How do I write a great law school personal statement?

You really want advice on your law school personal statement?

Great. Let's take a step back.

Before we discuss your law school essay, let me ask you this: Have you done all that you can to get a good LSAT score (our even retaken it if you think you can do better)? If you are still in college, are you working hard at improving your GPA?

No? Then go do those things first. That is a much better use of your time to get into a better law school than you get get into right now.

If you've done all you can with your GPA and LSAT, then come back and read this.

Here's the good news. It doesn't matter much. Those two things--your LSAT and GPA- will matter much much more than writing the world's best essay.

As I mentioned before, your law school essay is worth very little in the grander scheme of your application. It is not like your college application, where at the most elite schools, an excellent personal statement is extremely important.

But for a law school application, for the most part, your statement can only hurt you, not help you.

That is, a perfect, beautiful moving, law school personal statement will not get you into a school if you are not at least within a couple points of the median LSAT and GPA.

On the other hand, a terribly written law school essay can hurt your application even if your LSAT and GPA are excellent.

So let's put this all in perspective: your personal statement needs to be good enough, and no more than that. It isn't worth obsessing over (unless you are applying for merit scholarships, in which case you do want them to sing).

So here are a couple of guidelines on what it takes for your law school personal statement to be good enough:

  • Make sure that your law school personal statement is primarily about the law, your interest in it, and why you want to be a lawyer. You are, after all, applying to law school.

  • I've read essays for clients and friends that had nothing to do with the law. One I read was entirely about the challenges of rock-climbing and . . . mumbled something at the end about wanting to be a lawyer. Not convincing. You don't have to have your life planned out completely, but you need to be able to say something about why you want to be a lawyer.

  • On the other hand, don't say that you wanted to be a lawyer ever since you were a child. Unless it is true. Actually, even if it is true, you might not want to say that. Surprisingly, the people in admissions offices are rarely hard-core attorneys. Sometimes they are people who went to law school, became lawyers for a while, didn't like it, and went into admissions. Sometimes, they are people who were never lawyers at all. The point is, they may not relate to if you say "I wanted to be a lawyer ever since I was 4 years old," and if your application is right on the borderline (which is the only time it will matter), maybe you won't get it. But maybe it won't matter in the end.

  • Make your personal statement interesting and entertaining--make your personality come through. That doesn't mean anything specific, but make your personality come through. Have any doubts? Ask at least two friends who will be brutally honest with you to read it.

  • Make sure that you've proofread it. For the love of God, it's just a two-page statement.

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