor do they respond well to overused famous quotes as themes in personal statements. If you absolutely must include a quote from elsewhere, be sure to clearly indicate your quote’s source. But in general, it’s best to keep the personal statement restricted to your own words and thoughts. They’re evaluating you, not Plato! It’s a personal statement. Give them an engaging narrative in your own voice.
Admissions committees will already have a strong sense of your academic performance through your transcripts and test scores, so discussing these in your personal statement is generally best avoided. You can contextualize these things, though—if you have an illuminating or meaningful story about how you came to receive an award, or how you enjoyed or learned from the work that won you the award, then consider discussing it. Overall though, it’s best to let admissions committees evaluate your academic qualifications and accomplishments from your transcripts and official documents, and give them something new in the personal statement.
When you first sit down to begin, cast a wide net. Consider all the many influences and experiences that have led you to where you are. You’ll eventually (through editing and rewriting) explain how these shape your relationship to a career in law, but one of the best things you can give yourself during the initial drafting phase is a vast collection of observations and potential points for development. As the New England School of Law points out in their, “just write!” Let the initial draft be as messy as it needs to be, and refine it from there. It’s a lot easier to condense and sharpen a big draft than it is to try to tensely craft a perfect personal statement from nothing.
Incredibly important, as should be clear by now! Unlike other specialties, law schools don’t usually conduct interviews with applicants, so your personal statement is in effect your one opportunity to speak with the admissions committee directly. Don’t let that gravity overwhelm you when you write, but keep it in mind as you edit and dedicate time to improving your initial drafts. Be mindful of your audience as you speak with them, and treat writing your personal statement as a kind of initial address in what, hopefully, will eventually turn into an ongoing dialogue.
There are a variety of factors that can make or break a law school personal statement. You should aim to achieve at least a few of the following: a strong opening hook; a compelling personal narrative; your skills and competencies related to law; meaningful experiences; why you’re the right fit for the school and program.
Often, they do. It’s best for you to go to the schools you’re interesting in applying to so you can find out if they have any specific formatting or content requirements. For example, if you wanted to look at NYU law or Osgoode Hall Law School , you would find their admissions requirements pages and look for information on the personal statement.
There are lots of reasons why a personal statement might not work. Usually, applicants who don’t get accepted didn’t come up with a good strategy for this essay. Remember, you need to target the specific school and program. Other reasons are that the applicant doesn’t plan or proofread their essay. Both are essential for submitting materials that convince the admissions committee that you’re a strong candidate. You can always use law school admissions consulting application review to help you develop your strategy and make your essay stand out.
Want more free tips? Subscribe to our channels for more free and useful content!
Like our blog? Write for us ! >>
Have a question ask our admissions experts below and we'll answer your questions.
How long should a Personal Statement be? Is there any rule on that?
BeMo Academic Consulting
Hello V! Thanks for your question. Some schools will gave very specific word limits, while some will not. If you do not have a limit indicated, try to stick to no more than a page, 600-800 words.
Get Started Now
Talk to one of our admissions experts
FREE Training Webinar:
How to make your law school application stand out, (and avoid the top 5 mistakes that get most rejected).
Time Sensitive. Limited Spots Available:
We guarantee you'll get into law school or you don't pay.
Swipe up to see a great offer!
The University of Chicago The Law School
In their own words: admissions essays that worked.
Throughout this issue, countless examples show why we are so proud of the students at the law school. One might think that we get lucky that the students the admissions office chose for their academic accomplishments also turn out to be incredible members of our community, but it’s really all by design. Our students show us a great deal more in their applications than just academics—and we care about a lot more than their numbers. In these pages, meet five of our students in the way we first met them: through the personal statements they wrote for their law school applications. And through their photos, meet a sixth: Andreas Baum, ’12, the talented student photographer who took these pictures for us.
Tammy Wang, ’12
EDUCATION: Johns Hopkins University, BA in International Relations, concentration East Asian Studies, with honors (2007) WORK EXPERIENCE: AsianFanatics.net LAW SCHOOL ACTIVITIES: University of Chicago Law Review, Immigrant Child Advocacy Project Clinic, APALSA, Admissions Committee, Law School Film Festival I fell in love for the first time when I was four. That was the year my mother signed me up for piano lessons. I can still remember touching those bright, ivory keys with reverence, feeling happy and excited that soon I would be playing those tinkling, familiar melodies (which my mother played every day on our boombox) myself. To my rather naïve surprise, however, instead of setting the score for Für Elise on the piano stand before me, my piano teacher handed me a set of Beginner’s Books. I was to read through the Book of Theory, learn to read the basic notes of the treble and bass clefs, and practice, my palm arched as though an imaginary apple were cupped between my fingers, playing one note at a time. After I had mastered the note of “C,” she promised, I could move on to “D.” It took a few years of theory and repetition before I was presented with my very first full-length classical piece: a sonatina by Muzio Clementi. I practiced the new piece daily, diligently following the written directives of the composer. I hit each staccato note crisply and played each crescendo and every decrescendo dutifully. I performed the piece triumphantly for my teacher and lifted my hands with a flourish as I finished. Instead of clapping, however, my teacher gave me a serious look and took both my hands in hers. “Music,” she said sincerely, “is not just technique. It’s not just fingers or memorization. It comes from the heart.” That was how I discovered passion. Beethoven, Mozart, Mendelssohn: the arcs and passages of intricate notes are lines of genius printed on paper, but ultimately, it is the musician who coaxes them to life. They are open to artistic and emotional interpretation, and even eight simple bars can inspire well over a dozen different variations. I poured my happiness and my angst into the keys, loving every minute of it. I pictured things, events, and people (some real, some entirely imagined— but all intensely personal) in my mind as I played, and the feelings and melodies flowed easily: frustration into Beethoven’s Sonata Pathétique, wistfulness into Chopin’s nocturnes and waltzes, and sheer joy into Schubert. Practice was no longer a chore; it was a privilege and a delight. In high school, I began playing the piano for church services. The music director gave me a binder full of 1-2-3 sheet music, in which melodies are written as numbers instead of as notes on a music staff. To make things a bit more interesting for myself—and for the congregation—I took to experimenting, pairing the written melodies with chords and harmonies of my own creation. I rarely played a song the same way twice; the beauty of improvisation, of songwriting, is that it is as much “feeling” as it is logic and theory. Different occasions and different moods yielded different results: sometimes, “Listen Quietly” was clean and beautiful in its simplicity; other times, it became elaborate and nearly classical in its passages. The basic melody and musical key, however, remained the same, even as the embellishments changed. The foundation of good improvisation and songwriting is simple: understanding the musical key in which a song is played—knowing the scale, the chords, the harmonies, and how well (or unwell) they work together—is essential. Songs can be rewritten and reinterpreted as situation permits, but missteps are obvious because the fundamental laws of music and harmony do not change. Although my formal music education ended when I entered college, the lessons I have learned over the years have remained close and relevant to my life. I have acquired a lifestyle of discipline and internalized the drive for self-improvement. I have gained an appreciation for the complexities and the subtleties of interpretation. I understand the importance of having both a sound foundation and a dedication to constant study. I understand that to possess a passion and personal interest in something, to think for myself, is just as important.
Josh Mahoney, ’13
EDUCATION: University of Northern Iowa, BA in Economics and English, magna cum laude (2009) LAW SCHOOL ACTIVITIES: Student Admissions Committee, flag football, Tony Patiño Fellow The turning point of my college football career came early in my third year. At the end of the second practice of the season, in ninety-five-degree heat, our head coach decided to condition the entire team. Sharp, excruciating pain shot down my legs as he summoned us repeatedly to the line to run wind sprints. I collapsed as I turned the corner on the final sprint. Muscle spasms spread throughout my body, and I briefly passed out. Severely dehydrated, I was rushed to the hospital and quickly given more than three liters of fluids intravenously. As I rested in a hospital recovery room, I realized my collapse on the field symbolized broader frustrations I felt playing college football. I was mentally and physically defeated. In South Dakota I was a dominant football player in high school, but at the Division I level my talent was less conspicuous. In my first three years, I was convinced that obsessively training my body to run faster and be stronger would earn me a starting position. The conditioning drill that afternoon revealed the futility of my approach. I had thrust my energies into becoming a player I could never be. As a result, I lost confidence in my identity. I considered other aspects of my life where my intellect, work ethic, and determination had produced positive results. I chose to study economics and English because processing abstract concepts and ideas in diverse disciplines was intuitively rewarding. Despite the exhaustion of studying late into the night after grueling football practices, I developed an affinity for academia that culminated in two undergraduate research projects in economics. Gathering data, reviewing previous literature, and ultimately offering my own contribution to economic knowledge was exhilarating. Indeed, undergraduate research affirmed my desire to attend law school, where I could more thoroughly satisfy my intellectual curiosity. In English classes, I enjoyed writing critically about literary works while adding my own voice to academic discussions. My efforts generated high marks and praise from professors, but this success made my disappointment with football more pronounced. The challenge of collegiate athletics felt insurmountable. However, I reminded myself that at the Division I level I was able to compete with and against some of the best players in the country.While I might never start a game, the opportunity to discover and test my abilities had initially compelled me to choose a Division I football program. After the hospital visit, my football position coach—sensing my mounting frustrations—offered some advice. Instead of devoting my energies almost exclusively to physical preparation, he said, I should approach college football with the same mental focus I brought to my academic studies. I began to devour scouting reports and to analyze the complex reasoning behind defensive philosophies and schemes. I studied film and discovered ways to anticipate plays from the offense and become a more effective player. Armed with renewed confidence, I finally earned a starting position in the beginning of my fourth year. My team opened the season against Brigham Young University (BYU). I performed well despite the pressures of starting my first game in front of a hostile crowd of 65,000 people. The next day, my head coach announced the grade of every starting player’s efforts in the BYU game at a team meeting: “Mahoney—94 percent.” I had received the highest grade on the team. After three years of A’s in the classroom, I finally earned my first ‘A’ in football. I used mental preparation to maintain my competitive edge for the rest of the season. Through a combination of film study and will power, I led my team and conference in tackles. I became one of the best players in the conference and a leader on a team that reached the semi-finals of the Division I football playoffs. The most rewarding part of the season, though, was what I learned about myself in the process. When I finally stopped struggling to become the player I thought I needed to be, I developed self-awareness and confidence in the person I was. The image of me writhing in pain on the practice field sometimes slips back into my thoughts as I decide where to apply to law school. College football taught me to recognize my weaknesses and look for ways to overcome them. I will enter law school a much stronger person and student because of my experiences on the football field and in the classroom. My decision where to attend law school mirrors my decision where to play college football. I want to study law at the University of Chicago Law School because it provides the best combination of professors, students, and resources in the country. In Division I college football, I succeeded when I took advantage of my opportunities. I hope the University of Chicago will give me an opportunity to succeed again.
Osama Hamdy, '13
EDUCATION: University of California, Berkeley, BA in Legal Studies, AB in Media Studies (2010) LAW SCHOOL ACTIVITES: BLSA, Intramural Basketball I was a shy thirteen-year-old who had already lived in six locations and attended five schools. Having recently moved, I was relieved when I finally began to develop a new group of friends. However, the days following September 11, 2001, were marked with change. People began to stare at me. Many conversations came to a nervous stop when I walked by. However, it wasn’t until one of my peers asked if I was a terrorist that it really hit me. Osama, my name is Osama. I went from having a unique name that served as a conversation starter to having the same name as the most wanted man in America. The stares and the comments were just the beginning. Eventually I received a death threat at school. I remember crying alone in my room, afraid to tell my parents in fear that they might not let me go to school anymore. My experience opened my eyes up to racial and religious dynamics in the United States. I started to see how these dynamics drove people’s actions, even if some were not aware of the reasons. The more I looked at my surroundings with a critical eye, the more I realized that my classmates had not threatened me because of hate, but because of fear and ignorance. This realization was extremely empowering. I knew that mirroring their hostility would only reinforce the fear and prejudice they held. Instead, I reached out to my peers with an open mind and respect. My acceptance of others served as a powerful counter example to many negative stereotypes I had to face.With this approach, I was often able to transform fear into acceptance, and acceptance into appreciation. I chose not to hide my heritage or myself, despite the fear of judgment or violence. As a result, I developed a new sense of self-reliance and self-confidence. However, I wasn’t satisfied with the change that I had brought about in my own life. I wanted to empower others as well. My passion for equality and social justice grew because I was determined to use my skills and viewpoint to unite multiple marginalized communities and help foster understanding and appreciation for our differences and similarities alike. The years following September 11th were a true test of character for me. I learned how to feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations. This allowed me to become a dynamic and outgoing individual. This newfound confidence fueled a passion to become a leader and help uplift multiple minority communities. During the last two summers I made this passion a reality when I took the opportunity to work with underprivileged minority students. All of the students I worked with came from difficult backgrounds and many didn’t feel as though college was an option for them. I learned these students’ goals and aspirations, as well as their obstacles and hardships. I believed in them, and I constantly told them that they would make it. I worked relentlessly to make sure my actions matched my words of encouragement. I went well above the expectations of my job and took the initiative to plan several additional workshops on topics such as public speaking, time management, and confidence building. My extra efforts helped give these students the tools they needed to succeed. One hundred percent of the twenty-one high school juniors I worked with my first summer are now freshmen at four-year universities. I feel great pride in having helped these students achieve this important goal. I know that they will be able to use these tools to continue to succeed. Inspired by my summer experience, I jumped at the opportunity to take on the position of Diversity Outreach Ambassador for the San Francisco Bar Association Diversity Pipeline Program. In this position, I was responsible for helping organize a campus event that brought educational material and a panel of lawyers to UC Berkeley in order to empower and inform minority students about their opportunities in law school. In this position I was able to unite a diverse group of organizations, including the Black Pre-Law Association, the Latino Pre-Law Society, and the Haas Undergraduate Black Business Association. Working in this position was instrumental in solidifying my desire to attend law school. The lawyers who volunteered their time had a significant impact on me. I learned that they used their legal education to assist causes and organizations they felt passionate about. One of the lawyers told me that she volunteered her legal services to a Latino advocacy association. Another lawyer explained to me how he donated his legal expertise to advise minority youth on how to overcome legal difficulties. Collaborating with these lawyers gave me a better understanding of how my passion for law could interact with my interest in social justice issues. My experiences leading minority groups taught me that I need to stand out to lead others and myself to success. I need to be proud of my culture and myself. My experiences after September 11th have taught me to defeat the difficulties in life instead of allowing them to defeat me. Now, whether I am hit with a racial slur or I encounter any obstacles in life, I no longer retreat, but I confront it fearlessly and directly. I expect law school will help give me the tools to continue to unite and work with a diverse group of people. I hope to continue to empower and lead minority communities as we strive towards legal and social equality.
Eliza Riffe, '13
EDUCATION: University of Chicago, AB in Anthropology, with honors (2006) WORK EXPERIENCE: Sarbanes-Oxley coordinator and financial analyst, ABM Industries Harper Library, situated at the center of the main quadrangle at the University of Chicago, resembles a converted abbey, with its vaulted ceilings and arched windows. The library was completed in 1912, before Enrico Fermi built the world’s first nuclear reactor, before Milton Friedman devised the permanent income hypothesis, and well before Barack Obama taught Constitutional Law. Generations of scholars have pored over Adam Smith and Karl Marx in the main reading room, penned world-class treatises at the long wooden tables, and worn their coats indoors against the drafts in the spacious Gothic hall. Abiding over all of these scholars, and over me when I was among them, is an inscription under the library’s west window that has served as my guiding intellectual principle: “Read not to believe or contradict, but to weigh and consider.” Per this inscription, which is an abridgement of a passage by Sir Francis Bacon, we readers ought to approach knowledge as a means of enhancing our judgment and not as fodder for proclamations or discord. The generations of scholars poring over Marx, for example, should seek to observe his theories of economic determinism in the world, not immediately begin to foment a riot in the drafty reading room at Harper. The reader may contend, though, that too much weighing and considering could lead to inertia, or worse, to a total lack of conviction. The Harper inscription, however, does not tell its readers to believe in nothing, nor does it instruct them never to contradict a false claim. Instead it prescribes a way to read. The inscription warns us to use knowledge not as a rhetorical weapon, but as a tool for making balanced and informed decisions. On the cruelest days in February during my undergraduate years, when I asked myself why I had not chosen to pursue my studies someplace warmer, I would head to Harper, find a seat from which I would have a clear view of the inscription, and say to myself: “That is why.” On such a day in February, seated at a long Harper table with my coat still buttoned all the way up, I discovered how much I appreciated Carl Schmitt’s clarity and argumentation. I marveled at the way his Concept of the Political progressed incrementally, beginning at the most fundamental, linguistic level. As an anthropology student, I wrongfully assumed that, because Schmitt was often positioned in a neo-conservative tradition, I could not acknowledge him. That day in February, I took the Bacon inscription to heart, modeled its discipline, and was able to transcend that academic tribalism. I added the kernel of The Concept of the Political , Schmitt’s “friend-enemy” dichotomy, to an ever-growing array of images and ideas that I had accumulated, among them Marx’s alienation, C. S. Peirce’s indexicality, and Pierre Bourdieu’s graphical depiction of social space. This patchwork of theories and descriptive models, when weighed and considered, informs my understanding of new ideas I encounter. The academic dons who decided to place the Bacon quote under the western window intended that the idea would transcend the scholastic realm of its readers. Indeed, in my work as a financial analyst for a publicly traded company, it is often a professional touchstone. Though each day in the world of corporate finance is punctuated with deadlines and requests for instantaneous information, I am at my best as an analyst when I consider all of the data thoroughly and weigh the competing agendas. Like emulsified oil and vinegar that separate over time when left undisturbed, the right answer will emerge from among all of the wrong answers when I take the time to consider all of the possibilities. An extra hour spent analyzing an income statement can reveal even more trends than could a cursory glance. Moreover, the more I weigh and consider when I have the opportunity, the more I enhance the judgment I will need to make quick decisions and pronouncements when I do not have time.With inner vision sharpened by years of consideration, I am able to “see into the life of things,” as Wordsworth described in writing of “Tintern Abbey.” Wordsworth’s memory of the abbey provided him much-needed transcendence in moments of loneliness or boredom. The memory of the inscription under the west window at Harper—“Read not to believe or contradict, but to weigh and consider”—has a similar function. For Wordsworth, Tintern alleviated emotional anguish; for me, the Bacon inscription reaffirms a sense of intellectual purpose. The words under the window, their meaning, and the very curvature of the letters in the stone are fixed in my mind and will continue to be as I enter the life of the law. What intrigues me most about legal education is the opportunity to engage simultaneously in the two complementary processes the Harper inscription inspires in me—building a foundation of theories and descriptive models while enhancing my judgment with practice and patience.
Evan Rose, '13
EDUCATION: University of Otago (New Zealand), BA in Philosophy (1999) WORK EXPERIENCE: Ski and Snowboard Schools of Aspen/Snowmass, Eurospecs Limited (NZ) LAW SCHOOL ACTIVITIES: LSA 1L Representative, BLSA, Student Admissions Committee As I tumble through the air, time seems to slow. I have fallen hard many times before, but even before I hit the ground I can tell this fall is different. I complete one and a half back flips and slam shoulders-first into the slope. As I lie on the hill, the snow jammed into the hood of my jacket begins to melt, and icy water runs down my back. I do not yet know that the impact has broken my neck. I grew up only a short drive from some of New Zealand’s best ski resorts, but my family could never afford ski vacations. My first opportunity to try snowboarding came on a trip with my university flatmate.With expectations shaped purely by the media, I left for the trip assuming snowboarding was a sport for adrenaline junkies, troublemakers, and delinquents. Much to my surprise, I instead found that it provided me with a sense of peace that defied these preconceptions. Anxiety had been a constant companion throughout much of my childhood. I had not always been this way, but years of physical and psychological abuse at the hands of my stepfather had taken their toll. My once carefree demeanor had changed, leaving me fearful, panicky, and timid. On a snowboard these feelings faded into the background for the first time in years, and the difference was profound. I never truly realized the pain I had endured until riding gave me the opportunity to escape it. I sought out every possible opportunity to go riding, and through the sport I pushed the limits of both my physical and mental courage. Snowboarding became a vehicle for regaining the confidence and self-worth that had been taken from me through the injustice of abuse. Even as I began to ride competitively in boardercross racing and halfpipe, launching myself into the air over sixty-foot jumps, the sense of peace I gained during my first day on a snowboard stayed with me. It did, at least, until that April afternoon. As I lay in a hospital bed a few hours after my accident, an overwhelming sense of fear replaced any confidence that snowboarding had instilled in me. I faced the prospect of a lengthy and complicated surgery, with no certainty about the outcome. I knew my shattered vertebrae could easily leave me paralyzed. I was lucky to be alive, but any sense of luck eluded me as pain sent me in and out of consciousness. Two days later, surgeons worked for seven hours to rebuild my neck. I awoke to learn that I had escaped any serious nerve damage. However, I would need to be immobilized by a brace twenty-four hours a day, and for over three months, before I could even contemplate rehabilitation. Those months passed slowly. When I was finally able to start the process of rehabilitation, I made recovery my full-time job. I quickly learned that pain was to become the central reality of that year. The first day I could walk to my mailbox marked a significant achievement. Determined to return to full health, and even hoping to eventually return to riding, I gritted my teeth through the daily therapy sessions. At each subsequent visit, my doctor expressed his surprise at the progress of my recovery. Only twelve months after my injury, he cleared me to make a few careful runs on an easy, groomed slope. While I made it through those first few runs safely, they left me shaking with fear. Since then, I have again found joy in riding, but no amount of determination will allow me to ride the way I had before. I won’t be attempting double back flips again any time soon. Rather than focusing on my own riding, I now direct my energy into coaching. My experiences showed me the transformative power of courage and self-confidence, and taught me to build these qualities in others. At the Aspen Skiing Company, I develop and implement teaching curricula for more than two hundred snowboard instructors. My goal is for my fellow coaches to recognize that snowboarding can offer much more than just a diversion. It has the potential to have a profound and inspiring impact on their students’ lives. In the ample time my recovery allowed for reflection, I found solace in the fact that the abuse in my childhood fostered in me not bitterness, but an enduring dedication to fairness and justice. As a college student, this dedication led me to seek out classes in ethics and morality. As a manager and leader, I strive to display both courage and enduring fairness. My interest in the legal profession stems from my belief that laws represent the concrete expressions of justice and fairness in our society. After discovering the salvation it held for me, I believed that I was reliant on snowboarding. Yet, being forced to face the grueling process of rehabilitation without it allowed me to take the final step to recovery from the trauma of my childhood. I realized I am much stronger and more resilient than I had previously believed. I realized that courage is not something that snowboarding gave me but something that has always been within me. These realizations have prepared me to broaden the scope of my dedication to justice. Secure in the knowledge that the courage and determination I have shown will help shape my future success, I am now ready to take on this new challenge: the study and practice of law.
Law School Personal Statement Dos and Don’ts
The personal statement, one of the most important parts of your law school application, is an opportunity to highlight your writing ability, your personality, and your experience. Think of it as a written interview during which you get to choose the question. What one thing do you wish the admissions evaluators knew about you?
To help you write a law school personal statement that best reflects your abilities as a potential law student, we have some recommendations below.
- Discuss possible personal statement topics with your pre-law advisor (or someone else) before you invest a lot of time writing.
- Choose a narrow topic. Offer details about a small topic rather than generalities about a broad topic. Focus on a concrete experience and the impact it has had upon you.
- Be yourself. Do not tell law schools what you think they want to hear — tell them the truth.
- Pay special attention to your first paragraph. It should immediately grab a reader’s attention. Reviewers are pressed for time and may not read beyond an uninteresting opener.
- Keep it interesting. Write with energy and use the active voice. You do not have to explain how your experience relates to your desire to attend law school. Tell a story. Paint a vivid picture. The most interesting personal statements create visuals for the reader, which make your personal statement more memorable.
- Keep it simple and brief. Big words do not denote big minds, just big egos. Choose your words with economy and clarity in mind, and remember that your reader has a huge stack of applications to read. A personal statement generally should be two to three double-spaced pages.
- Proofread. Ask several people to proofread your essay. Grammatical or mechanical errors are inexcusable.
- Include information from your background that sets you apart. If your ethnicity, family, religion, socioeconomic background, or similar factors are motivating you to succeed in law school, be sure to highlight them. You can do this in the personal statement itself or in a separate diversity statement. If you are writing a personal statement and a diversity statement, make sure the two essays address different topics.
- Consider your audience. Most admissions evaluators are professors, third-year law students, or admissions professionals not long out of law school. Therefore, you want to come across as an attentive student, interesting classmate, and accomplished person. Again, consider what you most want them to know, beyond the information provided in the rest of your application.
- Read the application carefully. Most law schools allow you to choose a topic, but some will require you to address a specific question. Follow whatever instructions are provided.
- Do not play a role, especially that of a lawyer or judge. And stay away from legal concepts and jargon. You run the risk of misusing them, and even if you use them properly, legal language may make you appear pompous.
- Do not tell your life story in chronological order or merely re-state your resume. Furthermore, resist the urge to tie together all of your life experiences. The essays that try to say too much end up saying nothing at all.
- Do not become a cliché. You may genuinely want to save the world. Maybe your study abroad experience transformed the way you look at the world. But these topics are overused. Before writing your essay, consider how your story is unique and highlight your individuality.
- Do not use a personal statement to explain discrepancies in your application. If your academic record is weak in comparison to your LSAT scores, or vice versa, address that issue in an addendum. Emphasize the positive in the personal statement.
- Do not offend your reader. Lawyers rarely shy away from controversial topics, but you should think twice before advocating a controversial view. You do not want to appear to be close-minded.
- If you are in the bottom of an applicant pool, do not play it safe. You have nothing to lose by making a novel statement.
- Student Affairs Departments
- NUhelp Home Page
- Immediate Assistance
- Download the TimelyCare APP
- Safety & Security
- Well Being & Health
- Academic Resources & Support
NORTHWESTERN CAREER ADVANCEMENT
- Grad / Law School
- Applying to Law School
- Law School Application Documents
Law School Personal Statement
Your personal statement is an opportunity to present yourself as more than an LSAT score and GPA. The personal statement sets you apart from other candidates. It is also a sample of your ability to express thoughts clearly and cogently.
- Brainstorm any topics or themes you might want to consider for your statement
- Select 1-2 topics/themes you believe will be the strongest
- Write a rough draft. Don’t worry about length, style, or grammar
- Put it away for a while. Time adds an interesting perspective on your writing.
- Redraft and edit as needed
- Have several people read it including NCA’S prelaw advisor, a professor or the Writing Place
- Consider the feedback you have been given and craft your final draft
- Proofread, proofread, and proofread
If the school does not specify a topic (and many don’t, but always check) here are a few ideas to help you brainstorm:
- Hobbies/work/other experiences that have shaped you
- How you became interested in the law
- Life events that have changed or motivated you
- Challenges & hurdles you have overcome
- An issue or subject that you feel strongly about and why (just make sure not to “preach”)
- The growth you’ve experienced in college
- A unique experience that you have had inside or outside the classroom
- Your goals and the events that have shaped those goals
Things to Watch for when Writing and Editing
- Ensure that you answered the essay questions they provided
- Remember to put the “personal” in the personal statement – use a personal stories/anecdotes
- DO NOT approach this as a “Statement of Purpose” ( which would be an essay about why you want to pursue a law degree) unless the law school essay prompt indicates to do so
- Try to “Show” the reader/Do not “Tell” in your writing
- Avoid just restating your resume or transcript: law schools are looking to get to know who you are outside of your achievements
- Most schools do not place restrictions on the personal statement but a general guideline is 2-3 pages double spaced (although check with each school for specific guidelines)
Formatting your Personal Statement
- Make it distinctive by telling a story
- State your topic
Detailed Body Paragraphs
- Focused, each with its own topic sentence
Relevant, each contributing/supporting to your main idea Conclusion
- Summarization of your points
- Brings essay full circle to the beginning
Top Mistakes Made in Personal Statements
- Spelling and grammatical errors
- Staying too detached in your writing style and not letting your personality come through in your “personal” statement
- Using too many big words, “legalese,” or research jargon
- Spending just a few hours on your personal statement and submitting your first draft
- Not following directions: exceeding the specified page limitations, not answering the questions
- Using gimmicks such as writing in crayon, modeling your personal statement as a legal brief, or writing it as a poem
ChatGPT, Law School Application Personal Statements, and the LSAT Writing Sample
By Troy Lowry
Worries about ChatGPT being used to write law school personal statements are growing. This generative AI program can easily craft high-quality personal statements, leading some schools to be concerned. Should they be?
Law school applicants have often sought help with their personal statements, and an industry has even grown from this need, with some consultants charging thousands of dollars per applicant. Some argue that ChatGPT and other generative AIs might simply level the playing field, aiding those who can’t afford these high-priced consultants.
In the end, efforts to stop applicants from using ChatGPT might prove futile. The same difficulties that make preventing applicants from using consultants nearly impossible — such as the challenge of determining if the writing is truly original — will likely make it extremely tough for schools to stop the use of AI like ChatGPT.
What Does “Using ChatGPT” Mean Anyway?
The question of how to define ChatGPT usage is riddled with complexity and ambiguity. Having ChatGPT write an entire personal statement, including fabricating facts, is clearly unethical. Yet a survey by Best Colleges revealed that 20% of respondents don’t believe that “using AI tools to complete assignments and exams constitutes cheating or plagiarism.”
Are one-in-five students sincerely convinced that submitting work generated by ChatGPT is permissible? Does this statistic suggest that one-in-five prospective lawyers are so unscrupulous as to claim someone else’s work as their own?
I believe that the issue is more nuanced, and the question itself is too broad.
ChatGPT’s functionality is vast. It can not only draft an entire personal statement but also:
- Generate a range of ideas suitable for your personal statement
- Evaluate a list of ideas you’ve created, highlighting the strongest ones
- Analyze your personal statement and suggest improvements
- Identify logical inconsistencies in the personal statement
- Proofread the personal statement, correcting punctuation and grammar errors
While preparing this blog post, I inquired of ChatGPT how it might assist me, aside from writing my personal statement. The AI suggested it could aid applicants in understanding their own motivations for pursuing legal studies and identifying long-term goals, forming a robust foundation for the personal statement. Anything that helps people understand their own motivations, even a computer program, counts as a benefit in my book.
To many, these uses of ChatGPT seem entirely reasonable. If friends can review your personal statement and provide feedback, why not employ ChatGPT? While a (hopefully extremely small) segment of the applicant population is unethical, the majority of the one-in-five respondents who disagreed with the statement about ChatGPT and cheating likely have a more nuanced understanding of the tool. They recognize legitimate uses that most would not consider dishonest.
However, what if a law school decided to ban all use of ChatGPT for personal statements? Would they be able to tell who used ChatGPT?
Can ChatGPT-Generated Content Be Detected?
Many products in today’s competitive market profess the ability to detect whether text was written by ChatGPT. My personal exploration of these tools has yielded results that are unreliable.
On the positive side, they were quite proficient at identifying texts generated by ChatGPT without alterations, marking them with a high rate of accuracy.
Curiosity led me to task ChatGPT with mimicking particular styles, such as those of Maya Angelou, Ernest Hemingway, and Yosemite Sam. Surprisingly, most of the detection products maintained a high rate of accuracy.
However, a comprehensive test should not only flag texts authored by ChatGPT but also accurately identify those that were NOT. I found myself scandalized when one tool repeatedly and erroneously identified my own work as likely written by ChatGPT. While I admit my writing may not be flawless, I like to believe it’s far from robotic! (Of course, the ultimate judgment lies with you, the reader.)
Taking the experiment further, I used a process known as fine-tuning , in which I trained ChatGPT with 100 paragraphs of my writing style. After running it through the training, I instructed ChatGPT to “write like Troy” for a law school personal statement. The result? A well-crafted statement that evaded all ChatGPT detectors. This process required significant expertise, work, and some expense, so it’s unlikely the average applicant would endure such an ordeal. But tools are already appearing on the web to do similar training at less cost and with no expertise in generative AI needed.
This experiment revealed a crucial insight: the development of AI tools is accelerating at a pace that outstrips the advancement of detection tools.
Ultimately, I halted my testing prior to completing the entire planned examination. While the majority of results were correct, the inconsistency was alarming. I grew concerned that even one false positive could lead to unwarranted consequences.
I pondered ways to render this technology useful for law school decision-making. LSAC prides itself on being the “gold standard” and only delivering to schools products used to evaluate applicants that we can verify are of the highest quality. While they have their uses, these detection tools did not appear to meet that high standard.
Then I came across an article detailing how OpenAI had discontinued their product designed to detect AI-written text, citing “low accuracy.” If even the experts behind ChatGPT can’t reliably discern what was written by their creation, then the possibility that anyone else can seems a distant hope. It seems to me that the implications of this realization extend beyond mere curiosity, touching on broader questions about the evolving relationship between technology and authenticity.
LSAC’s Writing Sample: A Proctored Way to See How the Applicant Writes
All is not lost in this quest for authenticity, however! As part of the LSAT, every applicant is required to complete the LSAT Writing sample. This unscored essay, given under timed, proctored conditions, presents an ideal opportunity to assess an applicant’s writing ability.
Recognizing the inherent value of the LSAT Writing sample in assessing an applicant’s writing skill, I became intrigued at how AI might further contribute to this assessment. Could the power of artificial intelligence be harnessed to compare and contrast different writing samples? This sparked an experiment using ChatGPT’s ability to evaluate the authenticity of authorship between two different pieces of writing.
ChatGPT can take two pieces of writing, compare them, and give a confidence level as to whether they were written by the same author. As an interesting bit of research, I used this method to compare personal statements and writing samples from the same author and from different authors to see if AI could accurately tell the ones written by the same author.
The results? Not so hot. One major issue is that these are written under very different conditions. The LSAT Writing sample demands quick thinking within a 35-minute timeframe, requiring the applicant to read a prompt and then rapidly organize and articulate their thoughts. Conversely, the personal statement is typically crafted over weeks or even months and often undergoes numerous revisions.
Moreover, the tone between these two pieces is strikingly different, with the personal statement being intimate and reflective, while the writing sample is a more detached and analytical argument.
Despite these challenges, the AI managed to predict correctly better than two-thirds of the time whether the author was the same or not and provided reasons to support its predictions.
However, while impressive, this is not good enough when evaluating applicants. Both law schools and applicants depend on our products to be extremely precise. Mere “impressive” falls short when stakes as high as admissions are in play. Consequently, while this was an enlightening experiment and the insights may contribute to the development of future products, the technology is not yet accurate enough to be integrated into LSAC’s current offerings. This experience serves as a sobering reminder that even the most advanced AI tools must be approached with caution and clear understanding of their limitations.
Conclusion: Might the Carrot Work Better Than the Stick?
As we’ve seen, ChatGPT can be utilized in various ways, some more controversial than others. The reliability of detecting items penned by ChatGPT, without mistakenly identifying an applicant’s work as machine-generated, remains dubious. Even a detection system that is 100% accurate today could soon be rendered obsolete by the rapid advancements in AI, making it unreliable.
In short, a complete ban of ChatGPT would be challenging to enforce and justify.
Might schools find more success with a different approach instead of attempting to ban ChatGPT? They could state that while applicants are free to use ChatGPT or other generative AI, personal statements written without such assistance tend to feel more authentic, and this authenticity could influence admissions decisions.
Applicants, always eager for an edge, would then have a compelling reason to use their own voice. This approach not only offers a practical solution but also has the advantage of being true.
Share this /
Troy Lowry is senior vice president of technology products, chief information officer, and chief information security officer at the Law School Admission Council. He earned his BA from Northeastern University and his MBA from New York University.