Your grades and LSAT score are the most important part of your application to law school. But you shouldn't neglect the personal statement. Your essay is a valuable opportunity to distinguish yourself from other applicants, especially those with similar scores.
You want to present yourself as intelligent, professional, mature and persuasive. These are the qualities that make a good lawyer, so they're the qualities that law schools seek in applicants. Talking about your unique background and experiences will help you stand out from the crowd. But don't get too creative. The personal statement is not the time to discuss what your trip to Europe meant to you, describe your affinity for anime, or try your hand at verse.
Best practices for your personal statement
1. Be specific to each school
You'll probably need to write only one basic personal statement, but you should tweak it for each law school to which you apply. There are usually some subtle differences in what each school asks for in a personal statement.
2. Good writing is writing that is easily understood
Good law students—and good lawyers—use clear, direct prose. Remove extraneous words and make sure that your points are clear. Don't make admissions officers struggle to figure out what you are trying to say.
3. Get plenty of feedback
The more time you've spent writing your statement, the less likely you are to spot any errors. You should ask for feedback from professors, friends, parents and anyone else whose judgment and writing skills you trust. This will help ensure that your statement is clear, concise, candid, structurally sound and grammatically accurate.
4. Find your unique angle
Who are you? What makes you unique? Sometimes, applicants answer this question in a superficial way. It's not enough to tell the admissions committee that you're an Asian–American from Missouri. You need to give them a deeper sense of yourself. And there's usually no need to mention awards or honors you've won. That's what the law school application or your resume is for.
Use your essay to explain how your upbringing, your education, and your personal and professional experiences have influenced you and led you to apply to law school. Give the admissions officers genuine insight into who you are. Don't use cliches or platitudes. The more personal and specific your personal statement is, the better received it will be.
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A law personal statement allows you to show off those writing skills essential for an LLB law degree and a successful career in law. It can spell the difference between a university offer or not, so don’t let schoolboy errors put you in the no pile!
For more detail on undergraduate course options head over to our LLB Courses section.
1. Hackneyed quotes about law…
A personal statement is just that: personal. Regurgitating often-used quotes wont impress, unless you use them in an original way.
Admissions tutors read hundreds of personal statements so including the same quote as everyone else looks generic and/or lazy.
Also, try to avoid overused opening lines, like “From a young age” and “For as long as I can remember” – it’s OK not to have yearned to be barrister as a foetus.
2. Words to avoid in your personal statement
There are certain words that get overused in applicants' personal statements (and CVs later on in life!), such as "Really interested”, “relish”, “intrigued”, “passionate”.
Instead of saying “I’m really interested in law and would relish the chance to study it”, prove it by giving examples. Stuffing your personal statement with phrases like “highly interested” isn’t the most effective way to show enthusiasm and passion.
What is it about law that draws you in? Is there an area of law that particularly piques your interest? What do you want to do with your degree? Show them that law floats your boat, don’t just tell them.
3. Too many words
You don’t have to use up the allocated 4,000 characters and 47 lines of text. Don’t put in things just to pad out your personal statement and don’t try to cram too much into it. Your personal statement should have a clear structure.
Be selective about what you put in it. Above all, don’t waffle.
4. Lying in your personal statement
It’s tempting to fabricate work experience, but if it comes to interviews, you might well be asked about it. The risk associated with lying or copying far outweighs the benefits.
You don’t have to be starkly honest either; saying “I have work experience with a local solicitors’ firm, but it was rubbish and all I did was make tea” probably won’t make them rush to offer you a place.
If you do lie about having read certain books, then you’d better read them before the interview.
5. Using humour or making jokes…
It’s great to inject personality into your personal statement, but what you think is funny might go down like a lead balloon with an admissions tutor.
To be on the safe side, steer clear of jokes, but do try and make your personal statement engaging.
6. Don’t overthink it or get too wound up…
There’s no point spending years on your personal statement. Yes, it’s important, but spending hours fretting over the placement of a particular word is counterproductive.
Here’s the thing: most universities look at grades first and foremost.
7. Leaving your law personal statement to the last minute…
However, do give yourself time to put together your personal statement. Most people will create several drafts before they are happy.
Leaving it to the very last minute is a bad idea: you’re more likely to make mistakes and put together something sloppy.
Allow time to get feedback, preferably from someone with experience of university admissions, such as a teacher.
8. Not knowing what universities are looking for…
The best writers know their audience. Law personal statements are written for admission tutors. You need to understand what universities expect from their students and what qualities they seek in a candidate.
Speaking to tutors at open days, scrutinising law schools’ websites and reading the course profile in depth are great ways to get an idea.
Broadly speaking, they’ll want candidates who demonstrate clear passion for the subject, who will throw themselves into university life and contribute to the reputation of their university.
9. Tailoring your personal statement to one law course if you are applying for four others…
You might be desperate to get a place on, say, the University of Bristol’s LLB programme, but don’t spell it out in your law personal statement.
Cover letters for companies might need to be super tailored to the organisation, but UCAS personal statements need to have a broader focus.
They should be relevant to every law course to which you are applying.
Feel free to talk about the LLB as a whole, but don’t mention specific features of individual LLBs like the chance to study abroad, unless it applies to all of the courses you are applying to via UCAS.
10. Grammatical errors and spelling mistakes…
If you are going to ignore all of the above, this is the one point that we’d shout from the rafters. Check your personal statement.
Double check it, triple check it. And then check it again. Scrutinise every sentence for mistakes, repetition or silly grammatical errors like using “your” in the wrong instance instead of “you’re”.
Get someone whose proofreading skills you utterly trust to inspect your law personal statement. Most admissions tutors can sniff out dodgy spelling and errant grammar like a polar bear snuffling out a seal.