Getting Into Law School: 10 Features of Great Personal Statements

Report
Getting Into Law School:
10 Features of Great Personal
Statements
PLANC 2012
June 14, 2012
Washington, DC
Presenters
Sue Ann McClellan
Assistant Dean for Law Admissions, Recruiting, and Scholarships
University of Memphis, Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law
Dexter Smith
Assistant Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid
Campbell University, Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law
Josh Roberts
Director of Admissions
Faulkner University, Thomas Goode Jones School of Law
Kate Snowdon
Assistant Director of Admissions for Recruitment
University of St. Thomas School of Law
The Completed Application
-
UGPA, Scholastic Academic Indicators
LSAT, Aptitude Indicators
Application Questions, Biographical Data
Personal Statement
The Value of Personal Statements
The Personal Statement gives Admissions
Committees insight into an Applicant’s
Decision making process.
Unlike a GPA which summarizes years of work
or an LSAT which predicts future work, a
Personal Statement provides a snapshot of
how an applicant behaves at this very
moment.
1. The WHY
Explain your motivation for applying to law
school.
What is your passion?
What is your drive?
What has influenced your decision?
1. The WHY
GOOD REASONS TO GO TO LAW SCHOOL:
I want to be a lawyer.
BAD REASONS TO GO TO LAW SCHOOL:
I want to have college all over again.
It’s better than living in my parents’ basement.
I like to argue.
People always told me I’d be a great lawyer.
2. The WHERE
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In-state residency
Faith based university
Practice area specialties
Long term goals to practice in the region/state
Influences from spouse or significant other
Legacy
2. The WHERE
• Do your due diligence to investigate the
institution (e.g. specialty programs, clinics,
etc.)
• Remember:
One size DOES NOT fit all with personal
statements.
3. The WHAT
Explain any obvious questions the admissions
committee has about your candidacy.
GPA irregularity?
Transfer in and out of schools?
Noticeable time gaps in employment history or
education history?
4. The WORDS
Law school has a vocabulary of its own…
So know, and use, the lingo.
Law Review v. Board of Advocates
Mock Trial v. Moot Court
Mediation v. Arbitration
Clinics v. Externships
5. The INFO.
Show the admissions committee that there is
more to you than your resume.
Highlight your non-resume attributes.
A personal statement is NOT a narrative resume.
6. The HIGHLIGHTS.
• Convince the school that you care about them
and you have research the institution.
• Tell us more than what we tell you.
– We want to hear something more than a
regurgitation of our facts highlighted on the
website.
– We know what our viewbook says because many
of us are the authors of those publications.
6. The HIGHLIGHTS.
• Do not tell a school they are your first choice if
they are not. The application will ask where
you have applied. Honest answers tell us you
have multiple options.
• Make sure the school knows that you are an
applicant that is dedicated to making an
informed decision.
6. The HIGHLIGHTS.
• Explain what makes you different from other
well-qualified students. What personal
characteristics make you well-suited for
success in law school and in practice?
• What can you add to our student body?
6. The HIGHLIGHTS.
• Make sure that your strongest qualification
get placed before the admissions committee
more than once.
• If you have a passion, tell us about it!
– But make sure it ties into the practice of law.
• If it is related to law – it’s easy!
• If it is not related to law, an applicant can demonstrate
their work ethic, creativity, focus, and purpose.
7. The FORMAT.
Follow the rules.
Stay within the page limitations.
Make certain your personal statement is
submitted with your application.
8. The HOW.
Proofread every sentence.
Edit your personal statement multiple times.
Check for spelling and grammar errors.
Sometimes the best thing a personal statement can
do is to demonstrate than an applicant is a sound
writer.
9. The DOCUMENT.
• You are required to submit a personal
statement.
• This is not the time to display the full measure
of an applicant’s creativity.
– This is not a poem.
– This is not a collection of quotes.
– In fact, skip putting quotes as headers.
9. The DOCUMENT.
• Read the application instructions. You will
find strong clues on what is valued and usually
some clues on how to proceed.
– Some schools have specific questions or prompts.
• A great deal of information is in the
application instructions, but if you have
questions, you should contact schools directly.
9. The DOCUMENT.
• Follow the directions. If the school only asks
for one essay, give them one essay. Do not
assume that all schools want two if some
schools request two.
• Many public schools clearly ask non-residents
to provide an addendum outlining their
interests in the school.
– E.g. Memphis Law applicants should be motivated
by something that transcends a love of Elvis and
BBQ.
9. The DOCUMENT.
• Be especially careful about schools in the
same city and state. Most states are
geographically different. For example,
Memphis is on the Mississippi River and not in
the Smokey Mountains.
• Be careful about school specific items. For
example, if you reference a school’s mascot,
make sure you have the correct mascot.
9. The DOCUMENT.
• Too many students use their personal
statement to share their misfortunes. Many
students have admonitory issues, but you lose
the opportunity to hook the committee if you
only tell us about all the misfortunes. This is
not a character and fitness addendum.
9. The DOCUMENT.
• Give the committee a chance to know YOU in
your personal statement. Do not focus your
personal statement on others (parents,
influential teachers/friends, etc.)
10. The AUDIENCE.
Your audience does not know you.
By submitting an application, an applicant is
consenting to be judged by its contents.
Your audience wants to see maturity.
Your audience already has a law degree.
Your audience has been where you are right
now (i.e., they, too, have applied to law
schools).
On behalf of Admissions Deans and
Directors all across the country, thank
you for all that you do to help educate
and serve the students that we come to
adore so much!
Sue Ann McClellan
Assistant Dean for Admissions, Recruiting, and Scholarships
University of Memphis, Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law
(901) 678-5403
[email protected]
Dexter Smith
Assistant Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid
Campbell University, Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law
(919) 865-5988
[email protected]
Josh Roberts
Director of Admissions
Faulkner University, Thomas Goode Jones School of Law
(334) 386-7210
[email protected]
Kate Snowdon
Assistant Director of Admissions for Recruiting
University of St. Thomas School of Law
(651) 962-4901
[email protected]

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