Law school applicants typically see an opportunity for more – another essay, another letter of recommendation, a supplemental report – and jump at it. The more the better, right? Another opportunity to show off writing skill, or have a professor brag about your Greek mythology paper from junior year.This logic decidedly does not hold for law school applications, and that is nowhere truer than the diversity statement. Law schools note which applicants send supplemental materials – if they feel that you are being superfluous, or that you’re just “sending something in to send something in,” or are in any way attempting to game the system, it will hurt your admission chances.
The diversity statement is intended to tell law schools about an experience you’ve had, typically based on some aspect of one’s identity (e.g., gender, race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, family education background) that will make you a unique contributor to an incoming class. These essays are meant to be meaningful – what is something about your identity that actually distinguishes you from others. It will be very, very bad for your application if it comes off that you “wrote it just to write it.” To give some context, in my five years of law school admissions coaching, I have only encouraged four students to write it.
If you are thinking about the diversity statement, I suggest you ask yourself three questions:
Do you have a topic in mind that you feel moved to write about?
This is not the time to work through writer’s block and get something on the page, as might have to be the case with the personal statement. If you don’t have something in mind, based on just a bit of brainstorming and reflection, just don’t do it. It is truly optional – there is no value add to writing anything but a stellar, profound essay.
What types of adversity have you gone through?
Relatedly, while the essay is called the “diversity statement,” students often, and appropriately, write about adversity they have experienced related to some aspect of their identity. This gives law schools the opportunity to assess their experience more comprehensively – instead of just seeing demographic background, they get to learn a little bit more about what types of hardships the student has gone through, and how these experiences will contribute to a diverse class.
Often, students want to write about a unique skill (unicycling, Olympic swimming), a unique academic interest (local history, airplane design). While I won’t say that you should never write about these topics, you absolutely must think about how it will be read alongside the greater diversity statement pool. People will be writing about real trauma – racial violence, gender-affirmation surgery, sexism in the workplace. Is your essay about pogo-stick racing going to sound as serious as these deep, life-altering experiences? Above all, be very, very careful. This is perhaps especially true when writing about diversity of political views, or moments of ideological isolation.
How connected is the diversity statement with your legal interests?
Relatedly, the more aligned your diversity statement is with your legal interests, the better. A disconnected statement about your time growing up abroad isn’t the assignment. Instead, try and channel your background into your legal interests. For example, did growing up all over the world cement your interest in combating human rights abuses? Did an experience with the police motivate you to pursue a career in criminal legal reform? Do you want to practice movement lawyering after experiencing workplace discrimination? These are the types of connections that can really make these essays stand out.
Any statement that is not topically connected to your legal interests, and at least tangentially connected to experiencing diversity, should almost never be written. Work with your CC admissions coach – they will have a good sense of appropriate topics!