I was planning on completing my application to law school earlier than this, but I had been neglecting my personal statement. After some editing help from my girlfriend and Dad, it is complete and submitted! And now we wait.
For anyone that needs to write a personal statement too, I’ll pass on the same advice I received from several people.
- Do your homework. Chances are good that some searching on a school’s website or application material will turn up some guidelines as to what they want to see on your personal statement.
- Make it about you. It’s called the personal statement for a reason. Many law schools don’t conduct applicant interviews. This is your written interview, an opportunity to tell the admission board who you are and why you want to go to law school.
- Be concise, know what you want to say. Two pages is the typical length of a personal statement, that is short. You need to narrow your conversation down to just a few points in order to deliver a well written two page narrative that clearly conveys your points to the reader. If something does not relate to your points, cut it out.
- Repeat your main points (use a theme). After one reading, an admission board member should clearly know and be able to repeat your 2-3 main points. Repetition is the way to drive it home. Many an English teacher has said: Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them.
- Use a narrative. Narratives are easy to read, and while details may be lost people tend to remember the essence of a story. Don’t worry if you can’t maintain a strict narrative to meet personal statement guidelines from your prospective school. My last paragraph breaks away to answer why I want to attend that school, but I tried to pack it into a mini-narrative.
- Be honest. Despite popular opinion of attorneys, their integrity is everything. If you don’t cherish your integrity, start now. I’ve seen first hand from working in a court that dishonesty is far more harmful to an attorney than incompetence.
My interest in studying law started during my undergraduate studies in Criminal Justice. However, I had an obligation to serve as an Engineer Officer in the Army upon graduating and so my interest in law could not be pursued. I loved serving my country as I led Soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, but had not decided if I wanted to make a career as an officer. That decision came easily when I found myself in the midst of a divorce and custody battle and was faced with the reality that the obligations of being an Army officer would not allow me to be the kind of father that I want to be for my son. Knowing that I needed to change careers for my family, I spent a lot of time reflecting on my experiences and professional desires. It became clear that it would be best for me to pursue a career that would allow me to be present for my son, regularly serve others in some capacity, and offer a sense of pride.
As my case progressed I spent more time with my attorney and her team, and my interest in law resurfaced and evolved into a passion. Over the twenty months it took for my case to be closed I was surprised and impressed by the professionalism, sincere compassion, and empathy of many of the legal professionals I encountered. They viewed their profession to be more than simply a technical service, and handled their clients with the same servant leadership and humanity that I learned and exercised in the military. Those experiences rebranded my view of practicing law and our legal system from a stigmatized profession to an honorable civic service, one that could meet the needs of me and my family. Working at the Shelby County Probate Court has confirmed for me that I would find work as an attorney stimulating and rewarding.
I believe that I will be a successful law student for the same reasons that I desire to study law. It is my passion and will allow me to use and enhance skills that I developed during my military career. My passion for obtaining a legal education to use to help others emerged from my experiences during my divorce and custody battle. Words cannot adequately describe the calm and relief that my legal team provided me as I struggled to keep my composure while being mostly deprived of the first fifteen months of my son’s life, and my elation when the judge announced that I would be the residential parent and awarded sole legal custody. I long to have the opportunity to aid others when they are overwhelmed with a situation and system they do not understand, and provide them the service and peace of mind they need and deserve; as my legal team did for me.
The majority of my duties in the military required me to analyze, research, speak publically, think critically, write, remain calm under pressure, and always behave ethically. Every new position I attained further tested those skills and provided me opportunities to improve them. At my last post I earned the reputation of being the best briefer on the staff, even among my seniors, and was charged to draft all reports that were submitted to General Officers. I was also appointed to lead our operations staff during operations due to my competence, composure under stress, and leadership. I am excited for the opportunity to apply and improve those skills and more in law school and as an attorney.
My interest in Cecil C. Humphrey’s School of Law began for geographic reasons; it is in my home state, close to my family, and a reasonable distance from my son’s mother for visitation. During my first visit to the school I was very impressed by the downtown location, facilities, faculty and local legal community. With each subsequent visit, I become more excited about the prospect of studying law there. I’ve also grown a fondness for Memphis and its offerings since I moved here a few months ago and have experienced the Memphis Zoo, the Orpheum, Shelby Farms, and other great facilities and events with my family. Memphis has become home for me and my family, and I look forward to it becoming home to my legal career as well.
Cecil C. Humphrey’s School of Law gives the following guidelines in their Guide to Applying: “You should explain your desire to study law, why you believe you will be a successful law student, and what you plan to do with your law degree. You are encouraged to explain your interest in attending our law school..”
My objective is for anyone that reads my personal statement to coming away knowing that:
- A significant personal event led me to want to be an attorney.
- My skills will help me succeed as an attorney.
- Serving others is important to me.
Did I succeed?