3 Guidelines for Whether to Tailor Your Personal Statement to A Law School:
1. Do they ask you to do it? Some do: Santa Clara and Chapman are two examples of law schools that specifically ask you why you are interested in their law school as part of the personal statement prompt. Therefore, it’s pretty lame if you fail to address it.
2. Is your reason sincere? Ties to the area are very important to emphasize if they wouldn’t otherwise be obvious from other parts of your application. Would a law school otherwise wonder why on earth you’re applying there based on lack of obvious ties or connections, numbers that are high for that school, etc.? If so, it can be helpful to address reasons for your interest. This demonstrates an increased likelihood of attendance. I love how the University of Hawaii flat out asks, “Have you ever even been to Hawaii?” (I’m paraphrasing here …. but you get my point).
3. Have you really done your research? Have you read up on certain faculty members, attended a symposium hosted by the school, seriously contemplated the student culture, accessibility to professors (beyond required office hours), student-faculty ratio,or noticed something different about that school’s first year classes, a pro bono emphasis or requirement, or an LRAP program? If so, spending some time talking about how important these issues are to you can show you have a high likelihood of attending. But pick one or two things to discuss, not a laundry list. And if you can show these things have been important to you in the past (like an interdisciplinary focus, concentration on writing, etc.) then it’s even more persuasive.
If you do tailor your personal statement, what should you say about the law school?
If you would simply be filing in the school name, as in “The clinics, varied curriculum, and collegial student body at Jones Law School are the reasons why I truly hope to attend.” then your effort at tailoring is completely useless. Good things to highlight include:
1. Ties to the location – Have you lived there? Do you have family nearby? Do you have a particular reason for wanting to move there?
2. If your personal statement is about a particular interest /background in law, highlighting specific offerings at the school that are in the same area can be very effective.
3. Meeting someone at the school or who works for the school (through an LSAC Forum for example), visiting the campus previously, or similarities between the school and other schools you have attended.
4. Talking to a student or graduate of the school about his/her experience there.
5. Something that truly sets the school apart for you (as per #3 above) -not the opportunity to get “hands-on experience” or “participate in moot court”… these are things you could do anywhere, but certain classes, professors with certain experience, something distinctive about the student body or alumni, something about the access to certain legal markets nearby, or something very specific that shows you’ve done your research on the school beyond the marketing text on the first page of the website.