So for all of you looking at applying for law school your personal statement is probably the single biggest “soft” factor you can have. It shows you have a command of English and you can form coherent thoughts, all things critical for attorneys. Now there’s a stereotypical personal statement schools generally expect to see. I’ve uploaded my own personal statement to show you just one example of giving a nod to that model and showing you can go beyond the essay that everyone else writes.
Now don’t get too excited. You still have to write your own personal statement. Trust me, if you can find this I promise admission committees can too, and I know for a fact there’s at least a few that have skimmed through this site. I’m uploading my personal statement simply to give everyone out there an example of a statement that worked very well for me. Hopefully it’ll spark some ideas for you and will get you away from the simple re-telling of a resume that so many people seem to be trapped into pursuing.
I had written and fully intended to submit one of “those” personal statements. The personal statement that says how noble the legal profession is. The one that goes on and on about the necessity of attorneys who are completely selfless and only fight against the injustices of the world. The one where I described my father’s stroke and how that singular event has forever changed my life. Honestly, I just kept thinking about how distorted and blown out of proportion it was. If attorneys are supposed to do anything and everything within their legal means to fight for their client, I don’t see how that can be accomplished without first being truly honest with yourself. You have to be honest with yourself before you can be honest with a client about their case. Writing a personal statement really is that first introspective look into who you are. All through college people expect a certain thing from you, and then you head to law school and you really have to evaluate yourself. It’s not something we do often in western culture. Most of us are far from Stoics, and it goes back to people expecting certain things from us. People have a stereotype of what a person going to law school has accomplished. I’m more than happy with what I’ve done, but that’s what a resume is for. I simply can’t send in that personal statement that over-exaggerates one event and places it on the pedestal of lifetime events that change me. It seems I should be nothing short of as honest as possible, especially if I want to practice a profession that holds other people’s life, liberty, and property in the balance every day.
It seems fitting that this is the viewpoint I’ve adopted for the legal profession as I’ve attended public schools my entire life in North Carolina, a state with the motto “esse quam videri”, to be, rather than to seem. This again articulates the necessity of being honest with oneself and practicing a level of humility that comes with realistic expectations. Throughout my undergraduate studies I sought to be a part of my community, as well as a student. The practical experiences I gained working in state politics brought me closer to the law, not following the traditional route of future law students by just studying political science in a classroom setting. Although I enjoyed my political science classes, there is only so much you can learn in a classroom. I never thought that a few words on a degree would magically open doors. I’ve always anticipated having to fight for what I want. If all my education and working have taught me anything, it’s that nothing is given to you. It’s a lesson I believe every future attorney should be taught. How else can we hope to zealously defend our clients, whether it be in a trial court or by defending their best interest in a corporate merger? Actually going out and delving into the middle of a campaign taught me more than I could have hoped to gain by taking a hundred campaign and election classes. It’s in this light that I’ve narrowed my prospective law schools as well. Nearly everyone I know that is planning on attending law school is hoping to go to the law school literally three miles down the road. I was one of those students, until I did my research. The lack of variety in their clinical options and seemingly single-track internship options made me look for law schools that aren’t as comfortably close to home but offer what I believe matters in any education, experience. Quinnipiac Law and it’s multitude of clinics that offer extensive hands-on experience are exactly the kinds of practical application of the law I’ve been hoping to find.
I don’t want to graduate from law school with only a piece of paper that allows me to sit for the bar examination. I fully expect to put countless hours into studying law books for class, but I also want that practical experience. I want to look back after three years and say to myself that my education was an active endeavor, not a passive one of only sitting in a classroom. In four years I hope I can begin to become a successful attorney because of my ability to honestly and fully represent my clients, not because I’ve simply added the words Juris Doctor to my list of educational credentials.
I probably went through ten to twelve drafts of this statement. Being a political science major I’m pretty familiar with writing a lot. Putting in a lot of quality time into your personal statement will pay dividends down the road. Get as many eyes on it as you can and don’t be afraid to completely trash drafts. My original was NOTHING like this. Again, don’t forget this is my original work. Plagiarism is the quickest way to not make it into law school. Use it for inspiration, not a short-cut.
*By the way, I’ve added another case to “Crazy Cases”. It’s about a lawsuit against Pepsi.