How To Review A Law School Personal Statement
A law school personal statement can go through endless editing before it’s submitted. That’s not to say there isn’t a right way to review your essay.
Michelle Kim Hall, a graduate of Harvard Law School and director of law counseling at Stratus Admissions Counseling, recently wrote a U.S. News article discussing five tips applicants should keep in mind when reviewing personal statements.
Know your audience
It’s important to note that law school admissions committees are comprised of lawyers. Hall says many applicants fail to realize this and, in turn, attempt to teach the admissions committee about the law in their essay.
“A ‘know-it-all’ tone when discussing legal issues is sure to irk admissions committee members, many of whom constitute the brightest legal scholars in the world,” she says. “Remember, even if you have legal experience, you have not gone to law school — the committee doesn’t expect you to be an expert.”
Rather, Hall suggests, applicants should present legal discourse through a “personal lens.” The personal statement, she says, should help an admissions committee learn more about you and not the law.
According to The Princeton Review, a personal statement should present a unique angle — one that gives genuine insight. “Use your essay to explain how your upbringing, your education, and your personal and professional experiences have influenced you and led you to apply to law school.”
Personal statements, ironically, shouldn’t come off as too personal. Applicants should know how to keep a balance between being personal and professional.
Hall suggests that applicants “be cautious with criticism” and “strategic in what and how you present yourself.” In her view, It’s important to remember that an essay shouldn’t come off as a diary post, but rather as an outlet for admissions committees to learn about your professional goals.
“A good litmus test is whether you would feel comfortable saying these statements in person to the dean of admissions,” Hall says. “If a statement makes you cringe, change it.”
Always avoid absolutes
One cliché that applicants tend to talk about in their personal statements is how they’ve “always” wanted to be a lawyer. Hall says using absolutes, such as “always,” “never,” and “only,” make a personal statement vulnerable to counterarguments.
“Writing like a lawyer means using words precisely,” she says. “Say what you mean without hyperbolic claims. This tip will serve you well not only in your law school applications but throughout your legal career.”
While it may not seem to matter as much, formatting is an important element to review before submitting a personal statement. Different law schools require various page or word limitations.
Hall says it’s a good strategy to take note of formatting and create different versions of your statement for each school.
“When you disregard formatting requirements, admissions committees are likely to think one of two things: You don’t pay attention to or care enough to follow the rules,” she says. “Neither is an impression you want to make as an aspiring lawyer.”
To craft an error-free personal statement on first try is nearly impossible. Often times, the writer won’t notice small errors that skim by his or her eye. Errors matter in the law. Contracts must be precise to the comma and legal memos free of typos. Hall says “to be confident you are submitting an error-free draft, ask a trusted adviser with strong writing skills to read your statement. Typos can become invisible to you the more you reread and revise.”
Editing and reviewing a personal statement can be tedious. But, in many ways, a personal statement is like a first impression. The better your personal statement, the stronger of an impression you’ll leave.
Sources: US News, The Princeton Review