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Personal Statement Warm-up Exercises

(based in large part on material supplied by HPPLC Advisor Dr. Rachel Tolen)

Below are warm-up exercises to help you begin the process of writing your personal statement. The wide-ranging questions are designed to help you compile potential raw material to work with. Just provide honest answers without considering their place in a future statement. Free-write:  do not edit, cross out, or change things as you go.  Just get it all out.  It is likely that few of your specific responses will actually make it to the formal document. In fact, you may ultimately choose to ignore most or even all responses. This exercise is just intended to help you start thinking "outside the box," and beyond such limited topics as "why I will be a great law student," or "what I will do as an attorney," or "why I should attend law school." Be overly-inclusive now and later, if needed, work with those items you think are most appropriate for inclusion in your personal statement. Be sure to read the "Guidelines for Writing the Personal Statement" on the next webpage as well.


  • What have been the pivotal moments in your life?  (These probably will NOT be law related--don't worry about that at all.). Looking back, what three or four major events in your life changed you? Consider events that shaped the development of your character, your values, attitudes, relationships, career goals, etc. Write a few sentences about each one.
  • What lessons have you learned in life (remember, do not think about law in your answer)?  How did you learn them?  Why do you still remember them?  How do they reveal who you are today?
  • Who do you admire most in this world?  Why? 
  • What makes you angry? 
  • What gives you the most satisfaction personally, in school, on the job?
  • If you were being interviewed, what 3 questions would you like to be asked?
  • Law schools may be interested in anything about you which is genuinely distinctive — travel experience, a multi-cultural background, military experience, family life, hardships for you or significant others (injury, illness, poverty, job loss, divorce, death, etc.) or triumphs (awards, achieving personal goals, overcoming disease or injury, recognition for outstanding accomplishments). List any such experiences you have had. Why were they important to you? What did you learn from them? How did any of these things change you? How have you grown as a result of them?  Just make a few notes.
  • Think of three or four adjectives that describe you as a person and list them. Then, WITHOUT actually using the adjective itself, write a few sentences about an event or experience from your life that demonstrates that quality.
  • Describe two or three events or interactions you have witnessed (or participated in) that helped clarify for you that law was the right choice for you, or showed you what kind of attorney you would like to be.  Avoid references to TV or movies. 
  • What is the source of your attraction to a career in law? How did you first get interested in law? (Avoid generalities: be as specific as you can.)
  • Write a few sentences about each of the following:
    1. Your motivation for a career as an attorney.
    2. The influence of your family/early experiences on your life.
    3. The influence of your extracurricular, work, and volunteer activities on your life.
    4. Your long-term goals.
    5. Your personal philosophy.
  • What was the most important thing to happen to you (as a child, in high school, at college, and/or at work)? Why?
  • What course or teacher was most important/influential to you and why?
  • If three of your best friends met to talk about you, what would they say?  How would THEY describe you?
  • Explain specifically why law school is the next logical step in your life.  [You don't have to go into what you would do as an attorney--although if you have solid ideas, great--but try to demonstrate concretely how a JD degree fits into your plans.]
  • Finally, list three of the most important things that you want the admissions committee to remember about you when the other details of your statement have been long forgotten.