Law School Applications: How To Approach the “Why” Essay

Yale Law

2 Things Yale Law Looks For Beyond Numbers

Yale Law had an acceptance rate of 7.4% for its 2020 entering class.

As a result, the law school is consistently seen as one of the hardest law schools to get into. And for good reason—Yale Law grads have some of the highest bar passage rates and employability amongst the nation.

But what exactly does it take to get into the prestigious law school? Business Insider recently spoke to alumni and admissions experts to see what Yale Law’s admissions officers look for in applicants beyond top academic numbers.


Yale Law requires at least two letters of recommendation with a strong preference for letters to be from academic professors who can speak to both your academic abilities and performance.

Experts say it’s more important to have a recommendation letter from someone who knows you well than someone with an impressive title.

“Rather, I think there is value in having recommenders who know you well and who can attest not only to your contributions to a classroom, but also to your ability to think and talk through issues you are passionate about,” Lawrence J. Liu, Yale Law Class of 2022, tells Business Insider.

Yale Law typically accepts applicants with professional experience. Only 17% of those admitted come directly from college. If you are planning to apply to Yale Law straight from undergrad, experts recommend having your letters of recommendation highlight mature characteristics.

“You will need to show that you have gained the maturity and focus that comes with holding a full-time job,” Ali Nash, director of law school admissions at Stratus Admissions Counseling, tells Business Insider.


Both your personal statement and Yale 250-word essay are opportunities to shed light on who you are. The essays should articulate your character by highlighting experiences outside of your resume.

“Use this opportunity to your full advantage to showcase a part of you not already highlighted in your application,” Nash tells Business Insider.

Liu says he applied to Yale Law with a GPA and LSAT scores below the law school’s typical threshold. So, he utilized his personal statement and the 250-word essay to showcase who he was beyond his numbers.

“As someone who is also pursuing a PhD, I was told that an application reader would likely assume I wanted to be an academic and that I could conduct research in a specific area,” Liu tells Business Insider. “So instead of crafting my personal statement like a grant proposal, I focused on an experience I had teaching high school students in China to highlight the motivations underlying my research on Chinese law and politics, as well as my interests in qualitative fieldwork.”

Sources: Business Insider, Yale Law, US News

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