The key to writing a good personal statement for your application to study law lies in bearing in mind the purpose of a personal statement.
The purpose of personal statements generally is to demonstrate a student’s interest in their chosen subject, and secondly, to evidence his or her suitability for the study of that subject. There are two additional things to bear in mind where law personal statements are concerned: first, your interest and suitability should be demonstrated in relation to law as an academic subject – not law as a career. The LPC and the BPTC are separate courses geared towards making a student prepared for a career in law.
In contrast, an undergraduate degree in law at university is not – it focuses, instead, on law as an academic subject. It is best, therefore, to avoid speaking about your interest in the legal profession and focusing instead on what is is about law as a subject that draws you to it. Secondly, writing the personal statement is itself an opportunity for you to demonstrate skills which the study of law would require – namely, the ability to make a coherent case (in this case, for your admission to your chosen universities), to follow a clear structure and to express yourself concisely.
Before writing the statement
You might be wondering: how can I demonstrate interest in law as a subject when I have little knowledge on what studying it at university will involve? This problem can, however, be overcome through adequate preparation before writing the statement. One way to prepare is by reading law books – that is – introductory law texts suitable for those who have never studied law before. One such text is Criminal law: the basics – by Jonathan Herring. It is important to read these texts not to learn about law, but to gain some insight into what studying law involves and why you find it interesting. Articles in the news on law-related subjects can also be useful in introducing you to controversial legal issues; for example, The Economist recently published an article on the European Court of Justice’s ruling on a discrimination case (concerning whether employers can sack employees who refuse to remove their headscarves). Mentioning such issues in your personal statement, and, more crucially, explaining why they draw you to the study of law, as well as your thoughts on how the issues should be resolved, can be a great way to demonstrate your interest in studying law.
Another preparatory step to take before writing the statement is work experience. This, however, is not essential, and any work experience you complete should only be mentioned if it somehow increases your interest in law as an academic subject or if afforded you the opportunity to develop skills which will enable you to be a good law student. Don’t worry if you’re not able to find work experience: another thing you can do is go into a court to watch a court case (courts in this jurisdiction are open to all).
Another worthwhile activity is undertaking an extended essay or the Extended Project Qualification at school; this can give you the opportunity to develop research skills and look into a law-related topic over a long period of time.
Writing the statement: structure and style
A good structure to follow is to dedicate the first half of the statement to showing your interest in studying law, and how you developed that interest through reading books, articles and doing other activities. The second half of the statement should go be where you produce evidence of your suitability for the study of law.
One thing to bear in mind whilst writing the statement is that it is best not to be dramatic; it can be tempting to use a multitude of adjectives – this should be avoided as the statement tends to start sounding silly. Besides, a better technique for producing an interesting statement is using examples to evidence statements and being as precise as possible.