THE BLOG
02/07/2014 11:00 am ET Updated Apr 09, 2014

How to Choose a Topic for Your Law School Personal Statement

Your law school personal statement is an opportunity to show the law school admissions committee a picture of yourself beyond the portrait painted by your resume. The purpose of the personal statement is to explain to the reader something new; however, many students struggle with choosing a topic. The first step involves sitting down and writing a resume. Ask yourself: what does this resume leave out about me that demonstrates that I am an excellent candidate for this law school?

Convince your audience you're an excellent candidate
Remember, the personal statement is a chance to demonstrate something the admissions committee can't tell about you from your resume, but it's also an opportunity to convince the committee you are an exemplary candidate for the study of law. Consider the characteristics of successful lawyers. Do you have strong senses of leadership, self-motivation, and ethics? Are you passionate, decisive, creative, and a skilled problem-solver? One of the factors that an admissions committee will consider is whether or not you will be employable as an attorney after graduation. Convince them that you have what it takes, and share a story that demonstrates how you possess the key ingredients necessary. Make a list of qualities that successful lawyers possess. Next to them, jot down concrete examples of how you have demonstrated these same qualities. This can act as an effective brainstorming exercise.

Determine what makes you unique
Admissions committees review countless applications for each admissions cycle. Try to distinguish yourself by highlighting experiences that make you unique. Think about your friends' experiences -- if they can tell a story uncannily similar to yours, it may not be the best topic for your personal statement. (Think, for example, of the number of students who "found themselves" on a semester studying abroad.) However, always remember to connect the items that make you unique back to your pursuit of a legal education. How will law school enhance you, and what can you bring to the law school class? One caveat: avoid being overdramatic. Pick a story that doesn't need exaggeration to make it compelling.

Show, don't tell
Rather than simply stating your goals and listing your accomplishments, focus on demonstrating your strong points through example. When writing, zero in on the "why," rather than the "what" -- consider your motivations for action, rather than rattling off a chronological count of your choices preceding law school. Be sure to weave these into your personal statement so you can explain your desire to attend the school.

Still having trouble?
Approach your friends and family for assistance. Several strong questions to get you started include: If you had to describe me in three words, which three words would you pick? What are the most interesting/compelling stories you can remember about me? What kind of person do you think I will be in 50 years? How have I changed since we first met? The answers to these questions may surprise you, and will, at the very least, give you a glimpse into another's perception of your actions -- a very helpful consideration when drafting a personal statement. Use what you learn as a jumping-off point for a draft of your essay.

At the end of the day, the personal statement is personal, so it's essential to understand your choices and priorities as you begin to explain why you'd make an excellent member of the incoming class. Once you have a clear understanding of what you believe is important, explain why that is to the admissions committee through a compelling and unique narrative that relates to your choice to attend law school.