LL.M. program admission committees want to get to know you—your personality—who you really are, what drives you, what makes you tick.
Your diplomas, course certificates, grade point average (GPA), recommendations, TOEFL or IELTS scores, CV or resume do not present a full picture. Committees see many similar objective documents from most applicants.
Try to convince the LL.M. program to accept you because you are one of the best candidates for that school, and because that LL.M. program and school are the best choice for you.
Personal statements help inform U.S. law schools that you are appropriately motivated, with insights, commitment and aspirations that render you eminently suitable to join the school’s ranks. You must convince the admissions committee that it will make the right decision by admitting you to the LL.M. program, that you outshine other qualified LL.M. candidates. In your personal statement you can paint a picture of yourself that may be enough to convince the school to choose you, rather than one of the dozens or even hundreds of other applicants. Your personal statement is a very important part of your LL.M. application.
8 Tips for LL.M. Personal Statements
1. Follow instructions.
LL.M. applications will have instructions for your personal statement. Be certain to follow those instructions, carefully! If the instructions call for 500 words in the personal statement, do not submit 501 words. If there is a page limit, stick to it. Be certain to
answer the specific questions that the application asked, or address the specific issues presented. If the application asks you to describe your substantive interests, your achievements and your academic and professional goals, do not write a lengthy essay about a pressing legal issue. Give the admission committee precisely what it wants!
2. Purpose of personal statements
Admission committees want to learn more about you as a person, in your own voice, and to learn about other qualities you have that are not reflected well in other parts of the application. Tell them!
The committee does not need to know the most intimate details about you or your life. You might paint a picture of yourself that illustrates your strengths, particularly what you can bring to the school and what you will do with your education post-LLM.
Your statement must be “personal” – written by you, about you. Write in your own voice. Tell your own story.
Do not ask friends or family to write your personal statement. Do not hire anyone, including an educational agent or LL.M. consultant, to write your personal statement for you. Never plagiarize anything, and never plagiarize a personal statement. Use your own ideas and express them in your own way.
4. I am human!
You are not a collection of documents, or a robot. You are a free-thinking human who would like to join a school filled with students from around the world, with professors and staff—all involved in an education mission. Your personal statement should reflect your humanity.
It is not a legal research piece where you demonstrate your legal reasoning aptitude. It does not summarize your CV or diplomas. Some schools explicitly state that they will not consider your application without a personal statement, and will not accept a resume or curriculum vitae in place of the statement”.
Treat your personal statement like an in-person interview, and let the school learn about the real you. Treat it like "an interview on paper".
5. I can communicate in English!
Your personal statement should show the admission committee that you have a solid command of written English, which is critical as you interact in the classroom, and as you interact in the hallways, offices of professors, with staff, and with members of the general community off campus.
6. What would an interviewer want to know about you?
Though some LL.M. programs in the U.S. interview applicants by phone, not many conduct in-person applicant interviews. Interviews permit you to “sell yourself” in ways you cannot do in a personal statement. During the interview, the school can get a sense of the your open-mindedness, maturity, resourcefulness and expectations. Many applicants have excellent test scores, first degree credentials, and recommendation letters. How do schools distinguish these highly-qualified candidates from one another? An interview can tip the scales and work to your advantage, whether you have solid paper credentials or not.
Ask yourself: “What would the Admission Committee want to know about me that they do not know already?” Or, “What about my background can I expound upon briefly, to highlight my strengths? What I can bring to the school if admitted? How can I distinguish myself from the other highly qualified applicants from around the globe? How can I demonstrate my open-mindedness, maturity, resourcefulness and expectations?”
7. Be certain to write your own personal statement, and that it is not written by an educational agent, consultant, friend or family member.
Some LL.M. applications remind you to prepare your personal statement on your own. For example, one school’s application provides: “Please sign your name and the date at the end of this statement to certify that the statement is true and is the product of your own work”.
Schools want to know about you, in a statement created only by you. You are obligated to provide schools with your own thoughts, as you are best able to express them, in English, in writing. They want to have a sense of how well you write, and they may and certainly will use the personal statement as a writing sample.
Other schools recognize that applicants may ask a native-English speaker to review their personal statements, and will not penalize the applicants for this.
If you sign your name and the work is not yours, you will have committed an ethical violation, and will have breached the honor code of the law school even before being admitted to the school! Do not start your LL.M. career off on the wrong foot.
8. Possible Personal Statement Discussion Points
Below are some sample discussion points that you might consider raising in your personal statement or essay response (depending on what the school asks you to write about).
a. Why do you want an LL.M. degree?
b. Why have you chosen to study law?
c. How will the LL.M. degree help you reach your career goals in your home country? In a third country? Or wherever you want to work?
d. What do you hope to accomplish at this particular U.S. law school?
e. What does the school or LL.M. program have to offer you?
f. What do you have to offer the LL.M. program or the school?
g. Why did you choose this particular school and LL.M. program instead of another? (Because of faculty, specialization, weather, family friends, reputation, etc.?)
h. What is your specific interest in this particular LL.M. program or school?
i. What are your career ambitions? Your long-term and short-term goals?
j. What do you hope to accomplish after you complete your degree?
k. Do you want to pursue an S.J.D. after you complete your LL.M.?
l. Name your best qualities? (Honesty, organization, decision-making ability?) Don’t be reticent; but don’t engage in puffery. Give examples.
m. What incidents affected your major life decisions?
n. What would you say about yourself if you had a personal interview?
o. What are your academic interests? How have you nurtured those interests?
p. Have you demonstrated intellectual curiosity and practical achievements? How?
q. Have you encountered and overcome any significant obstacles (disability, addiction, discrimination)?
r. Are you mature? Do you exude confidence?
s. Did you participate in any extra-curricular activities when you were in school? Were you a leader? What did you learn? What did you contribute?
t. Did you do any volunteer or pro bono work?
u. Do you have any work experience? Is it related to the area of law you want to study in your LL.M.?
v. What else? What else should they know – to grasp the real you? Perhaps something completely unrelated to study or law or work. Only you know “the real you”.
Chapter 10 ofLL.M. Roadmap discusses LL.M. personal statements & LL.M. application essays for U.S. law school Master of Laws (LL.M.) programs. Good luck!
Thanks to http://www.minoritylawstudents.org/Personal%20Statement.htm for the photo of the cat, the lion and the mirror!