The best personal statements for law school are not overly dramatic tales of woe. They are clearly and concisely written, they are written in a conversational style that makes you likable and real and relatable, and they provide meaningful insight into your decisions and experiences and perhaps even your future goals.
My Personal Statement Plus service helps you with every step of developing your best personal statement, from brainstorming to final drafts.
There are a lot of sample personal statements online, and – to be honest – I have problems with a lot of them.The whole point of a law school personal statement is to write something unique to you, that best represents your experiences. You can’t get this from reading a book of essays that worked for specific people. You can’t change your life story to match theirs. You can’t change your voice or writing style to match theirs.
How Personal Statement Examples Can Help
So why do so many law school applicants search out sample essays? To help you decide what to write about and how to frame your essay. To know whether you are on the right path. To get ideas when you feel frustrated or lost.
What Personal Statement Examples Get Wrong
Starting With A Quote
Many of the law school personal statement examples you will find are organized by starting with a quote. I hate that. You have, in most cases, only 2 pages double spaced to make your case. You have only one first sentence to get the reader interested in YOU. How is it a good use of precious space to quote someone whom you’ve never met? I’ve read hundreds of essays like this as a law school admission director and, I’m telling you, my eyes would jump right over a quote. I had limited time to know what each applicant was about. A quote – famous, literary, poignant, or otherwise – unless said directly to you during a formative moment in your life, has no place in your law school personal statement.
Using a Clever Title
Likewise, a title. Not necessary to worry about a clever (but often cheesy) title. “Personal Statement” will do just fine. Why risk turning off the reader right from the beginning?
Talking About Mentors
I’ve also seen sample personal statements talking about mentors. Why? Why would you focus YOUR personal statement on someone else? Whether it’s your grandfather or your mother or your tennis coach putting the focus on them takes the focus away from your decisions and experiences. It also risks looking a bit starry-eyed, idealistic and immature. But, mostly, it makes it seem as though you’re riding on the coattails of someone else’s accomplishments.
Telling A Dramatic Story
For those of you with a legitimate “obstacles overcome” story, you do not need to resort to drama. Simply telling your story in a factual way, providing context for your achievements and goals by sharing meaningful details – that’s your best bet. Don’t start with “And I hid under the table as the glass flew….” Start with explaining to the reader what you’ve been through, how it impacted you, how you grew. For you, no sample essay will work because your story is unique to you.
Need help deciding on what you should write in your personal statement? Check out these Winning Personal Statement Topic ideas.
When law schools specify they want, say, a two page paper. Is it better to assume they want it double-spaced or single-spaced
Thank you for the BU essays, they were a LOT of help!
When a school asks for a personal statement without specifications what would be a good length to go by?
Chris, Atlanta GA
Chris, i like a 2 page personal statement….
(PS – I can no longer post “Anonymous” comments because they are too difficult to respond to in a way that makes sense to readers. If anyone has posted anonymously who would like to repost, I welcome that. I’m trying to stick to the rule, but it’s always hard to implement new rules….)
I didn’t think that the essays were all that good. They weren’t bad but they seemed a little impersonal. Also I’m pretty sure that they were writing to a specific topic and not a general personal statement. They were okay, could have been better.
Top Law School has a lot of great personal and diversity statements posted. http://www.top-law-schools.com.
I think that is probably the best place to go, real people.
Thanks for the essay info and examples. This is a great blog! Very helpful!
I have a question. I am not a traditional student. I am thirty years old and attend an online school. I chose this school because it allowed me the flexibility to work 50 hours a week and still accelerate through school. I am lost in the process and I don’t see much material for someone in my situation. I currently have a 3.0 GPA and I am on track to graduate early 2014. Where should I start. I have read both of your books but I am in the dark about LOR’s, mg resume, and my personal statement. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.
Great question! If your LSAT score puts you in range for a school and you present your case (working, etc.) for why you took that route, then it’s not an insurmountable barrier at most law schools. I’ve helped people explain that their online program was actually MORE work and why, and I think things like that can be persuasive.
Hi Ann, I’m graduating undergrad in a week with a BA in biology and a 2.7 gpa. My bad grades are due to long term depression and anxiety (basically was so scared of failure that I couldn’t study or go to class. also had social anxiety, low self-esteem and low self-efficacy). My life wasn’t exactly easy. We were immigrants and lived in poverty for most of my childhood, my parents worked day and night, the accumulated stress led to a lot of fighting and some abuse. I know it sounds like a excuse but I’ve finally come to terms with it all and reached a point in my life where I can be productive (took therapy and research a lot about treating the problems). My family life is also going really well. Now I’m older and reached a more stable point, I want to work hard to turn my life around. I don’t want to let the past hold me back from achieving a successful career.
My grades for the last semester have increased dramatically (hopefully all A’s) and I even formed a relationship with a professor whom I plan on getting a rec letter from. I plan on taking a year off to study for lsat and maybe get a part-time job. Lsat wise I’m shooting for a 170+. It might not be possible but I’ve got to try at least. People say that you its difficult to find jobs if you’re not in T14. I would say that based on my gpa a T14 school is pretty much out of the question. I will apply to some just in case a miracle happens. But what do you think my chances of getting into a T30 school will be? Also i don’t have much job experience except for working as a waitress for several years and one summer of volunteering in the ER of a hospital. Will law schools be okay if I only have experience waiting tables? I’m at odds about what to write about in my personal statement. I considered writing about my childhood, the poverty, abuse, depression but I don’t want it to be a sob story. What can I do?
First of all, being a waitress is hard work! I worked my way through college and law school as a waitress and it shows a willingness to do grunt work, don’t you think?
About the personal statement, you need to share your story in an uplifting way – how you have made a life for yourself.
Concentrate on LSAT prep and show what you can do without personal distractions.
Like Dave I am a nontraditional student as well. I started undergrad right after High School earned mostly B’s with an A or a C here and there until the Fall 2001 semester when I earned 3 F’s and left school. I joined the workforce first as a paramedic then as a full time firefighter for the last 6 yrs. I decided to return to school Fall 2011 and except for a C in Chemistry have had A’s with 2-3 B’s for the last three semesters. My grades now as a 33 yr old married father of 3 who works somewhere around 100 hrs a week ( I know it sounds unbelievable but it’s true and actually the legal fight that the local has entered into with the municipality to put an end to these ridiculous hours and my position in the Union is what has drawn me to Law School) are a much better reflection of my academic ability. I have read a lot about “split GPA’s” (low grades a break of some time then much better grades) is there anything to this split GPA idea. My GPA (through a calculator not LSAC) is @3.0 whereas my GPA since returning to school after a ten year break is @ 3.65 will schools look at this as a true 3.0 or will some consideration be given to the upward trend. Im not shooting for T14 Im looking at schools in Rhode Island and the Boston area like Suffolk and Northeastern, schools were my 161 LSAT is more than enough
Justin, the improvement in your grades will absolutely count in your favor. You will need an addendum to explain time away from school but you’ll be in good shape.
In writing my personal statement I’ve written a couple practice essays with different topics and one of the topics I’m considering is an unfortunate situation I overcame, however I’m worried it’s too personal of an experience to address. Would an essay about how an assault during college drove me to apply to law school be off limits? In the essay I don’t dwell on the actual assault or even provide personal details, it’s more about how I was strong and fought back with the law and the different ways it inspired and made me stronger.
Thank you so much for your help,
Elizabeth, it is NOT off limits, and I hereby openly disagree with anyone who says it is.
Some people chose to address this in an addendum explaining grades during college and then leave their personal statement open for something else, but it’s fine as a personal statement also – of course!
. I joined the workforce first as a paramedic then as a full time firefighter for the last 6 yrs. I decided to return to school Fall 2011 and except for a C in Chemistry have had A’s with 2-3 B’s for the last three semesters. My grades now as a 33 yr old married father of 3 who works somewhere around 100 hrs a week ( I know it sounds unbelievable but it’s true and actually the legal fight that the local has entered into with the municipality to put an end to these ridiculous hours and my position in the Union is what has drawn me to Law School) are a much better reflection of my academic ability.
is this site down
I am a URM who became a father at 16, got married at 17, buried my child at 18, and at age 28, I have been married almost 21 years. After working for a major utility company for 15 years, I decided to finish my education and follow my dream. I will be graduating in one year with two B.A. degrees in Communication Studies and Government-Journalism from a California State University and I founded a nonprofit organization which has gained global recognition.
I am struggling to draft a personal statement that feels eloquent and succinct. In your opinion, would you rather read about overcoming adversity in life or the purposeful nonprofit?
I doubt that I can do justice to both in two double-spaced pages.
**and at age 38
WOW, Jerry, I’m very impressed with your story. I want to read about both!!!! Many schools allow a diversity statement so you can break things up that way.
Some people chose to address this in an addendum explaining grades during college and then leave their personal statement open for something else, but it’s fine as a personal statement also – of course!
I think this last comment was by me…. it’s posting strangely!
I am new to this blog…..thank you for all the info, I am finding it very helpful!
I have been reading a great deal of information on the web about “good” personal statements, and I was wondering if I could see an example of what you consider to be a good personal statement? It seemed like this blog post had some samples, but maybe I am just unable to find the link to these samples? If you do have some available, I would really appreciate seeing what you consider to be prime examples of a personal statement. Thank you!
I am currently working on a new version of The Law School Admission Game and will be including samples/examples of personal statements in that, but I don’t have any readily available right now.
Great, thank you!
One more question if that is OK!
Is it OK to go below 12pt font and expand margins on personal statements? Some schools do not really specify these formatting requirements, so I was wondering if it might be OK to go smaller as long as the paper is legible?
Thanks so much again!
The information on this blog is very useful. I plan to take the LSAT in July 2013. I know besides my personal statement I have to prepare an addendum because I have a gap in my undergrad degree.
As to the preparation of my personal statement I’m super lost, I decided to start writing about my life story (ups and downs) and figure out from there how I can create the best PS.
I’m 33, a single mom and a double minority. My Bachelor’s degree is in Law but abroad. The one thing I am sure of is that a have to be a lawyer lincensed to practice law in the US because that is my pation. In addition I received my paralegal certificate and work as a paralegal. With that said what are your recommendations as to how I should prepare/start my personal statement.
Thanks in advance.
Migs, I’m so glad the blog is helpful. Even more happy you have lots of time to get your applications together and that you are starting to think about these things early.
You might find The Law School Admission Game to be a good place to start, and a new, updated version should be released over the summer so keep an eye out for that!
I am starting the application process for law. I been through a lot through college abuse, depression so my GPA does not show my actually capability. I sadly have a 2.8 which I am so disappointed in myself. My personal statement is on my abuse and how I have overcome to be a strong women.
I was suppose to take the LSAT in December but had to postpone due to Kidney problems, so I am taking it in Feb!? Is that an okay idea?
I already took a semester off to study but it didn’t work out as planned due to medical problems.
SHould I take it in Feb apply for law school and see how it goes? or wait for 2014?
Also, I have so far 3 LOR; one from my anthropology prof who is a forensics researcher, one from a CRJ prof who is also a probation officer, and my supervisor as well (her LOR is a bit short thou) are those good one? or get more? A women (Lawyer) I know seems to be bolting out and not writing me the LOR when she agreed at first. and I can’t force her to so I am worried. What to do there?
I am 23 going on 24. I feel like if I don’t get in now I will be a failure. I been working, volunteering this whole time since HS. Please any advice Ms Levine?
Tammy, your timing will depend on where you are trying to get into law school and whether you receive a score that is around (or above) a school’s 75th percentile…. 24 is young for law school…. you won’t be a failure for waiting a year. Really.
I’m applying to a dual degree program in social work AND law. The reason I want to do both is because I want to do advocacy work for children and women who have been victims of violence and abuse related to alcoholism and drugs. I am very passionate about this area because I am an adult child of an alcoholic and my brother is an alcoholic and drug addict. Thankfully, my parent is fully recovered now and my brother is currently in the rehabilitation process. I want to include this in my personal statement because it is what motivated me to help those in need.
What would be a good way of writing a personal statement without coming across too dramatic and “poor me”?
Meg, it’s all about attitude and how you build credibility with the reader, and to show that you’ve done positive work in this area already and it isn’t just something you say you want to do, but something you have really researched.
Is there a specific format on how to write the personal statement? Do I have to put my name on the top right or left corner of the page? Do I have to put a title on the middle? Or should i just put “Personal Statement” on the center-top page and introduce my name within the essay?
Your help would be gladly appreciated. Thank you!
Hi Nancy – double spaced with a header that includes your name, L#, “Personal Statement” and page #s.
DO NOT introduce your name within the essay.
I just want to know the format of a personal statement. Is it supposed to be written like a letter, or like an essay?
My Technical Writing Professor says it’s like a letter, but I’m not 100% sure.
It’s definitely not a letter. You should start by reading The Law School Admission Game and understanding the purpose and proper tone of the essay.
Hi, thanks for your article.
I am 30 years old and originally from the UK. I moved to the US 8 years ago after dropping out of a nursing degree. I don’t really have a good reason for my move other than it appealed to me and I was unhappy in the UK. I spent a good few years floating around doing bar work. I returned to education (NYU) and really want to attend law school. My draft of my personal statement focuses on growing up in the countryside of England, just outside of a major industrial city. I talk about how my family (especially the women) have given me all the tools I need to achieve my goals, but that most of them do not understand my choice to pursue a career in law in the US. My background is very working-class, which I mention, but I do not want to appear to be telling a sob story. I am also concerned that my years of bar-tending/traveling/not completing my original degree will be viewed as indecisiveness and inability to follow through. Do you have any suggestions to overcome these problems.
I am really hoping to get into a great school. I have a 3.9 GPA and I take the LSAT tomorrow (eek!) with all my practice tests being 165 +/-
I think you should focus on the things about you that are steady, and why you are now focused and ready to move forward with well-considered goals. Your personal statement is an interesting idea so long as it ends up talking about you, your experiences and motivations and decisions, and does not just read like a tribute to other women.
Thank you for all the good advice and direction. I am completely lost in choosing a topic for my personal statement. I do not come from an especially troubled background, economically or other. There is not one particular experience that drove me to choose law. I decided on law school because I am a philosophy major and loved the mix between creativity and logic. I am a mathematical thinker, yet have always had a creative side (music lover). This, in addition to my desire to always keep learning led me to decide that law would be a good fit. Is it enough to choose one of these attributes and choose a story that exemplifies it, or are those traits too generic? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
Philosophy majors can write great personal statements about their academic training and passions, absolutely! Have you happened to read Chapter 10 of The Law School Admission Game?
I am in the process of struggling with my personal statement. I have read your new book and found it very insightful (especially idea about using optional essays to provide more information to the school).
My numbers are 167/3.4 so I want to apply early to get a good shot at the top tier schools. But I also feel I don’t have a good topic for my personal statement. I came to the US as an immigrant 6 years ago and I decided to use this in a diversity statement. Besides that, I feel I am left with “why do I want to be a lawyer” as a topic. Can I write about it? I also looked at some of your youtube videos and I have to say, the reason behind my decision is not based on experience such as undergoing litigation.
Is it a good idea to write about my passion for law? I do have work experience (2+ years) at a law firm but that’s after I was 80% certain I want to go to law school
I am so glad the book is helpful. Why not forgo the diversity statement and just have a personal statement? You don’t need both.
I am glad the book and videos have been helpful (I always appreciate 5-star reviews on Amazon if you are so inclined).
Hi there Ann, I have had a good time reading all of your clever blogs. I am trying to enter a concurrent JD/MSW program and most of the schools require two applications. Should they be the same? I am a non-traditional student, married 30 years and have five grown children. I am not sure if I am an over-comer or if I have just realized that struggle is normal and I am ok being nor ok! lol
I have a 3.92 GPA but it is from a Cal State that isn’t very prestigious and I am wondering if I will look foolish talking about my academic achievement. Also, I received a couple academic scholarships and in those essays I wrestled with being authentic.Much of the reason I came back to school is faith-based and I didn’t want to be categorized in a negative way with the crazy FOX news right wingers. I ultimately decided to be frank and just left it up to the committees. I figured they had a right to hear what I was trying to do and decide for themselves if they would like to finance it. I know that in academia many don’t understand how I can use logic and empirical data to equip me to go after a spiritual purpose in a secular world. Have you seen any personal statement from this lens and how would you say it is best done. Thanks!
I generally believe that religious motivations for success are hard to do well in a personal statement, and it would be more compelling for you to talk about why law school and social work school are the right thing for you to do at this point in your life, now that your children are grown.
I am second guessing my dream of becoming an attorney. I have always want to work with the underprivileged giving them a voice that might not otherwise have because of financial reasons or help those who have been falsely accused of wrong doing but don’t have the resources to fight. I strongly believe no one should be denied the access to justice because of their financial situation. The year 2012 was bitter sweet for me, while graduating from graduate school, I loss three family members which has refocused my life in achieving my life’s goal. I have work numerous jobs but truly believe I will have not found my purpose in life until I am able to give back to my community as the lawyer I have always wanted to be. I am struggling with my personal statement in addition to a low LSAT school. Any advise.
Maya, I feel your frustration and wish I could do more to help. I think that if your low LSAT score is keeping you from being eligible at law schools, you need to invest your energies in improving it. Let your drive to succeed be your motivation in doing so. If you can’t retake the LSAT for any reason, then I think maybe it’s a timing issue and you should wait and get some things together and try again.
One of my advisors suggested that I include a short mention of why I want to attend law school in my personal statement, but after reading online, other people seem to think that this is not necessary. What is your opinion on this?
Sam, it depends on the person. For some people it’s obvious from other aspects of their applications and their interests and subject matter in their materials. If it’s not for you, then perhaps you should. Also pay attention to the questions law schools are asking in their prompts.