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

The “why” essay question is commonly found in nearly all law school applications. Law schools include the question to understand why applicants want to pursue law and why they want to attend said law school. Schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law typically include some variation of the “why” question in the essay component of the application and ask applicants to articulate on how they would contribute to the law school community.

Gabriel Kuris, founder of Top Law Coach and contributor at US News, recently discussed how applicants can best align their traits and values to a law school’s in the “why” essay.


While each “why” essay should be personalized to a specific law school, experts say the “why” essay should be more about you than the law school where you’re applying.

“They already know about their programs and the information provided on their website, so it’s not about listing the programs or courses and saying that you would be interested in them—it’s more about why you are interested in them and how that relates to your goals, interests, learning styles, and preferences,” according to Mikey Spivey, of Spivey Consulting.

That being said, it’s still critical to research a law school thoroughly and be sure that each essay is personalized to a specific law school.

“Compare multiple law school websites and notice the differences between them in style and content,” Kuris writes. “Often, the words and images they use are meticulously crafted to present and promote a distinct identity. Without copying their phrasing word for word, reuse some of these terms in your essays to reflect an understanding of a school’s unique character while avoiding cliches and generalities.”


Most law schools ask applicants to keep their “why” essay under 350 words, or one page. Thus, it’s important to focus on a few strong points rather than a variety.

“If someone asks what you like about him or her and you answer ‘everything,’ you better be able to back that up with a few specifics,” Kuris writes. “Otherwise, your broad compliment may sound insincere. Likewise, in a ‘why’ essay or interview response, center your answer on a few concrete reasons.”

Spivey says applicants can highlight aspects of a law school such as size, location, or atmosphere as long as they have a strong reason behind the “why” that ties back to their own traits or goals. Leading with the personal, Spivey says, can make for a strong “why” essay.

“Start with a personal connection if you can—have you ever visited the school? Do you know someone who attends and have you heard good things from that perspective? What was your introduction to the school? These are often the strongest and most differentiating components of a ‘Why X’ essay, if they apply to you,” Spivey writes.

Sources: US News, Spivey Consulting

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