- Failing to Demonstrate a Genuine Interest in the Law
Many applicants to law school, especially ones who are trying to go K-JD, are fighting an uphill battle from the outset. This is because law school admissions officers harbor a healthy dose of skepticism that such applicants have seriously reflected on why they want to attend law school and if it is indeed the right move to make rather than a seemingly safe, default next step. If your personal statement for law school sounds exactly like your college personal statement and doesn’t paint a clear and compelling picture of why you want to go to law school, you’re going to be in a tough position.
Adding a couple of canned reasons why you like law school, or that particular law school generally, at the tail end of the personal statement will not check off this box for you; you interest in the law, potential career trajectories, and perhaps passion for a particular area of law or experience with the law should be palpable throughout the essay.
Your personal statement should allow the reader to naturally infer that:
- You are genuinely interested in the law, and,
- There is some valid explanation for your interest.
- Writing Your Resume Twice
This is probably the most common mistake that law school applicants make. They are at a loss for what to write about, and end up regurgitating the information on their resume in narrative form. To the admissions office, this screams BORING and UNCREATIVE. From a strategic perspective, it gives the admissions officers no information about you that they didn’t already have. In General, the less they know about you, the less likely you are to be admitted. Furthermore, if you are incapable of writing a 2-3 page paper that doesn’t repeat the other 15 pages you’ve sent the admissions office, then you seem at best uncreative and at worst lazy.
This doesn’t meant that you cannot discuss activities or experiences which also appear on your resume; in fact, you almost always should do this in some capacity.
- Exaggerating Adversity
Overcoming adversity is only a viable topic if you’ve actually overcome meaningful adversity compared to the rest of the applicant pool. Remember, you will be applying alongside people from war-torn countries, people who are afflicted with life-threatening diseases, and many more challenges that you cannot even imagine. We’ve even seen a few students drafting essays about how the election of Donald Trump made them feel this year; I assure you that admissions officers eyes will glaze over with how many of these essays they will be reading this cycle.
Against this backdrop, you writing about difficulty with a class, with a particular standardized test, with friendship conflicts, or other reimaginations of small setbacks into true and enduring hardships, you will seem immature to the admissions committee and they will likely judge you unfavorably.
A good brightline test: if you have to ask yourself “is this adversity?” even once, it’s almost certainly not.Another variation of this common mistake is writing about true adversity, but not explaining the significance of it and how you have overcome it or are working to overcome it. Adversity is only important for an applicant insofar as you have overcome or begun to overcome that adversity, and in that triumph have demonstrated some set of qualities which will further his/her legal career. The invitation to write a law school personal statement is not an invitation to a pity-party.
About the AuthorDavid Mainiero graduated from Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School. He is a Co-Founder and admissions expert at InGenius Prep.