Law school essay prompts are questions, instructions, or statements to which an applicant must respond in their admissions essays. These prompts indicate which direction your , , , or should take. Some form of essay is required as part of the application package in virtually all law schools. A well-formulated response to the prompt can make your application stand out and help you get into your chosen law school. In this blog, we’ll look at the different types of essays, their essential features, and common themes for prompts. We’ll also see some examples of how one applicant created and adapted their essay to respond to different requirements.
As you likely already know, law schools require the submission of an essay with your application. may be daunting but rest assured that a well-prepared essay can significantly influence your chances! A writing prompt is the suggested question to answer in your essay. In researching law school application requirements, you will notice that they often provide similar prompts; however, it is important not to assume that all law schools will use a standard structure. For example, asks for a proposal and explanation of three pieces of music that could be playing while the admissions committee reviews the student’s application.
What is the Purpose of Law School Essays?
Regardless of the prompt structure, these essays share certain features. Importantly, they are intended to complete your application package. In these essays, the admissions committee is seeking information that will round out and complement your application, not repeat what they already know based on your academic record, LSAT score, or other supporting documents you were required to submit. For example, if the law school’s application required that you detail any employment or volunteer positions you have occupied, it would not make sense to focus your essay on those experiences, as they have already been covered. Rather, you should seek to balance what the prompt suggests with what is missing from your application that you think the admissions committee should know.
These essays also serve the important purpose of demonstrating your writing skills. As the field of law requires strong and persuasive writing, the application essay is one of the first and essential ways to showcase your skills. Think of the last time you read a book or an article that truly impressed you. Did the author’s name stick with you? Were you tempted to read more by that author or find out more about them? In addition to improving your admission chances, a well-crafted application essay is an early opportunity to stand out or “make a name for yourself” at your chosen law school. Take advantage of it!
The key point is to answer the prompt; otherwise, your essay will be dismissed. In so doing, use all the tools at your disposal to ensure that your writing:
How to Format Your Law School Admissions Essays
The following essay examples are written from the point of view of a single applicant who has adapted their narratives to emphasize the specific requirements for different essay prompts.
1. Why Law?
In surveying the top 100 law schools in North America, the most common principal essay type, by far, is the personal statement, and its most common prompt will ask you why you are pursuing law as a career. The intent of the prompt may be veiled by the prompt’s phrasing, but most law school personal statement prompts seek to assess what steps you took and what experiences you had that led you to apply to law school.
While the prompt may not be as obvious as “tell us why you are pursuing law as a career”—though some schools may ask this bluntly—you should remember that this is the question you must answer in your personal statement. So, what can you focus on when answering this prompt?
First, the admissions committee is looking to get a better idea of you as a person, your background, experiences, and interests that led you to pursue law. They want to know what makes you unique and how an academic and professional career in law will be significant in your life. To understand this, they need you to provide detailed information. Use examples of your activities, accomplishments, and behavior to make specific points. Avoid being vague or using clichés, such as “I believe in being the change you wish to see in the world.” Law schools will be looking for original thinking in your essay, the “ring of truth” as it pertains to you as an individual, and realistic objectives. They will also be attempting to gauge whether you match their ideal student profile, which you can learn more about by thoroughly researching the law school and citing (only those) aspects that truly reflect you: authenticity should shine through in every line of your essay.
Second, they want to understand how you intend to contribute to the law community in general but also—specifically, and importantly—to the school’s law community. Regardless of any other information suggested by the prompt or what you choose to include in your essay, it should always conclude with a clear sense of the contribution you envision making as a law student. As it may not always be possible to single out a particular law school in your application, for example, if you are applying to law schools which use a unified application system, simply highlight how your personal experiences, skills, and perspective will complement their existing high standards and meet their expectations. Remember, if a letter of intent is a required application component for your chosen schools, you may be faced with prompts asking you to demonstrate why you are the perfect candidate for their school or what you can contribute to their program.
Third, most remarkable are written in the form of a narrative: after all, it is your “story.” Within this narrative structure, you can insert illustrations of your experiences, knowledge, and skills. It may even be helpful to think of your personal statement as a “picture book.” There is text to tell the story and imagery you suggest through your words to create a picture in the minds of the admissions committee members. You may also wish to describe any challenges, pitfalls, or struggles you have faced along the way and how you chose to address and rise above them, but that will depend on whether you have an opportunity to discuss these in another law school essay prompt. Read on to learn more!!!
“Why Law?” Essay Example
Prompt: We would like to know how your background and experiences influenced your decision to apply to law school.
As the self-appointed legal advisor for my friends on the military base where my parents were stationed, I was not prepared for the news that arrived on X day. It went so far beyond what my 14-year-old mind could fathom, even after living in four different countries or being exposed to so many accounts of death and injury as a military child. This was not one of my pals getting caught shoplifting and then turning to me for advice. We had read of this crime in the local paper— the copy they translated and distributed to us at the base. While the punishment for the crime was unimaginable, it was not unheard of. What struck me most was that the accused was the same age as me.
We called ourselves “army brats,” yet I wouldn’t say I felt stigmatized as a child due to my status. After all, most of my time was spent on the base, with kids in the same situation, who didn’t have much else to compare the experience to. Nevertheless, we knew we were different— from civilian peers in our home country, from the residents of the country where we were stationed, and even from each other, as we had all come from different places before arriving there. Sometimes, we were reminded that our difference had value. Sitting there that day, reading the local news to kill time, my two best friends and I realized just how protected we were from our own mistakes. Only a few miles away, another 14-year-old, just like us, would not get a second chance.
Military life is governed by rules and regulations, and even as a child, you’re expected to follow them. To keep everything straight in my mind, I kept a spiral-bound notebook with different chapters for school rules, base rules, military rules, and rules for trips into town. When the context changed, I reorganized my notes, added to them, or crossed out passages. It was an unserious pursuit, which earned me the nickname of “the lawyer,” but after that day, my legal research began in earnest. With guidance from various cherished teachers, mentors, and my parents, I began to educate myself on human rights issues and international law. I felt that if I could understand how things worked, I might one day be in a position to change someone else’s life for the better— someone who, if not for where they were born, could have been me.
Having been obliged to grow up fast, I slowed the pace somewhat when I finally returned to Canada. It was my decision. After being exposed to so many different cultures, I felt a calling to experience my birth country more directly. I initially landed in Toronto, but I did not feel connected to the place. With new friends, I set out on a road trip, travelling as far as Vancouver on the west coast. While passing through Winnipeg, however, I met some students from the University of Manitoba, who inspired me to retrace my steps and settle there. My aim was clear: to complete the four-year Bachelor of Arts in Political Studies and ultimately apply to the interdisciplinary Master of Human Rights.
My personal experience of witnessing political strife in the world, through various lenses, made the BA in Political Studies, with its focus on civil liberties and distributive justice, the perfect introduction to this country and the diverse nations it contains. Further, it helped illuminate my past, which certainly had its dark moments. Courses such as War, Politics, and Culture and the Arab-Israeli Conflict contained themes which resonated deeply; International Relations provided me with a strong foundation in key literature; and Canadian Public Management and Indigenous Governance lit a flame of interest in the history and workings of my own country.
In addition to the intellectual stimulus I crave, I feel like I have found my next home in this university town. Early in my undergraduate career, I began part-time work at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and have since become deeply involved as a researcher and volunteer with the Centre for Human Rights Research (CHRR). These activities, coupled with my academic achievements, have only confirmed my commitment to this area of law. I know it will define my future just as certainly as it shaped my past. Since completing the Master of Human Rights at the University of Manitoba, I now see the Juris Doctor degree as an essential next step in advancing my planned advocacy work, and I can hardly wait to extend and expand my contribution to the thriving legal community in Winnipeg.
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2. Why Our Law School?
As previously noted, a law school letter of intent is different from a personal statement. Most importantly, it should explain why you wish to attend a specific law school and what you hope to contribute. A law school letter of intent would be sent to only one or two schools and would emphasize why you are perfect for their program. For this reason, a generic draft will not work as well in crafting your letter of intent as it would for your personal statement, as the letter should demonstrate that you have done your research. Reading some well-written examples can guide you toward producing a professional, polished letter that will improve your chances of being admitted.
* As with all other essay types, check the specific length and formatting requirements for your chosen law school. In fact, given the focused nature of this essay, it is even more important to be absolutely certain of the requirements.
“Why Our Law School?” Essay Example
Prompt: Please explain what motivated you to apply to (our law school).
Dear Admissions Committee,
After completing the Master of Human Rights at UM Law, I am now hoping to pursue the prestigious Juris Doctor degree. I believe my educational and professional background, much of which has been anchored in the Winnipeg academic and legal community, is ideally suited to success in this program.
My goal is to perform human rights advocacy, and for the past four years, I have been honing my skills in this area. As an undergraduate, various initiatives I joined enabled me to build my professional network. For example, I became deeply involved as a volunteer researcher with the Centre for Human Rights Research. During my master’s degree, I contributed to two studies addressing domestic procedural protections affecting refugee claimants, and as a result, I was recommended to a research position with the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation.
Having deepened my knowledge of human rights law, I am now seeking to further my clinical experience and skills as a lawyer and polish my scholarly writing abilities. These objectives seem perfectly aligned with your program’s emphasis on experiential learning, writing, and critical analysis. Furthermore, I see an advanced understanding of ethics and diverse perspectives as an essential aspect of human rights law.
In addition to the intellectual stimulus I crave, I feel like I have found my next home in this university town, and acceptance to the Juris Doctor would allow me to both continue my current work and expand my contribution to the thriving legal community at the University and in Winnipeg.
3. What Can You Contribute to Our Campus/Incoming Class?
This is a very common prompt/theme in law school diversity statements and optional essays. As a diversity statement is often optional, you may question whether you should submit one. Perhaps you have made some assumptions concerning what constitutes “diversity,” but not everyone is raised in a single-parent household; not everyone has been an Olympic athlete; not everyone had to work throughout undergrad to get that bachelor’s degree; not everyone in your class will have an intercultural marriage. Everyone has a unique story to tell, and yours does not have to be in accordance with a traditional understanding of diversity. While a diversity statement may be optional, we advise you to take every opportunity to make your application stand out. Tell the committee what experiences have formed you. What makes you different from your peers? The key here is to think of experiences that would broaden the horizon of your classmates and faculty. Think of what would make a great narrative. Once you have settled on a few key features that set you apart, describe their impact on your life and your decision to attend law school. Maybe you’re not sure what makes you unique. In this case, let services help you find your story!
* As with all other essay types, check the specific length and formatting requirements for your chosen law school. Note that stand-alone diversity statements are often shorter, typically 500 words or less.
Example of “What Can You Contribute to Our Campus/Incoming Class?” Essay
Prompt: Describe any unique qualities you feel will contribute to the diversity of (our law school).
Growing up in a military family has its pros and cons. Being a member of a subculture does set you apart. We called ourselves “army brats,” yet I wouldn’t say I felt stigmatized as a child due to my status. After all, most of my time was spent on the base, with kids in the same situation, who didn’t have much else to compare the experience to.
From the military, I learned the importance of “seizing the day” and “making the most of things,” especially as I grew older and developed stronger attachments to places or people. One of the most difficult periods is when your parent is first deployed. There is the emotional turmoil, of course, and the constant worry, but there is also the need and expectation for you to be more independent than you are ready to be. I quickly understood how to stick to a schedule and take responsibility for myself, including meals, homework, and bedtime. Later, in my volunteering, I helped other young people take charge of their lives, for example, by teaching them how to find the necessary resources to address a range of legal issues, from misdemeanors to tenant conflicts.
Military life is also governed by rules and regulations, and even as a child, you’re expected to learn them. You absorb “respect,” almost by osmosis, because you’re surrounded by this sense of order, sacrifice for the greater good, and dedication. It’s a demanding way of life, even for the families. In addition to the military rules, you need to know what to expect when you leave the base: what to wear, how to behave, how to speak. You need to understand what is culturally and legally accepted in each new country, and what is not. Through exposure to the pros and cons of diverse legal systems, I developed both an interest in international law as well as a pronounced desire to engage in advocacy.
From a young age, I kept a spiral-bound notebook to keep track of all the rules that governed my life. I associate those rules, written in the pencil scratch of my younger self, with certain challenges I faced and overcame. While my peers often found the rules oppressive, this pastime of mine made them more fun or interesting. To this day, researching precedents and authority associated with case law is one of my favorite tasks.
On the base, when we didn’t agree with or understand the rules in every situation or country, various cherished teachers, mentors, and our parents helped explain them. However, when I returned to Canada, it was up to me to acquire all the knowledge I needed about a place that, despite being my birth country, was completely unfamiliar. This personal quest, coupled with my ingrained appreciation for regulations, made me well qualified to help people I encountered in academic and daily life better understand the law and, perhaps more importantly, why it exists. My experiences have also highlighted areas where the right law, or even justice, is lacking. In my research on domestic procedural protections affecting refugee claimants, I had the opportunity to study recent literature on the topic but also work directly with clients. In addition to advising them on the law and training them to be independent in conducting their own information searches, I often assisted them in resolving school and housing issues. In this way, I expanded my knowledge of related fields, such as property and education law, and developed a deep respect for the Canadian legal system with its inherent sense of fairness and justice. I nurtured a love of advocacy and took real pleasure in successfully helping someone out of a tough spot. Perhaps most importantly, I confirmed what I believe I knew intuitively all along— that law will define my future just as certainly as it shaped my past. My enthusiasm, the practical tips I can offer my classmates, and my ability to work collaboratively as part of a team are qualities I believe will certainly contribute significantly to the school.
4. Is There Anything Else Regarding your Academic or Personal Background We Should Know About?
This is your cue to discuss anything else that has not been addressed in your application. Most often, with this prompt, the admissions committee is giving you a chance to discuss any setbacks you experienced. You might have discussed some of them in your other essays already, but you should know that there may be specific essays that are designated for such topics. The , as the name implies, refer to additional information. During your research, care should be taken to discern how each law school defines this essay type.
For example, the term “addenda” might be used to refer to addenda to your LSAT score, that is, an explanation of your low grade, or it could indicate a more general optional essay to provide supplementary information that you think might be important when considering your application. But most often, addenda should address any red flags you may have in your academic and personal background. Even if you find no information indicating that they are looking for explanations of your low GPA or lack of professional experience, it is always best to address the issue.
Why? Because you do not want the committee to come up with their own reasons for these setbacks. Instead, explain that maybe you had to work throughout your undergrad to support yourself and that resulted in lower hours of legal experience, but that your job taught you x, y, z skills necessary for law school. Or maybe there was a death in your family in second year and your grades suffered. Remember the key to these essays: show what you learned from these experiences. Do not blame anyone else for your setbacks. These tend to happen to everyone! What the committee wants to see is your takeaway.
* As with all other essay types, check the specific length and formatting requirements for your chosen law school. Note that the length of the optional essay varies significantly between law schools.
Example of “Is There Anything Else Regarding your Academic or Personal Background We Should Know About?” Essay
Prompt: Describe any extenuating circumstances affecting your grades or other aspects of your academic performance that you think we should be aware of.
I wanted to take this opportunity to explain certain extenuating circumstances which influenced my academic career path and my performance during my first year of undergraduate studies.
As a military child, I had to grow up fast and learn to be independent. For the most part, this experience has been a positive one, as it instilled a sense of self-reliance and encouraged me to take responsibility for my own learning. I attended five different schools from kindergarten through high school, and my college-level education was conducted entirely online. This situation, while valuable in terms of the variety of instructional contexts and styles, nevertheless had its pitfalls. In the transition process between schools, I often found myself either ahead of or behind my peers, and I experienced some gaps in content that I only became aware of much later, as no one was formally monitoring the curriculum flow.
My return to Canada to register for university was delayed due to an injury in the family. As my parents were struggling to reconcile conflicting needs, I took a gap year— six months on the base and a subsequent six months when I returned to Canada. Although I was used to being without one or both of my parents for extended periods, I always had a stable place to live, and my needs were taken care of. In Canada, however, I felt truly alone and homeless, and I dealt with that by traveling extensively. While I believe this was initially a coping mechanism, it ultimately restored a sense of peace and my confidence. Importantly, I made friends who shared my interests, specifically in human rights issues and the law. I subsequently gained the information I needed to choose a higher education path and decided to apply to the Political Studies program at the University of Manitoba.
When I settled in Winnipeg, I found that while our family income basically covered my school tuition, it did not cover my living expenses. I was already exhausted when I started university and could not quite find my rhythm until after the winter break. You will note that once this stage passed and I found regular work that complemented my academics, my grades came up significantly. I have been able to maintain a high GPA since then, including during my master’s degree, but not as high as it might have been if the circumstances had been better in the beginning. I hope that you will consider this in your assessment of my application and see it not as a failing but as an indicator of my persistence and dedication to overcoming obstacles.
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As you will note from all these essays, the applicant has developed a core narrative, which truly defines them as a person, as a student, and as an applicant to law school. In each essay, they return to the same key features, either mentioning them briefly or building on them in more detail. Consequently, if one or more essays were required or suggested by their preferred law school, they could easily edit these drafts to delete repetition and expand essential points. Note the importance of focusing on different topics and priorities in each essay for the same school.
Most importantly, all these essays show (rather than tell) that the applicant knows who they are and where they would like to go. Moreover, they are not afraid to embrace and integrate the more challenging aspects of where they have been. This paints a picture for the admissions committee of a lively, engaged, diligent, confident, and courageous individual who would likely be considered an asset to their law school.
Again, it is essential to check the requirements of each law school to discern which type of essay is required. Often, more than one type is required, suggested, or proposed as an “optional” essay. Sometimes, all three types are sort of rolled into one: for example, you may be expected in your personal statement to include responses to diversity prompts (e.g., cultural background) and/or addenda (e.g., gap year activities). In all cases, it is important to respect the precise requirements for each law school applied to.
1. What kind of experiences should I include in my law school essays?
Law school admission essays are intended to complete your application package and give the law school a better idea of who you are as a person and why you are a good candidate for admission. The purpose of these essays is to provide supplementary information about yourself and your motivation for applying to law school that is not reflected in your grades or other supporting documents. You might include volunteer, work, or research experience if you have not already covered them in other parts of your application. While it is not necessary for every activity to be specifically related to law, it is important to show how they might contribute to your law school and career plans.
2. What are the most common law school admissions essay prompts?
You may be asked to discuss how your background and experiences influenced your decision to go to law school, why you are motivated to study law, or what made you decide to choose a specific law school. Virtually all law schools have criteria for the type of statement they require and provide some general guidelines, even if they don’t provide highly specific prompts. However, certain law schools do provide very unique and surprising prompts, so it is important to research your short list of law schools carefully to ensure that you identify the correct requirements.
3. Do law schools publish specific prompts for essays at a certain time of the year?
Typically, law school essay prompts are “evergreen”; that is, they are always available for consultation on their web site. Most law schools do not require several rounds of essays or invite applicants individually to write on specific prompts, as some graduate schools do.
4. Is a letter of intent the same as a personal statement?
A letter of intent is not the same as a personal statement, but it may replace the personal statement. Typically, it is a more formal statement which emphasizes your experiences and skills that prepare you for a specific law program. Law schools that request a letter of intent usually provide more detailed criteria for their expectations; therefore, it is important to verify the requirements carefully.
5. Can anyone submit a diversity statement?
Yes, as each person is unique, chances are they have something to contribute that is different from their peers. The diversity statement is a real opportunity to stand out from the crowd by highlighting your background, experiences, contributions, and ideas. Anyone should consider the benefits that writing a diversity statement may bring to the application process.
6. If an optional essay is suggested, do I have to write one?
If the essay is categorized as “optional,” it is unlikely that you are obliged to provide one. Some law schools emphasize the optional essay for certain applicants, such as those who could benefit from diversity opportunities or who need to explain their grades. However, even if you don’t check such a box, it is advisable to write the optional essay to stand out and increase your chances of being accepted.
7. Should I address setbacks in my essay, even if the prompt does not cover this?
Many law schools provide the opportunity to explain lower grades, extenuating circumstances, gap years, and other issues in an “optional essay” or “addendum,” and this is therefore the proper channel to inform the law school of your situation. If only one essay is allowed as part of the application process, yes, it would certainly be appropriate to write a concise statement on this topic, while emphasizing how you addressed and overcame the problem. No one is perfect, and challenges can often allow other personal strengths to emerge.
8. What if my admissions essays do not have prompts?
If no prompts are provided, focus on answering the question “why do you want to be a lawyer?”
9. Do I need to answer the prompt, or can I improvise?
Always stick to the prompt, as this is the information the law school wishes to know. Moreover, it shows that you can follow instructions, are detail-oriented, and have tailored your response to a particular school’s requirements.
10. How long should my law school admissions essays be?
Follow the guidelines. If no guidelines are provided, try to stay within 600–800 words.
11. How many essays do I have to submit for law school?
The number of essays varies, depending on the school. Carefully verify the requirements for each school to which you apply.
12. Who can help me with writing my law admissions essays?
At BeMo, we have consultants who can help with many stages of your law school application process, including essay writing.