How To Write A Personal Statement
A great LLM (Master of Laws) personal statement should be persuasive, concise and easy to read.
Concise because you need to compress information about your past, present and future into a limited word count.
Easy to read, otherwise the admissions board might give up on it halfway through.
Your personal statement is very important and functions in pretty much the same way as a cover letter in a job application, by pulling together the professional and personal aspects of your life that highlight why you are a good fit for the institution.
What Information Should Your LLM Statement Contain?
Professionally, you could mention what you studied as an undergrad and whether the LLM is a natural progression or would represent a change in career path, any relevant work or research experience you have, why you chose the LLM and how it will impact on your professional life. Do you have a first degree in law and are you working your way towards a PhD in law and a future in legal academia? If your first degree was not in law, how would the LLM complement it; do you have a first degree in Economics and want to do an LLM in International Business Law for example?Find your PERFECT LLM PROGRAM
Make it personal
On a personal level you should mention what interests and motivates you, and what happened in your life that put you on the path to applying for an LLM at that particular institution. If you’ve chosen a small college explain why you prefer institutions with small populations. If it’s a very large one with thousands of students, let the admissions board know why you thrive in a busy environment. In other words, tell your story so that the admissions board gets a sense of who you are and why you fit in with their particular institution.
For the admissions board to get to know you as an individual, your statement has to be personal to you. This is why it’s not advisable to use the personal statement templates that can be found online. By all means do some research; look around and draw inspiration but it’s much better to take note of the general structure and flow of these online samples, than to download them to use. You can be sure that university admissions boards are aware of what’s available online and are familiar with the clichéd phrases out there. A personal statement that’s truly personal will come across as more heartfelt and genuine.
Don’t make claims you can’t support!
Since you are applying for a postgrad legal program you should be familiar with making persuasive arguments. As legal arguments are evidence-based, be prepared to apply the same approach in your statement by avoiding unsubstantiated claims. If you state that certain modules are “relevant to your career”, state specifically how. Don’t leave it to the admissions board to try to work it out for themselves. If you claim that you are a top student, highlight your grades even though you will submit transcripts as part of your application. Use clichés like ‘leadership skills’ only if you can give examples of instances when you demonstrated these traits.
Don’t just write it, craft it
When it comes to the actual writing of your LLM personal statement be prepared to write, edit and rewrite your personal statement several times. Once you’ve written the first one to perfection, it could become your personal template that you can adapt to suit other institutions you’re applying to. Remember all those essays you wrote in your undergrad days? Well the same rules of presentation, structure and flow apply to your personal statement; the only difference being that this time, the essay is about you.
Bear in mind
There are four key things to bear in mind to achieve success when crafting the perfect LLM personal statement.
Conciseness: Whatever you do, you MUST remain within the institution’s word limit. Legal professionals are expected to be able to summarise masses of information without losing any essential facts, and your personal statement is an indicator of your ability to do this.
Language: Don’t use complicated words in an attempt to impress. As a legal professional, you will be working with clients who may not understand technical terms so your ability to communicate in a formal yet simple style will not go unnoticed.
Format: Keep your statement uncluttered, with lots of spacing and white space, to make it easy to read. It's important for the document to look good as well as to read well.
Structure and flow: Your intro could summarise the reasons why granting you a place is the right decision for the admissions board to make. The main body should be broken up into your past (academic, professional and personal info; relevant experience, your interests and motivations and what led you to the point of applying), your present (all the info about the LLM; why you chose it at that particular institution, which modules you’re really keen on) and your future (what you plan to do after you complete the LLM). Your conclusion is a summary of your main points and should end on a memorable note. After you’ve written your first draft, print it out and review it to see if it makes sense, making notes in the margins along the way as if you were an editor editing another writer’s work.
In summary, persuade the admissions board with your personal and professional story, use evidence-based arguments, write clearly and simply and stick to the word limit. Best of luck!Find your PERFECT LLM PROGRAM