Center for High Achievement & Scholarly Engagement
Pre-Graduate and Pre-Professional Advising

Writing the Essay

Content is not the only important aspect of the personal statement. The way in which it is written is perhaps equally crucial. You must demonstrate that you can express yourself with clarity and that you have the ability to construct a strong argument. These skills are vital for any aspiring law student and vital for any personal statement.

Make a good impression as early as possible

A useful way to think about the writing in your essay is to put yourself in the position of the admissions deans. They will read hundreds of essays and you can imagine that not every essay will be read carefully. However, essays that make a good first impression will draw more attention. It is therefore vital that your essay has a great introduction that stimulates interest. You could start with a question that the reader will want to know the answer to, or a story, or even the end of a story which will make the reader want to read on. However you chose to write your introduction, it must make the reader want to take that extra bit of time to read it carefully.

Be clear and concise

The reader must not have to work hard to understand the essay. The basic theme, tone and subject of your essay must be clear from early on. It must be coherent, with a clear structure and a logical progression that is easy to follow.

Be sincere and genuine in your writing

Because the whole idea of a personal statement is to say something about you, its tone should be honest and sincere. It can also pay to reveal some personal emotion. A bit of excitement, sadness or even embarrassment can be an effective means of conveying a sense of who you are.

Give yourself time

A crucial part of writing a great essay is to give yourself enough time. If you start writing in the summer before you want to go to law school then you will have sufficient time to make several drafts or even to start again if necessary. A useful tool is to leave a statement and go back to it after a few weeks. A period of time can give a new perspective on the effectiveness of your essay. It is also wise to get several people, preferably including objective readers, to read your essay and offer advice.

Focus on detail

Whatever you do, pay attention to detail. The admission committee will face a difficult decision trying to separate a lot of applications. Do not provide them with an easy way to discard your application by a simple grammatical error or typo. It could undermine the value of a lot of hard work. Little errors in your statement reflect poorly on your writing abilities. They also reflect negatively on how important you consider admission to law school and what type of lawyer you would be.

Essay length

Some law schools give guidelines on format and length. If this is the case then comply with those guidelines. If there are no guidelines then it is best to keep your essay to a maximum of around two pages. Any less than two pages and it will be difficult for the reader to get a sense of you as an individual. Any longer than two pages and you may appear long winded. In any case, if your essay is clear and concise then you should not require any more than two pages. Admissions professionals who have to read thousands of statements will appreciate brevity.