Getting to the Point
You can say a lot and still say nothing, and this issue often creeps up in personal statements written for law school. How well you can get to the point and deliver it in your law school personal statement will indicate to admissions committees how sharp and passionate you are as a candidate—and how likely you are to succeed in their law schools.
To Give You an Idea—The Ideal Word Count for a Law School Personal Statement
Objectively, a law school personal statements' word count is an accurate measure of how successful the candidate is in getting to the point. So what is the ideal word count? In most cases, 715 to 725 words. Can your law school personal statement be longer or shorter than that? Yes, but only in certain situations.
The Case for Over 750 Words, but Not 850
If you have an extensive relevant background you need to cover, for example, if you are coming to law as a second career, then your word count can edge higher, up to 850 words depending on the content. If you are over that limit, then your law school personal statement needs to be streamlined. And if your word count is in that range, there is often plenty of opportunity to do so while keeping your ideas and voice intact, and even enhancing them (see more on that below).
The Case for Under 725 Words, but Not 650
If your personal statement for law school is less than 725 words, you likely have more work to do. If it is less than 650 words, it is likely missing key details that, when added, will flesh out the personal statement in a way that will noticeably enhance it. If it is less than 550 words, it is missing key content elements needing to be added to the personal statement (see more on that below).
The Key Needed Elements for a Successful Law School Personal Statement
Know Your Path
The key to drafting a streamlined, fully engaging personal statement for law school is first to know precisely what you are going to say, say it and stop. What you present should be a clear understanding of how you have developed personally and professionally, how that development has brought you to this point now of applying for law school, and where you see this next step of taking you in your career in law.
Know Your Law Schools
Second is to present a clear understanding of why you have selected the law schools you are applying to. Are you passionate about trial advocacy and therefore applying to law schools with a strong mock trial program? Do you have certain geographic targets or other restrictions, for example, that you are married with kids and own a house in Chicago or you are working full-time so you can pay for your classes at night? Whatever the key factors are, you should have a clear idea of them and communicate them clearly in your law school personal statement.
Know Your Career Vision
Finally, you should state one or, at the most, two specific areas of the law you are interested in. This is not something you’re locked into, as it's perfectly fine to change your mind as you advance through law school, but it should at least represent how you are developing personally and professionally, and make sense. The key here is to demonstrate a focus that gives your law school personal statement direction. If you want to state two areas of the law, then make sure they both are grounded in who you are and your experience, and make sense from that perspective.
Why Simply Helping Others Is Not Good Enough
When describing why you wish to pursue a career in law and the specific area(s) of law you are passionate about, stating that you have a desire to help others as your motivation is not good enough. It is a shortcoming found commonly in personal statements for law school, and is a mistake for several reasons.
First, there are many ways to help others—social workers, nurses and flight attendants all do that—so why law specifically? Even within the law, there are many ways to help others (e.g., personal injury, child custody, contract negotiation), and there are many types of people (or parties) to help (e.g., immigrants, nonprofit organizations, entrepreneurs). So, for you, why specifically do you want to help others, why is law the only path you see for that and who specifically do you want to help?
Make Your Points, and Carry Your Themes, All the Way Through Your Personal Statement
From the introduction of your law school personal statement all the way through to the conclusion, make sure to stay focused on your key points and themes. Make sure each point and theme is developed completely, without anything extra and, of course, without any missing key details. The more diligent and forthright you are in writing your law school personal statement, the more it—and your law school application—will get the attention they deserve.
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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published February 4, 2018, and last updated for accuracy and completeness May 19, 2022.