Although some law schools may grant the occasional interview as part of the admissions process, for most law school applicants there will be no face-to-face meeting with anyone sitting on the admissions committee in order to convince them of admission-worthiness. Accordingly, you have to find a way to create the experience of an interview without actually storming the walls of a law school to demand that face time. Enter the personal statement. As stated by the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC), this part of your law school application is your “opportunity to become vivid and alive to the admission committee while also demonstrating your ability to write and present a prose sample in a professional manner.” Sounds like a written interview to me. Accordingly, you should approach this written product differently from a typical essay you might submit for a grade in a college course. We teach you in undergrad to come up with a thesis, do some research, then prove the validity of your position.
The personal statement is a bit different because, as the LSAC states, “You are a storyteller here. You want a living person—you—to emerge.” I recommend that students actually approach the writing of the personal statement in the same way they would approach a face-to-face interview communication. Research conducted by Vannessa Bohns of Cornell University and Mahdi Roghanizad of Western University, found that face-to-face communication is 34 times more effective than text communication. Although the personal statement is still text communication, it can be written with a “face-to-face flare.” There is a tone and cadence to our spoken word that often differs from our written word. If we want to create that conversational tone, we should pay attention to how we express our personal statement verbally before committing it to writing. Accordingly, I recommend that, after you determine the subject matter of your personal statement (that’s a whole different ball game), don’t immediately start writing. Instead, talk it out. Speak you statement to someone, preferably someone who does not know much about the law school admissions process, and solicit candid. Consider that feedback, adjust accordingly, then re-speak your statement to yourself. Literally record you saying your statement out loud. I do not mean write your statement, then record yourself reading it. I mean speak it, record it, and listen to it. How does it sound as the listening recipient, rather than as the original author? Consider that “feedback,” then start writing based on what you and your audience will actually hear. The result will be something far different from an academic essay and more like a face-to-face interview.