What do Law Schools look for in application essays?
The admissions committee at any law school looks at your application (which includes transcripts, LSAT scores, recommendations, and personal statement), they essentially seek the answer to one single question: Can this person succeed at this school, and will he actually make a good lawyer upon graduating?
However, as the admissions committee members get to your essay, their focus shifts from objective to subjective analysis. For instance, often admissions officers say that they look to the essays to feel that they've come to know a real human being, his personality and character. In this subjective setting, officers often say that they look for someone they feel that they know, understand, and most importantly, spend three years of the law school with.
These are the three essential ingredients of a successful law school admission essay:
1. Writing/Communication Skills
A no-brainer when it comes to admissions essays. As an attorney, you are expected to have above-par, even exceptional communication skills.
The admission essay, thus, is a perfect platform to showcase these skills.
Of course, your essay doesn't have to appear as the work of a future Pulitzer prize winning author, but as a future lawyer, judge, or politician. The ability to present ideas skillfully is the essential to success in the legal profession, and good writing is a very strong indicator of these communication skills.
At the J.D. level, good writing skills are expected in a candidate. A typo, a single grammatical mistake, a factual error - little, oblivious mistakes could cost you a spot at a law school. While a beautifully written essay won't singularly get you inside a law school, a poorly written one might cost you the admission.
The admissions officer basically looks at the essay and asks: Does the candidate have a strong command of the English language? Solid writing style and organizational abilities?
Provide the answer to these questions, and you'll have one foot inside the college door.
The admissions committee expects your essay to answer an obvious question: Why?
Why do you want to apply to this college and not that college? Why do you think you'll make a good addition to our student body? Why do you think you'll make a good lawyer?
In other words, the committee is looking for your motivation to getting into the law school.
Did you decide on a whim, or because you made a drunken bet with your friend that you could get into law school. Or maybe you want to impress your family, or perhaps its been a lifelong dream of yours to be an attorney.
In other words, your reasons for getting into law school, thus, have to be strong enough to support your application. A drunken bet with friends will not actually cut it, nor will an artificial reason like impressing family/girlfriend/etc.
The law school wants to know that you really want to get inside, that you really want to be a lawyer.
Your single, individual goal in the essay, thus, is to prove to the admissions officer that you belong to their school, that you've worked hard to get this far, and that you'll continue doing so once you get inside. That you're committed, motivated to be Juris Doctor from your chosen law school.
3. A Real Person
As mentioned earlier, above anything, the admissions committee members seek out character and personality in the essay. In other words, the committee members want to believe that they are reading the personal statement of a real, live human being.
The admissions committee has never seen you. They haven't ever spoken to you. Whatever they know about you is what is recorded in your transcripts, factual information in your application, and most importantly, what is written in your personal statement.
The personal statement, thus, becomes the window to your personality, your character. Its the way you communicate with the admissions officer, woo him, in fact. When asked, admissions officers will often give you varied advice (be honest, be unique, etc.), that all essentially means one thing: Be Yourself!
This is, in a way, the exact same advice you would be given while dating.
Imagine the plight of the admissions officers: thumbing through countless stacks of essays, all boring, all penned down mechanically. Then, when he comes across a beautifully crafted essay that speaks to him, connects to him, interests him, you can be sure that he will start leaning in your favor.
Combine all these elements, and you'll have a winner of a law school admissions essay on your hands, one that can charm the hardest of admissions committee and bag you a seat at that law school you've been eying since your undergrad days.