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Should Law School Hopefuls Write as Much as Allowed on Applications?




Many important factors in law school admissions are hard to control, like the grades on your transcripts and the number of other applicants in the same cycle. So it’s understandable that applicants want to make the most out of the parts of their application they can control, like their personal statement and other written materials.

Indeed, law school admissions essays can take several drafts, and it’s worth investing weeks of work into telling your story as well as you can. Trusted readers and advisers can help you refine your writing and spot oversights.

However, many law school applicants take this diligence too far, submitting applications that are not only thoroughly considered, but expansive. They maximize every opportunity by answering every prompt, writing as much as they can, submitting as many recommendation letters as allowed and even including unsolicited essays.

Any of these decisions might make sense in isolation. Some candidates do need to write multiple addenda to explain potential issues with their candidacy.

Others might need a lot of space to detail an unconventional path to law school or a history of overcoming many life hurdles.

For most applicants, however, quality beats quantity. Here are four reasons why:

  • Admissions officers have limited time.
  • Concise writing demonstrates professionalism.
  • Some prompts don’t apply to everyone.
  • Not all schools appreciate unsolicited essays.

Admissions Officers Have Limited Time

Law school admissions officers read through dozens of applications daily. When they open an application that is stuffed with extra materials, they steel themselves for a long slog.

Not only does a lengthy application make a bad first impression, but your most important points may get lost in the fluff.

Consider your resume. Law schools allow two-page resumes, and many candidates use that extra space well. But readers tend to read two-page resumes in the same amount of time as one-page resumes and remember just as much. If you include high school entries, minor activities or redundant bullet points, you risk diverting attention from more impressive positions and achievements.

Concise Writing Demonstrates Professionalism

Good legal writing is direct and succinct. Trial attorneys are constrained by tight time limits. Clients want brief and clear legal advice from their lawyers.

Professionals show respect for other people’s time by communicating judiciously. Write with restraint to show readers that you chose your words carefully. You will convey intellect and courtesy.

Even if a law school allows more than two pages for a personal statement, think carefully about whether your story truly needs it.

Some Prompts Don’t Apply to Everyone

More than anything, lawyers are people who know and follow the rules. It’s hard to win over law school admissions officers if you disregard their instructions.

Before writing an optional statement, be sure to read the directions carefully. Keep your essay within any stated word or page limits. Respect formatting rules. Most importantly, read the prompt!

While almost every law school permits a diversity statement, these prompts vary widely. Some are relatively open-ended while others focus on specific kinds of diversity. If you send in an essay that doesn’t fit the prompt, it may seem lazy at best, insensitive at worst. A frivolous diversity statement may backfire by trivializing the very concept of diversity.

Not All Schools Appreciate Unsolicited Essays

It’s hard to imagine a law school being upset to receive a brief, heartfelt essay about why the school is your top choice, even if the application doesn’t ask for one. But this could rub some admissions officers the wrong way.

Including an extra essay about why you want to attend makes the most sense if your reasons are sincere, nonobvious and well-justified. Good reasoning outshines mere enthusiasm.

When in doubt, ask the admissions office beforehand whether it’s OK to include such an essay in your application.

Above all, remember that admissions officers are just doing their job. Lighten their workload by making sure that everything you include in your application serves a purpose.


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