Download Great Personal Statements for Law School PDF

TitleGreat Personal Statements for Law School
File Size867.6 KB
Total Pages162
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Getting Started
	Know Thy Audience
	The Admissions Party
	Finding Your Self-Marketing Handle
	Data-Mining Your Life
	Writing Your Personal Statement
	Revising and Editing
	Letting Go
Chapter 2 Getting Personal: The Personal Statement
	What Schools Ask
	Who Are You?: Diversity and Obstacles Overcome Topics
	Accomplishments, Strengths, and Interests
Chapter 3 Finishing Strong: Secondary Essays and Wait-List Letters
	Are Optional Essays Optional?
	The Fine Art of Damage Control: Addenda
	Closing Arguments: Wait-List Letters
Chapter 4 Credible Enthusiasm: Letters of Recommendation
	What Do Recommendation Letters Do Anyway?
	How Long?
	How Many?
	Selecting Recommenders
	First Letter: Professor
	Second Letter: Professor or Employer
	Subsequent Letters
	Dean’s Letters
	Approaching Recommenders
	Writing Your Own?
	Strategies for Recommendation Topics
Sample Documents
	Personal Statement Outline
	Personal Statements
	Diversity Statement
	Transfer Essay
	Letter of Recommendation
	Wait-List Letter
Parting Thoughts
Document Text Contents
Page 2



Page 81


The question of whom to ask for your recommendations can get complicated,
but some rules of thumb will help:

1. Start by asking who knows you best, through direct interaction over a sustained
period (ideally, six months or more).

2. Then ask yourself who is likely to provide a truly enthusiastic endorsement.

3. Finally, if you’re still in college or within five years of graduation, focus pri-
marily on academic references; if you’re more than five years out, focus on
professional references.

These “screens” should give you a manageably short list of potential recom-
menders. Some (lucky) applicants may still find themselves with too many choices,
however. One way to winnow the list is to strive for a mix of recommenders
that captures the broadest range of your skills, experiences, and themes, thus
showing the schools that you possess the well-roundedness they covet. For exam-
ple, you could choose two professors, an employer, and a supervisor or peer at
a community or extracurricular organization. Such breadth will also enable you
to minimize the overlap between the stories each recommender tells. (It’s no
disaster if two recommenders refer to one or two of the same achievements, so
long as they provide a different perspective on them.)

In gauging which people from each these categories—academic, professional,
extracurricular—will produce the best letters, return constantly to your initial
enthusiasm and knowledge “screens”: who knows you best and who will write
the strongest endorsement. By keeping in mind these three criteria of enthusiasm,
direct knowledge of you, and breadth of insight, your chances of identifying the
most effective mix of recommenders will be high. In fact, the criteria that law
schools really care about—intellectual skills, writing ability, and character—are
so broad that three recommenders should be able to provide original slants on
your achievements without repeating one another.

If you’re shrewd in your choice of recommenders, and they come through
for you, you’ll have taken a crucial step toward convincing the admissions com-
mittee that you deserve a spot. For most applicants, the first step is to secure a
letter from a professor.


Unless you’ve been out of school for five years or more, at least one—and for
some schools two—of your recommendation letters must come from an under-
graduate professor. The reason for this is simple. Law schools’ primary concern
is whether you can handle the academic white heat of law school, and who

CHAPTER 4: Credible Enthusiasm: Letters of Recommendation 67

Page 82

better to evaluate your intellectual tools than one of their own—a professor.
Are you intellectually gifted? Do you study hard? Do you speak up in class? Can
you grow intellectually over time? These questions are what education is all
about, so law schools naturally look to educators for the answers. (A small hand-
ful of schools, such as University of Houston, Texas University, and University of
Wisconsin, are open to nonacademic letters, even for your primary letter.)

Of course, some professors are better sources for these answers than others.
Here’s an ideal faculty recommender: a well-known professor at a rigorous
university, Dr. Kern taught you in three classes in your major (two of them
upper level) in which you were always a proactive participant and earned As.
Visiting him assiduously during office hours, you developed a mentoring
relationship with him and then got to know him even better when you became
president of the student club for which Dr. Kern serves as faculty advisor. After
your junior year, Dr. Kern hired you as his summer research assistant. After this
long and positive relationship, it came as a pleasant surprise when Dr. Kern
told you he has written recommendation letters for dozens of successful appli-
cants at top law schools over the years, and he considers you one of the best.

OK, not everyone can develop this kind of relationship with a professor. But
many do, and they don’t necessarily have to be the sharpest tools in the shed—
just the most resourceful. Building long-term relationships with professors takes
some foresight as well the ability to do the kind of academic work they will be
inspired to speak enthusiastically about. So choose wisely and start early.

If this kind of scenario is not possible, don’t panic. Schools will happily “settle”
for an enthusiastic letter from any professor who knows you well—even if he
or she is outside your major or taught you in a course that doesn’t emphasize
the skills law schools look for (analytical and writing ability). If you’re at a big
state school and a teaching assistant you got to know very well will write you a
glowing letter, don’t even think about substituting it with a letter from a pro-
fessor who remembers you only as a name on a list and gave you a C.

For some applicants, their undergraduate prelaw advisor will be a logical choice.
Because he is often a professor, teaches in a discipline related to the law, under-
stands the law admissions game (through membership in one of the regional
prelaw advisors’ associations), and has worked with dozens of law school appli-
cants, his evaluation of you will often carry some weight with the admissions
committee. But this weight will be substantially undercut if his knowledge of you
is limited to the few hours he has interacted with you in his role of prelaw advisor.

If you earned your undergraduate degree five plus years ago, you should still
try to get a recommendation from at least one professor, even if you have to work
hard to remind her who you are. If you’re pushing 30 years old or more, however,
not even the most faculty-centric adcoms will expect a letter from an under-

Great Personal Statements for Law School68

Page 161

“Falcon, Atticus.” Planet Law School (Honolulu: Fine Print Press, 1998).

Hirshman, Linda. A Woman’s Guide to Law School (New York: Penguin Books,

Ivey, Anna. The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions (Orlando: Harcourt, 2005).

Lammert-Reeves, Ruth. Get into Law School: A Strategic Approach (New York:
Simon & Schuster, 2003).

Lermack, Paul. How to Get into the Right Law School (Lincolnwood, IL: VGM
Career Horizons, 1997).

Margolis, Wendy, ed. ABA LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools,
2005. (Newton, PA: Law School Admissions Council, 2004).

Martinson, Thomas H., and David P. Waldherr. Getting into Law School Today,
3rd ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1998).

Miller, Robert H. Law School Confidential (New York: St. Martins, 2000).

Montauk, Richard. How to Get into the Top Law Schools (Paramus, NJ: Prentice
Hall Press, 2004).

Owens, Eric. Complete Book of Law Schools (New York: Random House, 2003).

———. Law Schools Essays That Made a Difference (New York: Random House,

Senechal, Diana, and staff of Vault, eds. The Law School Buzz Book (New York:
Vault Inc., 2004).

Stelzer, Richard J. How to Write a Winning Personal Statement for Graduate and
Professional School (Lawrenceville, NJ: Thomson Peterson’s, 2002).

Stewart, Mark Alan. Perfect Personal Statements (Lawrenceville, NJ: Thomson
Peterson’s, 2002).

Strickland, Rennard. How to Get into Law School (New York: Hawthorn, 1974).

Weaver, William G. Game Plan for Getting into Law School (Stamford, CT:
Peterson’s, 2000).

Whitcomb, Susan Britton, Résumé Magic (Indianapolis, IN: JIST Works, 1999).

Wright, Carol L. The Ultimate Guide to Law School Admission (Center Valley,
PA: Marriwell Publishing, 2003).

Bibliography 147

Page 162


Paul Bodine is the senior editor at, one of the oldest and most suc-
cessful online admissions consulting services. His clients have consistently earned
admission to such elite law schools as Harvard, NYU, Virginia, Duke,
Northwestern, Cornell, Georgetown, and Vanderbilt.

Copyright © 2006 by Paul S. Bodine. Click here for terms of use.

Similer Documents