What not to do in your personal statement

law school admissions personal statements

Your personal statement is a critical component of your law school application. Here are the top five pitfalls to avoid when writing your personal statement:

1. Do NOT repeat your resume

Remember, you will already submit a resume or CV as part of your law school application. The admissions committee will already have all that information readily available. Your personal statement should tell a story and provide more color. This is an opportunity to get, well, personal! Let your personality shine and use this as a chance to say things that your resume won’t necessarily convey.

2. Do NOT make excuses

If you must, you can explain any mitigating circumstances in an addendum. Do not use your personal statement as a moment to explain, blame or dwell on the negative. 

3. Do NOT go crazy with the format

You want to be original, but you don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb. The fact is, the legal professional is still very traditional. Your personal statement should be in the form of an essay. Don’t experiment with the format – now is not the time to break into song or sonnet. 

4. Do NOT talk about high school

The point here is, you want to talk about the recent past, not the distant past. If you are a non-traditional candidate and college was 5-10 years ago, the same applies – don’t talk about college. Talk about a theme from the past 2-3 years. You want the admissions committee to have a good idea about who you are in this stage of your life, not your past self.

5. Do NOT be too cliché 

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, start your personal statement with a quote. And most definitely DO NOT start it with something like “Once upon a time…” These gimmicks are boring, impersonal and predictable. You want to be authentic and sophisticated. Having a strong opening line – most importantly, keep it original.

Monica is a practicing corporate attorney specializing in private equity mergers and acquisitions. She graduated from Harvard Law School and the University of Pennsylvania, summa cum laude. While attending Harvard Law School, Monica interned at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement.


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