Law school personal statement topics

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Offline Anne

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Law school personal statement topics
« on: August 09, 2010, 12:25:14 PM »
I thought this would be an interesting thing to know -- what are you all writing your statements on?
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Offline Anne

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Re: Law school personal statement topics
« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2010, 04:41:26 PM »
I thought this would be an interesting thing to know -- what are you all writing your statements on?

I'm interested in some good ideas as well.

Anne - Is there anything that we should avoid writing about?

That really does depend. There are definitely a few genres that you should avoid:

1. The résumé regurgitation: You've already provided a résumé with your application. There's no reason to submit another one with full sentences instead of bullet points. It's mind-numbing and basically tells the AdComs that you've got nothing to say.

2. The oversharing of a personal situation: Even though it's called a personal statement, that doesn't mean you should get super personal with the icky details. Think carefully about the topic (and even write it out), but if it makes you uncomfortable to re-tell the story, it's guaranteed it'll make your readers even more uncomfortable.

3. The sob story: A story about personal tragedy can be very effective...if done correctly. More often than not, it just comes off as a cry for pity and attention (even if that was not your intent). It's usually safest to steer clear of topics like this, and focus on happier times.

4. The recount of a trip overseas: Unfortunately, this one has been done to death. Your story may be riveting, but when it's the 250th one the AdComs have read, the topic loses its luster.

5. The "why I've wanted to be lawyer since age 5" story: Half the time these essays end up talking about how someone loves to read and argue, or about how they couldn't get enough of a lawyer-drama on TV. Although this kind of story might be endearing to your parents, it just ends up sounding naive to AdComs, who likely also went to law school and know that there's much more to it than liking to argue, and that the actual practice of law is nothing like Matlock or Law & Order. Steer clear of childhood reminiscences, and try to focus on more recent experiences.


The most impacting essays tend to be the ones that describe a recent situation in an applicant's life, and talk about how it changed them. Stories that are legitimate, true, and personal always come from the heart, and you can tell. Don't force it--remember that these AdComs read mountains of these essays every season, and they can spot an insincere statement a mile away. Keep it real, keep it personal, keep it focused. 
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ben30

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Re: Law school personal statement topics
« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2010, 05:49:13 PM »
Thanks for getting back to me and for the great info. Hopefully some people will share some good ideas/examples now :)

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Offline widespreadLSATpanic

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Re: Law school personal statement topics
« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2010, 11:45:39 AM »
Do you think it would be OK to do one about my how my desire to go to law school has resulted in a new-found work ethic and discipline? Not sure if that really makes sense, but basically trying to explain my not-so-great GPA but really good LSAT score. I think the key for me was that I felt like the LSAT was much more related to Law School (so I busted my ass), when I wasn't nearly as focused and determined during undergrad.

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Offline Jeffort

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Re: Law school personal statement topics
« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2010, 05:27:08 PM »
Do you think it would be OK to do one about my how my desire to go to law school has resulted in a new-found work ethic and discipline? Not sure if that really makes sense, but basically trying to explain my not-so-great GPA but really good LSAT score. I think the key for me was that I felt like the LSAT was much more related to Law School (so I busted my ass), when I wasn't nearly as focused and determined during undergrad.

It might be workable if you have some significant life events of some sort during the time period that indicate you gaining maturity and responsibility which in turn led to getting more serious about life and then becoming interested in the law.  Did you have some interesting life events/experiences that 'opened your eyes' so to speak that you can build it from?

You are what is called a splitter, low GPA high LSAT or vice versa.  I was the same, mediocre GPA, stellar LSAT score.

If you go for this type of angle you have to be really careful because the personal statement generally should not be used to focus on GPA and LSAT scores, they already have that information elsewhere in your application.  However, presenting life events that had influence on those things along the way that shows how they fit in with your upward direction and renewed motivation as influential factors can be compelling depending on what the things are.  Having your personal statement story allude to/tie together with your academic stats is fine when done properly, just don't make it revolve around discussing GPA and LSAT.

All the pieces of a solid application fit together to work with and complement each other to illustrate one big picture of you regarding things Law Schools care about while evaluating applicants.

I'm interested in Anne's take.

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Offline Anne

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Re: Law school personal statement topics
« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2010, 10:47:55 AM »
Do you think it would be OK to do one about my how my desire to go to law school has resulted in a new-found work ethic and discipline? Not sure if that really makes sense, but basically trying to explain my not-so-great GPA but really good LSAT score. I think the key for me was that I felt like the LSAT was much more related to Law School (so I busted my ass), when I wasn't nearly as focused and determined during undergrad.

It might be workable if you have some significant life events of some sort during the time period that indicate you gaining maturity and responsibility which in turn led to getting more serious about life and then becoming interested in the law.  Did you have some interesting life events/experiences that 'opened your eyes' so to speak that you can build it from?

You are what is called a splitter, low GPA high LSAT or vice versa.  I was the same, mediocre GPA, stellar LSAT score.

If you go for this type of angle you have to be really careful because the personal statement generally should not be used to focus on GPA and LSAT scores, they already have that information elsewhere in your application.  However, presenting life events that had influence on those things along the way that shows how they fit in with your upward direction and renewed motivation as influential factors can be compelling depending on what the things are.  Having your personal statement story allude to/tie together with your academic stats is fine when done properly, just don't make it revolve around discussing GPA and LSAT.

All the pieces of a solid application fit together to work with and complement each other to illustrate one big picture of you regarding things Law Schools care about while evaluating applicants.

I'm interested in Anne's take.


widespread, Jeffort's got a good point--you may just want to address the UGPA and LSAT discrepancies in a separate addendum, and then use your PS to write about a particular experience that made you realize that law school was exactly the place you should be. The PS isn't always the best place to address grade or standardized test issues; by doing so you miss a great opportunity to write about yourself and show off your personality and experience. Use the personal statement for something personal, something that defines you. The PS is, in many ways, the centerpiece of your application. Grades or LSAT scores shouldn't be the centerpiece of your application; personal and insightful experiences should be the linchpin of your profile.

I like the idea of "my desire to go to law school has resulted in a new-found work ethic and discipline." You should definitely roll with that, but don't focus on just your scores--instead, think about specific experiences that SHOW this change and then write about them.

I hope that make sense...let me know if you need additional guidance. I'll be glad to provide it.
Director of Admissions Consulting for PowerScore LSAT Preparation. I can be reached at [email protected].

Check out my Law School Admissions Tip of the Week on the PowerScore LSAT and Law School Admissions Blog

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Offline LSAT-Fun

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Re: Law school personal statement topics
« Reply #6 on: September 01, 2010, 01:45:36 AM »
Thanks Anne for your feedback!!

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Offline widespreadLSATpanic

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Re: Law school personal statement topics
« Reply #7 on: September 01, 2010, 09:36:26 AM »
Roger that.

 ;cheers; to Jeffort and Anne

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Offline Anne

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Re: Law school personal statement topics
« Reply #8 on: September 01, 2010, 12:16:48 PM »
Roger that.

 ;cheers; to Jeffort and Anne

No problem, widespread! You know I'm always here to help! :)

On a side note, have you come up with any specific experiences you'd like to use for your PS? Feel free to post them on here and get feedback on how effective we think they might be. It might help you pick between different ones.
Director of Admissions Consulting for PowerScore LSAT Preparation. I can be reached at [email protected].

Check out my Law School Admissions Tip of the Week on the PowerScore LSAT and Law School Admissions Blog

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Offline jsh1177

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Re: Law school personal statement topics
« Reply #9 on: October 11, 2010, 02:28:55 AM »
I've started to brainstorm PS ideas and have found that my life has been really boring  ;block;  I've read the usual books, Ivey, Levine, 55 Harvard and one that stuck out to me was to tell about a specific moment that made you change your life..  I've been trying to "keep it real" as Anne suggested but it's not as dramatic as the other sample PS's I've read, but here's my essay idea, let me know if its a keeper or a dud...  Here is the jest of it:

After 12 years of school the last thing I wanted to do was to go for 4 more.  So for 5 years I worked in various jobs with gradual advancement until I ended up working for a boutique networking company as a project manager.  Although I did not have the college degree they sought, I impressed the president enough in the interview to land the job.  The president was a person that I grew to admire for his work ethic as well as his respect for his employees and customers.   About six months into working at the company, I finally was give a major multi-million project to manage on my own.  During one of our meeting he had asked me for a "plethora" of ideas to resolve a problem that had come up.  Apparently I couldn't hide the confusion and the look on my face must have told him something was wrong.  When I confessed that I didn't know what plethora meant, the look of disappointment that came over his face made me question for the first time my educational decisions I had taken in life.  This was the starting point that lead me back to school...

Don't know if this is a drastic enough life changing moment but it was the first one that popped into my head..  Let me know what you think.

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Offline Anne

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Re: Law school personal statement topics
« Reply #10 on: October 11, 2010, 07:14:07 AM »
I've started to brainstorm PS ideas and have found that my life has been really boring  ;block;  I've read the usual books, Ivey, Levine, 55 Harvard and one that stuck out to me was to tell about a specific moment that made you change your life..  I've been trying to "keep it real" as Anne suggested but it's not as dramatic as the other sample PS's I've read, but here's my essay idea, let me know if its a keeper or a dud...  Here is the jest of it:

After 12 years of school the last thing I wanted to do was to go for 4 more.  So for 5 years I worked in various jobs with gradual advancement until I ended up working for a boutique networking company as a project manager.  Although I did not have the college degree they sought, I impressed the president enough in the interview to land the job.  The president was a person that I grew to admire for his work ethic as well as his respect for his employees and customers.   About six months into working at the company, I finally was give a major multi-million project to manage on my own.  During one of our meeting he had asked me for a "plethora" of ideas to resolve a problem that had come up.  Apparently I couldn't hide the confusion and the look on my face must have told him something was wrong.  When I confessed that I didn't know what plethora meant, the look of disappointment that came over his face made me question for the first time my educational decisions I had taken in life.  This was the starting point that lead me back to school...

Don't know if this is a drastic enough life changing moment but it was the first one that popped into my head..  Let me know what you think.

Truthfully, I like everything until the "starting point" bit regarding "plethora." I was into it and then I thought, "Wait a minute, was not knowing a word really the impetus behind his deciding to go back to school? That just doesn't sound very plausible." I just didn't buy that you had impressed the president of the company enough to give you a multi-million dollar project but then he'd be disappointed you didn't know the word "plethora." Lots of people don't, and it really isn't the end-all, be-all of their academic life or potential, nor does it have particularly far-reaching existential consequences. You really would need to show me why this was so pivotal, and it might make the essay much, much longer than the 800-1000 words a personal statement typically is.

I'd have to know more about what you're planning to write about after that, to see if it starts sounding a little more "relatable." I'd also have to know a couple more things: Did you end up getting a college degree? When was that? How long ago did you graduate? Did you work while you were getting it? And, in your case, it might also be worth it to explore the question of "Why law school? Why now?" Although that's not always necessary, I have a feeling in your case it would make the whole "this led me back to school" theme stronger.
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Check out my Law School Admissions Tip of the Week on the PowerScore LSAT and Law School Admissions Blog

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Offline jsh1177

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Re: Law school personal statement topics
« Reply #11 on: October 11, 2010, 08:07:17 AM »
Hi Anne,

Thanks for the quick review..  Like you mentioned it wasn't the word itself that was the impetus but the disappointment in his reaction that triggered the self-reflection and soul searching which eventually led to returning to school.  You have to understand, it was the first time that I felt like I had a real mentor.  I had convinced myself until then that I didn't need college, I was 23 making $60K+ without a college degree, I thought I had it all figured out.  I transferred from a community college to UC Santa Cruz and completed my BA in poli sci in 3 years (I was in a rush to graduate).  

After graduating I worked for another company, started my own business, sold it, started a new business but I find that it's not fulfilling, this isn't what I want to do with my life (by now you've probably figured out I'm a non-traditional student).  Law school was something that I always wanted to do (but I read in so many places that "I wanted to got to law school since I was 5" is a really bad topic).

I really haven't outlined how I want to write this topic out, but while jotting down initial topic ideas, this was the one that seemed to have the most potential.  

On a side note, do you offer admissions consulting?  Website?

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Offline Anne

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Re: Law school personal statement topics
« Reply #12 on: October 11, 2010, 10:29:59 AM »
Hi Anne,

Thanks for the quick review..  Like you mentioned it wasn't the word itself that was the impetus but the disappointment in his reaction that triggered the self-reflection and soul searching which eventually led to returning to school.  You have to understand, it was the first time that I felt like I had a real mentor.  I had convinced myself until then that I didn't need college, I was 23 making $60K+ without a college degree, I thought I had it all figured out.  I transferred from a community college to UC Santa Cruz and completed my BA in poli sci in 3 years (I was in a rush to graduate).  

After graduating I worked for another company, started my own business, sold it, started a new business but I find that it's not fulfilling, this isn't what I want to do with my life (by now you've probably figured out I'm a non-traditional student).  Law school was something that I always wanted to do (but I read in so many places that "I wanted to got to law school since I was 5" is a really bad topic).

I really haven't outlined how I want to write this topic out, but while jotting down initial topic ideas, this was the one that seemed to have the most potential.  

On a side note, do you offer admissions consulting?  Website?

I like the idea. It definitely has potential. I would have to see a rough draft to see if you're on the right track, but I definitely like the premise now that you've fleshed it out a little more. Were I writing it, I would try to find a more substantial reason for going to law school than "I've always wanted to go" -- like you said, that topic has lost its luster, and always manages to annoy rather than impress. You'll definitely want to address that question, however, given your background and age. Older applicants should always have a reason for why they want to attend law school--AdComs look for one, particularly since they know how difficult it is to go to school when you're older, and how much of a change that can be.

And, to answer your last question, yes--I do admissions counseling. I've sent you a PM with the details.
Director of Admissions Consulting for PowerScore LSAT Preparation. I can be reached at [email protected].

Check out my Law School Admissions Tip of the Week on the PowerScore LSAT and Law School Admissions Blog

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Offline GeoffreySchwab

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Re: Law school personal statement topics
« Reply #13 on: October 10, 2016, 06:54:03 AM »
I've started to brainstorm PS ideas and have found that my life has been really boring  ;block;  I've read the usual books, Ivey, Levine, 55 Harvard and one that stuck out to me was to tell about a specific moment that made you change your life..  I've been trying to "keep it real" as Anne suggested but it's not as dramatic as the other sample PS's I've read, but here's my essay idea, let me know if its a keeper or a dud...  Here is the jest of it:

After 12 years of school the last thing I wanted to do was to go for 4 more.  So for 5 years I worked in various jobs with gradual advancement until I ended up working for a boutique networking company as a project manager.  Although I did not have the college degree they sought, I impressed the president enough in the interview to land the job.  The president was a person that I grew to admire for his work ethic as well as his respect for his employees and customers.   About six months into working at the company, I finally was give a major multi-million project to manage on my own.  During one of our meeting he had asked me for a "plethora" of ideas to resolve a problem that had come up.  Apparently I couldn't hide the confusion and the look on my face must have told him something was wrong.  When I confessed that I didn't know what plethora meant, the look of disappointment that came over his face made me question for the first time my educational decisions I had taken in life.  This was the starting point that lead me back to school...

Don't know if this is a drastic enough life changing moment but it was the first one that popped into my head..  Let me know what you think.
I think your idea for a personal statement is actually good. Did you get in?
Hi guys! My name is Geoffrey. I study law at New York University. I also help with personal statement revisions here: http://www.personalstatementrevision.com/. I like learning new stuff and meeting new people and that's why I'm here.