Sample Law School Essays
Perhaps the most difficult part of applying to law school is writing the perfect essay. Your grades and test scores are the most important part of your application, but your personal statement is your chance to set yourself apart from the crowd. You’ll want your essay to be both memorable and relevant. Here are a few tips for writing the perfect personal statement:
- You will probably only need to write one personal statement, but you will want to tweak it for each school to which you apply. There should be a few subtle differences in what each school requires in a personal statement.
- Your final essay should end up about two or three pages, double-spaced. For your first draft, try to write at least four pages, leaving yourself room to cut.
- Don’t worry about being “unique.” Instead, tell your story authentically and sincerely. Your goal is to present the best version of yourself, not to be the most interesting person in the world.
- Ask for feedback. The more time you spend on your personal statement, the harder it becomes to spot any mistakes. Ask for feedback from professors, friends, family members, and anyone else whose judgement you trust.
- Avoid flowery or overly complicated prose. Good law students--and good lawyers--use direct, concise prose. Remove extraneous words and make sure your meaning is clear.
All The Way
As the bus entered the heavily guarded military installation, my eyes landed on a sign that read "All the Way." When the bus stopped, several angry Drill Instructors boarded and began introducing us to a very colorful vocabulary, usually reserved for drunken sailors. They instructed us to gather our belongings, get off the bus and assemble in a circular formation. As I searched for the strength to get up, several Drill Instructors yelled at us for our clumsy attempt to dismount the bus and fall into formation. I wondered if I had made the right choice. Since then, I have come to realize that my military experiences have tremendously enhanced my self-worth. From those first eight weeks of Basic Training to the day I walked out with an honorable discharge, I gained an enormous amount of skill and confidence. I grew as a person, and I learned life skills: discipline, tenacity, leadership, and problem solving abilities, all of which will enhance my potential as a law student.
In the military, training makes the difference between failure and success. Whether one's specialty is exiting aircraft at 1,300 feet, enforcing law and order around the fort, or taking medical X-rays, training is needed in order to develop discipline and confidence. As the Army becomes more technologically advanced, as does the guidance individuals receive. In my case, the Army provided me with high-tech instruction in the field of electronics communication repair. At the tender age of 18, I was responsible for operating and maintaining million-dollar telecommunications equipment. This often involved being located in remote areas away from other support units, while working under adverse conditions. However, electronic equipment or theories of electricity were far from the only things I learned about. The experience provided me with invaluable skills that will prove critical in the legal profession. For example, I was required to analyze intricate electronics circuitry, find problems, then fix them appropriately. I also had to interact with coworkers, supervisors, and engineers while trying to solve these difficult technical problems. As a result, I learned the importance of articulating my thoughts in a coherent and logical fashion while under duress. Being forced to independently solve complicated problems in a short period of time strengthened my discipline and tenacity, qualities that will be essential in Law School.
Moreover, the military provided me with the opportunity to travel abroad. Living in countries such as Korea, Spain, and Germany and immersing myself in their cultures has given me perspective on the differences between the United States and other countries. Each place I have lived has been unique in some way, from the different languages to the variations in cultural practices. Interacting with individuals from different backgrounds has helped me develop a good rapport with people.
From my travels, I also learned that there can be more than one solution to a problem. Indeed, having a variety of perspectives makes it easier to come up with approaches to different problems. My travel experience has strengthened my interpersonal skills, as well as my integrity and determination.
Perhaps most importantly, my military training provided me with the courage, strength and dedication to succeed even after I left military service. I believed that I could accomplish anything, as long as I put my mind to it. This belief led me to pursue a career in the manufacturing industry, where I worked for several companies, and eventually convinced me I could succeed in an academic environment. In each of my jobs, I benefited from my hard work ethic by advancing to senior technician levels and eventually securing leadership positions within my department. For six years I enjoyed a variety of challenges and opportunities, whether it was troubleshooting computer equipment, collaborating with electronics engineers, or operating industrial machinery.
I longed to be in a more intellectual environment, where I might be allowed to see things from a different perspective. I had always been more interested in mathematics and science than liberal arts subjects. So when I decided to go back to school, I decided to take courses in philosophy and the social sciences. Understanding philosophical and political rhetoric proved to be quite difficult, as I had to analyze abstract theories and assumptions about retribution and the nature of politics. Nevertheless, I managed to persevere and even make the Dean's honor roll on several occasions. My work and academic experiences have undoubtedly built upon the skills I developed in the Army.
Through my experiences in the military, I did find some satisfaction. However, I found greater happiness in helping others, whether it was by using military resources to aid a community during times of crisis, or participating in local food or blood drives. For me, there is nothing more gratifying than helping people in times of need. I always have been a firm believer that people have a responsibility to give something back to their community. While the military has provided me with invaluable skills, my desire to help others stems from my traditional Hispanic upbringing. My parents always stressed the importance of maintaining and supporting the family structure. Ever since I can remember, my mother and father always taught their children to respect and help one another. These ideals did not stop with our own family. My mother told me that everyone on this earth belongs to one big family, and that it is our duty to respect and help another. She stated that while our lives may be going well, there is always somebody who needs our help. This is why, for the past year and half, I have become involved in a local mentor program that provides guidance and support for children with disadvantaged backgrounds. As a mentor, my responsibilities include working with the local youth to improve decision making capabilities, build conflict resolution abilities, improve school performance, and build the desire to continue their education. As a lawyer I hope that I will be able to help individuals through legal crises.
The sign at the military installation that reads "All The Way" has had a tremendous impact on me. What began as a simple twist of fate has inspired me to face new challenges and given me the determination to succeed in all my endeavors. Law school will be a welcome challenge, one which I plan to face with my arsenal of experience, passion, dedication, leadership and discipline. I believe that these characteristics make me a confident, accomplished and promising candidate who would be an asset to the incoming class, and ultimately to the legal profession. I am convinced that I have the necessary skills to go "All the Way" at your institution.
Law School Essay Do's and Don'ts
- Do: Choose a narrow topic. Offer details about a small topic, rather than broad generalities about a large topic. Focus on a concrete experience and its impact on you.
- DON'T: Tell your life story or restate your resume. Resist the urge to tie together all of your life experiences. Essays that say too much end up saying nothing at all.
- Do: Keep your essay interesting. Paint a picture; tell a story. Try to make your personal statement interesting and memorable.
- DON'T: Be a cliche. Before choosing a topic, think about what makes your story unique and highlight those experiences.
Taking the Long Way
Many college students know exactly what field they plan on entering after graduation and have been preparing for that field throughout their college career. I had difficulty deciding on a career field I found rewarding enough to warrant devoting my entire life to it. While I had always considered pursuing the law and majored in public policy as an undergraduate, I was never passionate about it. I didn't have clear goals, and it seemed to me as if my degree and my circumstances were pushing me into studying the law; I needed to rediscover why I fell in love with the law in the first place.
As a college senior, I took the LSAT because all of my classmates were taking it. I did not prepare, and I really did not want to attend law school after college; thankfully, my low LSAT score precluded that as a possibility. I needed to understand more about life before I could commit myself to a career. After being in school for about two decades, I felt completely out of touch with reality and did not think I would ever find career direction by attending more schooling. With these thoughts in mind, I decided that I needed real-world experience to help me find the direction I so desperately sought.
I accepted an investor relations position in New York that tested both my intelligence and my work ethic. The first few months moved at a hectic pace as I attempted to acquire knowledge of my new pursuit and to control the responsibilities assigned to me. I quickly adjusted and maintained a schedule of seventy-hour workweeks. Because of my hard work and growing expertise, my colleagues soon began to acknowledge me as an important member of the organization and my opinion became respected and sought out. This respect provided me with a great deal of confidence, and I began to realize that I had unlimited potential. I had finally regained the attitude necessary for success, and my recent LSAT score is a testament of this self-awakening.
While I may not have taken the direct route to law school, I took the course that suited me well. I needed to find goals that would drive me through all-nighters and exam periods. Over the course of the past few years, I have transformed from an inexperienced college graduate into a respected professional. My departure from classroom study has helped me grow into a more confident, independent individual who has developed the ability to set goals and focus on the path to achieving them. I believe I am now prepared to make the most of my future educational experiences, and I hope for the opportunity to do this at your university.
Law School Essay Do's and Don'ts
- Do: Be yourself. Don’t tell law schools what you think they want to hear; tell them the truth.
- DON'T: Use your personal statement to explain discrepancies in your application. Instead, address those issues in an addendum.
- Do: Keep your essay simple and brief. Remember that your reader has a huge stack of essays to read through. Your personal statement shouldn’t be more than two or three pages double spaced.
- DON'T: If you are in the bottom of an applicant pool, don’t try to play it safe. You have nothing to lose by making a novel statement.