Personal Statements for Law Students

Writing Your Personal Statement*

(*Adapted from the National Association of Pre-law Advisors and Yale Undergraduate Career Services)

Pre-writing (How to Prepare):

  1. Motivate yourself. This is a process, not a one-off assignment that you can write and send out.
  2. Do your research. Your essay should be tailored to the question. Generic essays are not persuasive to law school admission committees.
  3. Think about WHY and WHAT. Describe the life experiences or career goals that inspire your interest in law and the skills, talents, and passions you can contribute to the profession.
  4. Proofread! Find reliable, trustworthy people to review and critique your drafts. This is not the time to be sensitive.

Writing (Some Do’s):

  1. Outline what you want to say. Organization is critical; logical, concise writing is essential to law school success. This is your first (and only) opportunity to show the admissions committee you will succeed at their law school.
  2. Explain, in detail, why you want to be a lawyer. Connect your passion to life experiences. Give your readers a picture of why their law school will help you achieve your career goals, but don’t gush about the law or the law school experience.
  3. Make it flow. Don’t write about too many disconnected events or experiences. Choose the most persuasive event(s) or experience(s) that led you to choose law school.
  4. Mention sensitive subjects in an appropriate way, if you choose to disclose them.
  5. Be truthful. If you have been arrested, have a DUI, have been incarcerated, filed bankruptcy, or have other challenging life circumstances, the personal statement is the place to write about it and explain how the experience has changed you. Turn negatives into positives.
  6. The final draft should be no more than two typed, double-spaced pages with standard margins.
  7. Sell yourself. Be persuasive, but be authentic.

Editing (Some Don’ts):

  1. Avoid overusing a thesaurus or writing in clichés. Concise, clear writing is more impressive than overblown hyperbole.
  2. Don’t be “cutesy” and be very careful when using humor. Be sensitive to your audience; you are writing to lawyers and law professors, not your friends.
  3. Don’t be cynical or snarky. Be positive. You are convincing the admissions committee–usually consisting of law school staff, faculty, and law students–that they should want to work with you for the next three years. Coming across as a bitter, angry person can hurt your chances.
  4. Don’t be too specific about what you want to do with your law degree, unless your experience shows that it is a logical extension of what you’ve already done.
  5. Don’t just repeat the activities and experiences in your application. Your personal statement is not your resume.
  6. Don’t send multimedia presentations, photographs, or attachments.

Proofing (Finishing Your Personal Statement):

  1. It bears repeating: Find reliable, trustworthy people who are not afraid to tell you the truth when they proofread your personal statement. Don’t be sensitive; critical feedback will produce a better statement.
  2. At least three people should proof your personal statement. Choose people with different skill sets, such as a professor, a lawyer, and a friend/parent/spouse. Your readers should each provide a critique based on their individual knowledge and experience.
  3. Don’t make any spelling or grammar mistakes. Lawyers must be precise and accurate. Spelling and grammar mistakes make you appear sloppy and careless.
  4. Don’t rely on spell check to catch mistakes. Their and there, where and were, and to and too will not be caught by spell check!

Personal Statement Help

A personal statement is exactly what it says it is: A “personal statement.” Many law school admission officers often refer to this as the applicant’s “interview” with the law school admissions committee. There are a number of publications that offer advice on crafting these essays. If you'd like an additional opinion or help editing your personal statement, use some of UConn's resources like the Center for Career Development or the Writing Center