A personal statement is a very important part of an application to any Canadian law school. It’s not just about your grades and LSAT score. It’s your opportunity to tell your story and demonstrate why you would be a good JD candidate. Here are 8 tips for writing a quality law school personal statement that stands out.
1. Give yourself lots of time
A personal statement isn’t something you write in one day – and no that’s not a challenge to try. Even if writing is your strong suit, writing a good personal statement is going to take a while. The final version of your personal statement will likely be quite different (and probably much better) than your first draft. So give yourself enough time to write, proofread and edit.
2. Tailor it
A good personal statement should be tailored to each law school you’re applying to. Incorporate the law school’s values and explain why that particular law school interests you. This means that if you’re applying to multiple law schools, you’re going to need to change your personal statement for each school (and sometimes write a whole new one entirely).
3. Don’t include everything
A good law school personal statement should focus on a few key things. Don’t include every little good deed or volunteer day you’ve ever participated in. Pick the highlights you want to get across and elaborate on them. Use your personal statement to tell your story but don’t word vomit!
4. Explain your skills
Most students talk about their previous education, past jobs, and volunteer experience in their law school applications. The good personal statements go an extra step further to explain how those experiences helped develop certain skills that will contribute to success in law school. For example, if your serving job helped you gain time management and leadership skills, explain that. The people reading your personal statement aren’t going to assume you developed certain skills from your experience, you need to clearly state it.
5. Avoid examples of American personal statements
When you first sit down to write your personal statement, you might not know where to begin. Searching the internet for examples of law school personal statements will primarily show examples of personal statements for American law schools. These aren’t going to be helpful for writing a personal statement for a Canadian law school. Not all, but a majority of the American personal statements that you’ll find online are usually quite lengthy, use flowery language and almost read like an autobiography. Law schools in Canada aren’t looking for that type of personal statement.
6. Don’t talk about the law
You’re not in law school yet so schools don’t expect you to know anything about the law. Don’t feel like you need to incorporate any sort of legal knowledge into your personal statement. If you’ve worked in the legal field or otherwise have experience in law that you want to share, by all means do so. But don’t incorporate legal terms or knowledge into your personal statement just because you think they’re looking for it. They’d much rather read about your willingness and drive to learn about the law.
7. Keep it simple
A good law school personal statement doesn’t sound like a philosophy text. There’s no need to use fancy language or academic jargon. Write simple, succinct sentences using words you would normally use. It’s also a good idea to avoid using cliché statements and slang words – but you probably already knew that. A fantastic resource that helped me improve my writing was Point First Legal Writing Academy, created by students at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Common Law.
8. Ask someone you trust to edit
Ask a friend, colleague or family member if they would be willing to read and edit your personal statement. While it’s important that your personal statement is in your own voice, other people will catch grammatical errors or point out anything that is unclear that you may have missed.
If you only take one piece of advice from this article, it should be to take your personal statement seriously. Don’t underestimate the importance of a personal statement in your law school application, it could be the deciding factor between an acceptance and rejection. Good luck!