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SofaKingWright's avatar

Could anyone give me some advice on law school personal statement writing and editing?

Asked by SofaKingWright (530 points ) September 30th, 2012

Hello Fluther!

I have been going through a complicated journey lately. I am an American law student who has been studying abroad for the past 6 years. I have done an undergraduate degree in the UK in law, and now I am in my final year.

I’ve decided to come back to the States to continue my education when I graduate in July. It is difficult to put into words why exactly this is what I want to do, other than that I really do miss my ‘home land’, as cliche as this sounds.

I am preparing my personal statement for LLM programs. This is probably the most important piece of writing I will ever write and I am definitely feeling the pressure.

I have been writing this for about a month now. I leave it for days sometimes and re-read it, adding and deleting as necessary. I describe a very unique situation in terms of how I ended up upon the path to my studies, but I feel as though I am having difficulty making it really hit with a bang. While I do write very well in academic terms, I am finding this task to be particularly challenging – almost as bad as trusts!

My close friend has been very helpful in spotting obvious issues to be amended, but of course I fear that this is not the most interesting task for anyone not directly involved. I feel like I am basically on my own in the deep end writing this.

I was wondering if anyone may be able to offer some guidance in how to make my statement really shine. If anyone, a fresh pair of eyes with no background knowledge of me other than my statement would read and provide any kind of feedback, I would be exceedingly grateful. If this is a possibility, I could privately send my work. Any insights at all, would be greatly appreciated.

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4 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Tell why you chose to study in the UK, what you got from it (a deeper appreciation of your home country) and why you are continuing your studies in the U.S.

Talk abut what you pln to do when you graduate.

Speak of your interests outside of school and any specialties you want to practice in.

SofaKingWright's avatar

Thank you!

I am happy with your response. I have been doing just this, although I need to elaborate on certain points, mainly the reasons why I want to continue my studies in the States. A huge motivation is my family, even being anywhere in the States is easier than being across the pond. I do feel like I need to tap into some more profound reasons however, which has proven difficult.

A large section is devoted to plans after graduation, and my interests to pursue study in the field of environmental law. These sections have not been as difficult, its almost as though the things which should be obvious are the most trying!

Jeruba's avatar

I have been called upon to review and advise on a number of graduate school applications, of which at least two or three were “personal essays” for law school.

All of the drafts, in one way or another, committed what I regarded as the same error: namely, spending their few hundred words telling the admissions board what they (the candidates) wanted and why they thought they should get it, instead of giving the board reasons to want to have them in their school. Those are not the same thing.

I would advise you to look at what you’ve written from the point of view of the committee of reviewers and ask yourself: “If committee member X were trying to sell his or her colleagues on accepting my application, what ammunition have I given this person to argue in favor of admitting me? Why is their school going to be glad to have me not only as a student but also as a graduate?” In other words, show the board how your presence in its student body would benefit the school and the profession and not just gratify your personal wants and wishes.

Don’t go overboard with the salesmanship, of course; look for balance.

I hasten to add that I have never served on such a board myself and can’t tell you anything about their thinking. But I can say that every person whose essay I have helped with—helped by raising questions and suggesting a different focus and emphasis, not by doing any writing myself—has been accepted.

lifeflame's avatar

I totally get what you are talking about. After years of wandering and studying abroad, I chose to come home (Hong Kong) to work. I’m someone who wants to make art around social issues, but when I was abroad, it wasn’t my community—a place really can’t be your community if you’re just planning to be there for a couple of years… there’s just not the same kind of investment and stakes.

In terms of writing your essay, I would think of it like storytelling, in that you need to make your abstract feelings concrete and cite specific examples. For example, I remember we would have different assignments in class when we would be asked in theatre class to pick a social issue; and as a group of international students in London we would end up picking on big global social issues (like Iran getting nuclear weapons) or using literary or historical references to tell the story of oppression or power (Osip Mandelstam). This is a far cry from the work I am doing now : I’m doing a piece on factory workers in China, but I’m drawing upon conversations and the experiences of students I’ve worked with and known for decades.

So give people images they can latch on to. Think about it: if you had to shoot a movie for your essay, what images would be present? Use setting, action, detail to concretise your feelings.

Hope this helps!

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