Remember, these are just SUGGESTIONS. Ultimately, the personal statement is just that - personal - and YOU need to be happy with what you send. There is no "perfect" personal statement that will guarantee success.
SUGGESTIONS OF THINGS TO DO Make sure you read the school applications carefully. Pay attention to any instructions about the personal statement, for example, page or word limits and any specific topics or questions the law school wants you to address. If you are not sure you understand the instructions or have questions about them, contact the school's admissions office for help and/or talk to a pre-law advisor.
Content The point of the personal statement is to give the law school an idea of who you are and why they would want to admit you. And, perhaps even more important, to show your writing skills! It is probably best to not write one, generic essay and send it to multiple schools. Try to make it specific to each school and be certain to address any specific information requested by that school. Think ahead about the skills and qualities you want to present to the school - things that would make you attractive to that law school. Talking about life experiences that contributed to your decision to go to law school may be fine, but do not get too personal! For example, mentioning that you had an important experience with the legal system that influenced your decision to go to law school when your parents divorced might be fine, but going into painful details about the divorce is not a good idea. Remember, you are writing to strangers and too much personal disclosure will probably seem inappropriate to the admissions committee.
Writing Again, HOW you write is as important as what you write. Your statement needs to be well-organized, logical and concise. Don't ramble on. Take notes about what you want to write, then make an outline of the statement, then write the first draft. Then REVISE, REVISE, REVISE! Pay attention to the deadlines for applications and give yourself more than enough time to write the personal statement. Plan on writing multiple drafts before you have one that you show to other people. Make sure you proofread your statement carefully! Ask several other people to proofread it as well - people you know will do it carefully and be willing to give you an honest opinion. Make sure they check spelling and grammar as well. Give people plenty of time to read and critique it. But again, this is YOUR statement. You do not have to accept someone else's advice if you don't feel it works for you. If the advice is about spelling or grammar, and you think the person is wrong - get more opinions. Make sure you don't have any spelling or grammar errors! Remember, spell check does NOT catch everything - especially if the mistake you made was also a real word, such as their and there, or to and too. You are telling the school how qualified and interesting a person you are, but don't forget to talk about why you want to go to law school. If there is something particularly attractive about the individual school, talk about that, as long as it is about academics - don't say you want to go there because it is close to your home. You want to stand out from the people they have been reviewing all day, in a good way. What makes you interesting? What should they know about you that would make them want to accept you? When you mention a quality or ability, give an example of it. If you are interested in a particular area of the law, such as government law, show that you've done your research and how your abilities are a good match. However, it may be best not to limit yourself to one area. You want to show that you know you have a lot to learn about the law and you are keeping an open mind.
Optional essays If the application has an essay that it says is "optional" - it probably isn't. For example, sometimes school ask for an optional essay about why you want to go to their particular law school. It, of course, is totally up to you if you want to write it. However, not doing it may make you seem uninterested in the school and/or unwilling to make an extra effort to improve your chances. The exception - if the optional essay is about something that you don't have, such as internship experience - don't try to fake it.
SUGGESTIONS OF THINGS NOT TO DO Don't just write your resume out in full sentences. If you have included a resume in your application, they already have that information. Use the statement to talk about things not on the resume or to go into more detail about things and/or highlight something. Don't use quotes. If you must, use short ones and only one or two. Law schools want to see how you write, not someone else. Don't overuse big words or unfamiliar words. Especially don't use unfamiliar legal terms trying to impress. Talk normally. You run the risk of misusing a word that is unfamiliar, especially legal terms. If you do feel the need to use these, make sure you have someone check that you are using the term or word correctly. Don't say you decided to become a lawyer because you enjoy watching Law and Order or any other TV show. Don't say everyone tells me I should be a lawyer because "I love to argue". Show a more sophisticated understanding of the law profession. Don't try to be "cute", sarcastic or angry - be careful when using humor - remember, the admissions committee will not be able to see your facial expression and may not realize you are joking.