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- professors, a prelaw advisor, 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
- 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
- Summarization of your points
- Brings essay full circle to the beginning
Top Mistakes Made in Personal Statements
- Spelling and grammatical errors.
- Sending the wrong letter to the wrong school.
- 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.
Many law schools have sections on their admission pages/blogs that contain guidelines and/or samples of personal statements. Print resources for writing personal statements:
101 Law School Personal Statements That Made a Difference by Dr. Nancy L. Nolan
Law School Essays That Made a Difference, 6th Edition (Graduate School Admissions Guides) by the Princeton Review
Applying to Law School can be a daunting and complex process. As such, it is important to enlist help at every step of the way- from deciding on programs of interest to finalizing your application. Career Counselors assist with all aspects of the Law School application processes.
How do I decide if I should go to Law School?
Deciding whether or not to go to Law School is a big and complex decision. A number of factors should be considered, including your career goals, your financial status, your desire to continue in school for another three years, and the current legal market. For more information about the law profession, see the Law industry page on the NCA website
How do I navigate the application process?
When applying to Law School, it is important that you start early and stay active throughout the process. NCA Counselors are able to assist with all aspects of the application process, from creating a checklist and timetable, to streamlining and perfecting your personal statement.
Law School Admission Council Online: Your starting point to find the answers to your questions. Information on the LSAT exam, LSDAS (application procedures and services), law school forums, diversity initiatives, publications, and more. Bookmark this site -- you will return to it often.
PreLaw Insider: Get advice on studying for the LSAT, choosing law schools, financing your law school years and more.
LSAC Action Reports: Find out the success rate of Northwestern students in applying to individual law schools. Data include Northwestern applicants’average LSAT scores and GPA’s for specific law schools. Data are updated annually and used for advising alumni and students. You must meet with the prelaw advisor to access these data, which are subject to severe privacy restrictions.
Resources for Minority Applicants: Information from the Law School Admissions Council for members of underrepresented minority groups.
The Council on Legal Education Opportunity ("CLEO"): CLEO was founded in 1968 as a non-profit project of the American Bar Association Fund for Justice and Education to expand opportunities for minorities and low-income students to attend law school and become members of the legal profession by providing pre-law recruitment, counseling, placement assistance and training.
Resources for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Applicants: Information from the Law School Admissions Council for members of these groups.
The Writing Place is Northwestern's center for peer writing consultations. A Writing Place peer writing consultant can work with you on your personal statement to help ensure that is clear, concise, and error-free. Consultations are free and available to current undergraduates and alumni. Consultations may take place on the Evanston campus or online (over the phone or Skype).
Equal Justice Works: Resources for those interested in learning more about Public Interest Law, including law schools and programs, debt and loan forgiveness, and finding public interest jobs.