Law school applications: Statements, essays, resumes, and addenda
The typical law school admission process does not include a personal interview. Instead, the admissions committees make decisions largely based on the documents you submit (along with your LSAT, transcript, and letters of recommendation). Those documents may include, in addition to the electronic application itself, a personal statement, one or more “optional” essays, a resume, and addenda (written explanations or elaborations in response to particular application questions).
Collectively, these documents should paint as three-dimensional a portrait of you as possible. They are taking the place of that non-existent face-to-face interview, and so you want to try to convey as much of your fabulousness as possible. This means using each (virtual) sheet of paper wisely, refraining from duplication as much as possible, and ensuring that each document complements the others. Each document serves its own unique purpose, and the schools all differ in what they request or require of you (although almost all require/allow a personal statement and a resume). Accordingly, you should expect to edit some of these documents in order to tailor them to a particular school’s requirements, while still maximizing how much they communicate about you.
Some of the more common duplications to avoid are (1) rehashing your resume in your personal statement, and (2) using your personal statement to discuss matters that could be addressed in a separate addendum (academic challenges you’ve overcome, how your unique background has influenced your life’s path, how that arrest for possession helped you understand the importance of due process under law). Think of it this way: if you use your resume, addenda and optional essays wisely, it frees up space in your personal statement to talk about a whole other part of you. More “billboards” (to use an ancient advertising metaphor) means you can advertise more features of the product you’re trying to sell (yes, the “product” in this metaphor would be you).
Each document you submit is important, and it is worth the time to make it as good as it can be. Additional tips on each are available on the pages below.