In this article, we will go over general personal statement objectives and format and provide examples of personal statements geared specifically to NYU Law to guide you in writing your own best statement.
The main question that you want to answer in your personal statement is, “Why am I perfect for NYU law school?” What is unique to you and your journey to becoming a lawyer, specifically one who will be studying law at NYU? However, because this is a personal statement, you’re not going to spend the whole time talking about NYU Law, especially given that NYU Law School has a 500-word cap on their personal statements.
Check out the top Harvard Law School personal statement examples in this video:
The main goal of your personal statement should be to show yourself. You have a passion for the law, for your career goals, for altruism, for justice, or, in other words, for some aspect of this profession that has kept you motivated to study hard and gain the experiences necessary to get into NYU Law.
- Start with that idea of the personal story. What was the first moment you wanted to enter the legal profession? Your introduction sets up your story.
- How have you pursued that goal? Pick one major event that shows the biggest step forward in your journey. Ideally, this part of your story will highlight one or two desirable traits that you have.
- Conclude the story with a brief statement about how you are continuing your journey and/or where you would like your journey to lead. Do you have political aspirations? Do you want to be a judge? Do you want to make top legal services more accessible? Where will NYU Law help you get to?
Your story can’t be a lot of “I feel” or “I want.” It’s better to say, “I am pursuing law because...” and talk about something you have done to advance your position. This could be on a personal level – aspects of yourself – or it might be something you have accomplished, courses you’ve taken, , or jobs you have performed.
You’re going to use a standard essay format.
- Beginning: the first thing on the page is the “hook” sentence. Start your essay with a good attention-grabber.
- The remainder of the introduction sets up the rest of the essay.
- Chronological order is easier to write and easy to follow as a reader. So, you will probably start with the catalyst or defining moment that set you on your journey.
- The body of the essay consists of one or two examples of how you are pursuing and advancing toward your goal.
- Conclude by talking about your aspirations.
- If possible, link the conclusion to the introduction for a “complete circle” feel to your essay; this won’t always be possible.
The following samples are between 460–499 words each, which is about perfect for an NYU Law personal statement.
I have pictures of my family on my desk; my picture of my dad is his mugshot. Dad had the bad luck to look like a guy who knocked over a liquor store in our neighborhood. Fortunately, he wasn’t in for long – less than a year – before the other guy got caught and confessed to the crime. My Uncle Terry was so angry about the whole thing that he rails against lawyers, judges, and cops every chance he gets. In contrast, my reaction was to hit the books so that I could contribute to preventing such problems.
Most people my age get a part-time job to buy a car or a cell phone, or to help their families get by. I got one so that I could open an account with PACER and start studying interesting cases. I got the idea to email law offices in my city, state, and around the country, and ask them which landmark cases I would learn from the most. Some didn’t get back to me, but most were happy to help out a kid with a passion for the law.
I also joined the debate club at my college. I hoped to learn how to argue properly, but I learned two lessons that were far more valuable:
1. You can’t win every case, and it’s not always your fault. Most of the time, I could build a pretty persuasive argument and keep my opponents on their toes. But sometimes that didn’t matter. Some audiences are stacked with people who aren’t willing to have their minds changed, or even with friends of the other debaters. I’m not bitter. I’m not complaining. I’m not saying it isn’t fair. Life isn’t fair – with my father’s experiences, you can’t help but know that. What I’m saying is that I learned to handle a disappointment or a loss and respect my opposing debaters regardless of outcomes. This was the perfect introduction to the tricky nature of a trial by jury.
2. You can’t always get what you want. There is a profound satisfaction to taking a subject you’re passionate about and arguing from that position. But in debate club, as with the law, sometimes you get stuck with a topic or position – or client – you dislike. You do your job anyway. This really helped me because any animosity I still felt for the lawyers, judges, and jury members who wrongfully convicted my dad melted away. These were people doing a job – a necessary job for fairness in society.
That doesn’t mean I’m going to just accept that the system can’t get better. I know a lot of people say they want to make a difference, but I will make a difference by becoming a lawyer. I will not only defend clients, but also contribute to the progression of the justice system so that we can perfect it for everyone – people like me and my dad.
Want to learn how to get into law school with a low GPA? Check out this infographic:
When most people think about lawyers, they conjure up a TV drama filled with cries of “OBJECTION!”, people pleading the fifth, and last-minute, Hail Mary gambits that shock witnesses into tearfully confessing right on the stand. That makes for great television, but for me, it’s about the quiet, methodical work of getting the job done. I know this from my aunt, who practices law, and who has been a big influence on my life in a lot of ways.
When I was small, my parents got divorced and lived far apart. This complicated my life, but Aunt Jane – she got me to call her “AJ” – made it a lot easier. AJ would help my mom with drop-offs and pick-ups. She would often watch me while my mom ran around doing errands or was at work. Even though her career as a lawyer was extremely busy, she always found time for me. I will never forget that.
AJ was my big inspiration, but what really got me interested in law occurred one day after school when I was at her office. I could walk to her firm’s offices from the school, and I would do homework there while waiting for my mom’s shift to end and she could pick me up. I sometimes talked with the other lawyers, and that day, I remember seeing two people exiting a meeting room, with their lawyers, looking really relaxed. They were a couple splitting up, and their lawyers had kept the negotiations amicable and casual. I knew how hard my parents’ divorce was, and I was pleased to see that with skill and care, lawyers could actually make that process a lot easier.
I asked AJ if I could come to the offices more and maybe help out, and she arranged for me to do some basic-level office tasks like photocopying or setting out water for boardroom meetings. But the real purpose of the job was to get to know what a law office is like and to be able to see how the legal profession worked.
It was nothing like TV, but that didn’t matter to me. I didn’t mind doing paperwork, learning the filing systems, or helping lawyers prepare for client meetings. From the moment I encountered that couple leaving, so relaxed and relieved, I appreciated how my office work with AJ helped provide much-needed services, but I also came to understand the importance of the daily diligence required for law. My natural disposition has always been a bit more oriented toward careful, methodical preparation than bombastic speeches, so it suited me. Of course, lawyers see their fair share of drama as well, but I am mainly motivated by the chance to work quietly in the background to help people.
In high school, I enjoyed debates, whether I was in debate club or not. Teachers both feared me and loved me. My participation was always high, but I could tell that I was a challenging student for them. I wasn’t trying to be difficult; I just wanted to know more about the “Why?” of any given subject. I’ll never forget Mrs. McGillicuddy seeing my hand shoot up in Civics class and saying, “Not today, Ralph.”
My search for a better “Why?” is being piqued all the time. In college, I was working on a mathematics degree because I have always been good with numbers and statistics, and I was talking about mathematics in the library with a co-worker, where I had a job.
The conversation went from mathematics to computers, and we started talking about AI. I hit upon this question:
“When AI can think for itself, and while it’s making art, is it AI art or real art?”
This philosophical quandary got me into full research mode, and I hit the stacks hard. I started thinking about the copyright issues around AI art. Does it belong to the creator, who used the AI to make the art? Or does it belong to the programmers who developed the AI? What about the company that paid to develop the AI? Then I wondered, “Does the AI itself have a claim here?” From that night on, I started working on pre-law courses as electives before simply adding a second major in pre-law.
I am applying to your LLM in Legal Theory specialization because I want to explore more “Why?” questions around the legal aspects of technology. Legal issues are constantly changing and evolving, along with the modern world, and I want to be a part of advancing those issues. This might seem over-eager, but I have already started my research. The main areas I would like to research concern AI, and I have been communicating with the computer science department at my institution, talking to them about their own thoughts and opinions on copyright questions around AI.
Every answer I seek becomes another question. Some of my main questions right now include the following:
- How does AI affect copyright legislation, and how will it affect copyright legislation in the future as it advances?
- What should the law have to say about AI in terms of the job market?
- Should we create laws to prevent an AI takeover of the job market?
- Do unions have precedent to freeze out AI workers?”
Yes, each of those questions lead to multiple other questions, but I still can’t stop raising my hand in class.
1. How long should my personal statement be?
NYU puts a 500-word cap on their personal statement. Do not exceed this limit under any circumstances.
2. Do spelling and grammar matter?
3. Does it matter if I mention NYU specifically?
You don’t have to literally use the words “New York University” in your statement. The focus is on you, personally. However, you should make sure that your statement clearly syncs up with NYU’s values and programs so that it is, at the very least, implicitly clear why you are perfect for NYU.
4. How long should I take to write a personal statement?
No less than two weeks, and maybe three. You need time to write the statement and refine it. This is more than proofreading; you need to carefully edit the statement to make it perfect. That takes time. Work on it a little bit every day.
5. Are personal statements important?
They are crucial components of your application. In a sea of transcripts, personal statements set you apart.
6. Are personal statements graded?
Not formally, but they are evaluated, so put in maximum effort.
7. Can I edit my statement after submission?
You would have to write to NYU and ask to change aspects of your submission. Assume you can’t, however, and turn in a perfect statement the first time.
8. Is NYU Law difficult to get into?
show that NYU has a 33% acceptance rate. While this is not the most prohibitive rate on the list – that spot goes to with 6.9% – it isn’t one of the easiest law schools to get into, either. It’s somewhere in the “lower middle” in terms of range.