Foreword: TLS Guide to Personal Statements
Published November 2009
This book is designed to teach you how to write a great personal statement. The introduction focuses on theory. The rest of this book gives this theory flesh by explaining what the categories and concepts you have learned look like in real essays. Through Top-Law-Schools.com, I have collected a large number of successful personal statements. From this pool, I have chosen thirty-one statements—of varying quality—written by a diverse set of candidates with top grades and high LSAT scores. These thirty-one candidates attended an array of undergraduate institutions, and their personal statements employ a wide range of themes, rhetorical strategies, and organizational schemes. Together with Joann Kleinneiur, Ph.D., an expert in rhetoric who has taught in the nationally-acclaimed Program in Writing and Rhetoric (PWR) at Stanford University, I have offered an admission-committee’s-eye view of each personal statement. By reading the selected statements and considering the detailed analyses of their strengths and areas of potential improvement, you will gain a solid understanding of what works and what does not work in law school personal statements.
In the end, there are no shortcuts for writing an outstanding personal statement. Much like practicing law, writing a fantastic personal statement requires that you sharpen your mind, pay attention to details, and choose every word with care. This book will make sure that you are showing your analytical and rhetorical skills to best advantage by writing an intelligent and eloquent personal statement that will make an admissions committee sit up and take notice. As former dean, Robert Berring of UC Berkeley Boalt Hall, tells applicants, “While many say that the personal statement is not a writing sample, it is the most profound kind of writing sample. Always remember that you are trying to sell yourself to the admissions committee. Make it crisp, clear prose that is easy and enjoyable to read.”
A powerful personal statement must be a brilliant piece of self-marketing that also demonstrates a strong and mature commitment to the law. As you work on your personal statement, concurrently inform yourself about your chosen profession and the schools you would consider attending. Do research online and think about emailing professors or alumni at prospective law schools in order to learn which schools best fit your personal objectives. Also, consult Top-Law-Schools.com for a comprehensive set of articles on top U.S. law schools. Talk to working lawyers. Invest time and intellectual energy into this preliminary research; it will not only help you to apply to schools that are suited to your interests but also enable you to make a strong case for yourself as a good fit at that school and in the legal profession. Law school is not an end in itself. Former dean, Robert Berring of UC Berkeley, reminds us that “Law school should not define you; it is simply an instrumentality towards getting what you want out of life.” If law school is the right decision for you, then this book aims to help you get in and get what you want out of life.