Personal statements are never the easiest things to draft. Nor, for that matter, are statements of purpose. In fact, when it comes to LLM admissions in particular, I have found that apart from actually selecting where to apply, it is these documents that can often take the most amount of effort.
But, not to worry. Help (via Google) is at hand. Well, sort of. Before going into the list below, there are two riders I would like to add here. One, all of these cater to individuals who are, typically, US graduates interested in the JD degree. Cultural, educational and other differences will certainly exist.
Two, if you listen to too many experts, you may find yourself more confused than when you started off. Like most types of advice, the one on LLM applications is often given away for free. The difficulty is in knowing which pieces of advice are worth your time.
Anyway, enough of that. Here are four great resources you can use if you are applying struggling with the personal statements and/or statements of purpose.
1. Chicago Law School for some inspiration
Chicago Law School has a page dedicated to the SoP’s of some of their JD students. Admittedly, these are American students who have already completed an undergraduate degree. But you could pick a few pointers from the site.
Some of my favourite lines are from the application written by Osama Sandy (Class of ’13) who writes,
Osama, my name is Osama. I went from having a unique name that served as a conversation starter to having the same name as the most wanted man in America. The stares and the comments were just the beginning.
2. Spivey Consulting for some (useful) pointers
Spivey Consulting, an educational consultancy that has been in business for, well forever, also has an interesting blog that provides plenty of useful advice.
The one post I liked best was this one that has a list of ten words that are “most overly, wrongly, and (at times) annoyingly” used in applications.
Unique. The singularly most overused word in law school admissions. Things are rarely, truly one of a kind across law schools. “I am applying to your school because of your unique international law program” is about as painful as it gets. Actually, there is a higher level of pain. If you qualify unique such as “my extremely unique background.” Nothing anyone has ever done is more unique than just unique.
3. Yale Law School for some great guidance
They may be a decade old, and addressed to the JD crowd (once again), but these blog posts by Asha Rangappa, former Associate Dean at Yale Law School contain some wonderful advice. Search out the “P.S. Boot Camp” ones where she explains into what works (and what does not) while writing a great personal statement.
My personal favourite is this one where she writes,
You want to reveal as many facets as you can about what makes you who you are. And let me be clear: I don’t mean that you should show that you are superficially “well-rounded” by listing a bunch of activities that you aren’t really involved in. You can be completely immersed in one particular idea or activity—you just don’t want that one thing to define you as a person. Presumably, you do spend some time in your day thinking of or doing other things, and you need to let those come through in your application as well.
4. Berkeley Law and UCLA for some tough love (and a PDF too!)
This page on Berkeley Law School’s website has some great words. The advice may seem slightly harsh words here but I still consider this to be mighty helpful.
“The statement should avoid simply summarizing what is in the resume. It should avoid simply asserting how able, accomplished, and well suited for law school the applicant is. It should avoid uninformed attempts to ingratiate oneself through exaggerated claims of one’s interest in Berkeley. For instance, more than a few applicants stressed how much they want to work with named individuals who are at best passingly related to a Center or the like and aren’t even members of the faculty; these claims make one doubt the applicant’s due diligence.
Oh and here is a PDF from UCLA on understanding the differences between a personal statement, and a statement of purpose, and a whole lot more.