Law School Admissions Essay

Tips to make the personal statement drafting process less painful
Tags: personal statement, law school admissions essay
Apr 2, 2023

Table of Contents

  1. Law School Admissions Essay Timing
  2. Step-by-Step Essay Strategy
  3. Related Articles

Law School Admissions Essay Timing

Many people underestimate the law school personal statement. Writing two pages about yourself, without any topic constraints, often sounds like a fairly easy task at first – especially in comparison to tackling the LSAT. Do not fall into the trap of leaving your personal statement as a task to handle after applications have opened in September of your application year. Try to start the essay (at the latest!) by July of the summer before you plan to apply. Don’t forget that along with the personal statement, you will likely need to write interest statements, supplemental essays (i.e., the Yale 250), and potentially a diversity statement and/or addenda (for C&F or GPA explanations). Ideally, I recommend giving yourself at least 2 months of time to plan out, write, and edit your law school admissions essay – meaning that an ideal timeline would include starting work on the personal statement sometime around May or June of your application year. 

Law School Admissions Essay Step-by-Step Strategy

  1. The first step in the personal statement process should be research. Before you apply, I recommend (at a minimum) googling successful personal statements, and reading through law school admissions essays that have done well in prior years. This can be helpful as a source of motivation, and may demonstrate some qualities that admissions committees have sought out previously. Aside from reading through essay examples, there are many other free resources online that you can take advantage of. For example, many law schools have free seminars / information on their admissions website specifically discussing what they look for – I would recommend looking through the admissions sections of at least a few of the schools you apply to, to search for their specific guidance regarding the personal statement. Additionally consider signing up for virtual information sessions or seminars regarding applications from schools that offer them. It may also be helpful to look at the HLS/YLS podcast (Navigating Law School Admissions podcast, available on Spotify) for admissions materials, or to attend one of their informational sessions to get an idea of what top law schools look for in application materials, even if you are not applying to T3 schools. While doing research, keep in mind that you shouldn’t be looking for a strict template to follow, but rather building out an understanding of how others have successfully structured a compelling narrative about themselves in the past, and what law schools tend to want to see–to thereby start to generate ideas for your own essay.
  2. After completing some research and starting to orient yourself with ideas about how to write a successful personal statement, step two should include a brainstorming session. List out multiple themes or ideas around which you might be able to center your personal statement. Keep in mind while doing this that personal statements often have a specific thematic focus that answers one or both of the following two questions: (1) Why do you want to become a lawyer/why do you want to go to law school, and/or (2) How have your experiences developed you into a person for whom law school/being a lawyer is the right path? I have listed out some additional questions/prompts below to help orient you in your brainstorming session: 
  3. Temporal Narrative: Some personal statements follow a past→ present→ future narrative. It can be helpful to utilize this type of structure to focus on (a) past: what have you done in your past that either motivated you to become a lawyer, or helped you to develop skills that will make you a good lawyer in future, (b) present: what are you currently doing with your life that makes law school the right next step for you, or how has your current employment (or academic experience) developed you into a person with the right skills to become a lawyer, and finally (c) future: why do you want to become a lawyer and how will law school help you achieve your goals in the future (what are your future goals?). 
  4. Persuasive Essay: It can be helpful to view the personal statement as a platform through which you are given the opportunity of 2 pages to write about the single most compelling reason for which you deserve to be admitted to a given law school. What is the most interesting accomplishment in your past? What makes you unique from everyone else, and uniquely qualified to become a lawyer? What is an event you have experienced from which your motivation to become a lawyer directly grew? What is the achievement for which you struggled or sacrificed the most to achieve? 
  5. Coherent Narrative: One other strategy in approaching the personal statement may be to look at the entirety of your application materials, and attempt to weave a common theme between all of them. What is one unique quality, desire, belief, experience, or set of experiences, that links all of your professional/academic experience (resume), your unique approach, background, adversity you have overcome, or perspective to life (diversity statement), the qualities that other people first think of when they describe you (recommendation letters), and how does that quality/experience/belief support your desire to become a lawyer, and create the person you are? How can you explain that quality or thought to an outside individual, and explain how it has motivated or created who you are?
  6. After listing out ideas, take a day and try to decide which idea will be the most compelling to an admissions committee, and that feels the most genuine, personally significant, or compelling to you– which essay truly represents the story that you want to tell about yourself? Consider asking some friends, peers, family, or a mentor to read through your list and provide some feedback about your options while narrowing down your choices. Finalize the two best options, and start outlining. Take a day or 2 to write a brief (No more than a half page) outline for each of the two ideas you have chosen. After this, decide on the strongest contender between the two. 
  7. The next step is to start a first draft based off of your winning outline. Set yourself a specific deadline by which to finish your first draft, and hold yourself accountable to that date. Move the environments in which you write – try writing in a local coffee shop, outdoors, anywhere that helps you to feel inspired and motivated. 
  8. After getting a solid first draft, the final step is to edit. Wait at least 24-48 hours between finishing your first draft and starting your second. This is also the time to determine with certainty that you want to continue with the topic that you chose. If you have now realized that the first draft you wrote doesn’t have the zing you expected, or doesn’t fully convey what you hoped it would, it may be time to switch to your second place contender, consider adding in additional material from your brainstorming list, or to start the process over entirely. Do not be afraid of starting over – the reason that we started the writing process back around June, was to ensure that you would have enough time to submit the best personal statement possible in your application packet. Once you have given this decision full consideration, begin a round of edits. After completing your second draft, try to find a mentor or another trusted individual to read through your statement and provide honest feedback/edits from which to generate a third draft. Finally, for a fourth round of editing, read your essay out loud to yourself, and look for any other areas that can be further improved. 

The personal statement can be a daunting task, but if you ensure that you have ample time to write, approach it in a methodical, structured, step-by-step way, and reach out to others for help and feedback, hopefully the process will become more approachable, and maybe even enjoyable by the end of the drafting process.

Related Articles

  1. What is a good LSAT Score?
  2. When Should I Apply to Law School?
  3. How Do I Apply to Law School?
Pilea HLS '24

I graduated from college in 2020, and took one gap year of work as a paralegal before starting at Harvard Law. I never expected to be admitted to Harvard when I started my law school application process, and I’m incredibly grateful to be here now. I spent a LOT of time researching law school admissions during my application year, and took on the role of a part time admissions/LSAT tutor last year with the goal of spreading the knowledge that I gained through my app process to hopefully help others with similar aspirations!

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Good luck to the June test takers this week!
Ik you mean well sunshine but haha
“Luck? Luck!? You think it was luck he didn’t scream out in fear!”-quote from a samurai who became enraged after these people commented that a child got lucky by surviving this fire he strategically made it out alive of!
Well luckily we are not in a fire hahaha
:) we got this
Crazy cycle this person had
Hope for all splitters out there
yeah that guy is a legend
only got into fordham two cycles ago and now yale
Woah what did he change?
171 -> 180 and better essays
skipped last cycle
Guess my 3.5ish and 178 isn’t the end like Reddit said it was afterall
YHSChi is tough with a 3.5 but I think you'll get into a few T14s
Unless you have amazing softs and essays
be on the lookout for next year's super splitter discord
SYCH offers scholarship?
Thanks! And yeah I think I have “t2” softs
@SunshineMine: I just lsd’d, to say, ily! ❤️❤️❤️❤️
Boom boom ba bum ba bum 🎶
Hey, does anyone know how LSData calculates its employment stat? I saw that Gtown's was oddly low compared to its 509s
@OptimalTenderCucumber: Take a shot at any schools you're interested in! While Stanford and Yale are indeed super tough (no one has gotten in with your stats recently: https://www.lsd.law/search/OmM3d), and only 1 out of 5 applicants got into Columbia, you have a good shot at all the others in the T6. 3 out of 5 got into Chicago, and, 2 out of 7 got into Harvard!
Do y'all think I could get Duke, Columbia, NYU, Gtown, or Penn w/ some $$ w/ a 3.78 and 173?
Columbia is a real stretch to get into with those stats. You have a better shot at the others, but it would still be a challenge. but, if you are accepted, I think they would probably offer you some scholarship funding. I would apply much more broadly, though. I think you need to apply to places like BU, GW, and Emory to be sure you'll have an acceptance.
What?? Those stats are firmly near the median for those schools. RollTide will at least have their essays read and resume reviewed by AdComms, which is all you can reasonably ask for. What happens from there comes down to factors we don't know
anyone else get the fordham feeler earlier today?
@InterestingMereEmu: I mean, over the past 3 years none of the schools OP mentioned accepted folks with similar stats at better than a ~42% rate according to data on this site (https://www.lsd.law/search/oFLCO). Columbia accepted 12% of similar applicants. I didn't say that OP wouldn't be considered. I said it was possible, but I wouldn't bank on it. It would be a bad idea not to cast a wider net, especially if a significant scholarship is the goal.
@ararara: you are wonderful<33
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