What do Law Schools Look for in the Personal Statement

law school personal statement brainstorming

There is no way around it—writing a compelling personal statement for law school is difficult. It requires reflection, introspection, thoughtful consideration of some of the most formative or important moments of one’s life… and good writing. 

Brainstorming For the Law School Personal Statement

An effective personal statement tells a law school who you are and what motivates you, but it also conveys that you are a mature, thoughtful, interesting person. But—you may ask—why should a law school care about these traits in its candidates? Why aren’t test scores and grades a sufficient indication of an applicant’s ability to succeed? Here are 3 things to consider when you are starting to brainstorm on what to write about:

Law schools are looking for creative, engaged students.

Law students do not just go to class and take exams. They participate in seminars, reading groups, and clinics. They act as research assistants to faculty. They do their own research projects. They sit on boards of student groups and advocate and advance their own goals, and attract other students to the school. Their work, passion and creativity make a law school a place where faculty are excited to teach and students are excited to learn. 

Because law school is a professional school, the students themselves make concrete contributions to the spirit of the institution. A strong personal statement that gives an admissions committee a sense of who you are and what motivates you lets them imagine how you will fit into the many activities on offer at their institution.

Law schools care about good judgment. 

Law schools are not fond of scandal. It requires their administrations to respond in an urgent way, and often puts them at odds with at least some of their alumni. It ends up in the newspaper, or at least the university press. Over the past several years, my own alma mater—of which Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Joshua Hawley are both graduates—weathered several scandals, brought on both by the actions of students and alumni. 

The choices of people affiliated with a law school reflect on the school, and therefore law schools care about selecting students who have good judgment and a strong moral character.

Law schools are building enduring communities. 

While a law school applicant may be thinking only of her three years as a student, a law school sees her as someone with whom it can have an enduring relationship. Will this applicant return to the school to mentor students? Will she lead a clinic? Will she believe in the mission of the school such that she would be motivated to make a donation later down the line? 

A law school sees its network of alumni as a valuable resource that it can draw on for years or even decades to come. A strong personal statement can show an admissions committee what your role might be in a community that endures long after graduation. The Personal Statement is only one aspect of the application so remember to plan ahead. There is also the Diversity Statement that you may also need to write, so be sure to plan across all your essays within a program so you are not redundant in your application.