So you’ve decided you want to study law at university? That’s a brilliant choice! A specialised, rewarding subject with great career prospects.
However lots of people want to study law degrees, so your UCAS personal statement needs to be head and shoulders above the rest to give you the best chance possible to gain a course place.
1. Focus your thoughts
Before you write your personal statement, you need to decide exactly which universities you want to study law at, as they all have slightly different course entry criteria. For example, top universities for law such as Oxford, Cambridge and UCL will have tougher entry requirements than those further down the league tables such as Liverpool Hope and Hertfordshire.
Don’t forget; you write one personal statement (4,000 characters/47 lines limit) on your UCAS application for all your course choices so research is vital to allow you to shape what you write to match your options.
If possible phone up and chat with the admission tutors to gain an understanding of what they’re looking for on personal statements.
First hand advice can never be underestimated. If this isn’t possible university websites are usually crammed full of really useful information.
2. Talk about work experience
Within your law personal statement you must give examples of any work experience or volunteering you’ve done and how it links to law.
Most young people won’t have worked in a law office (that’s OK, so don't worry) but you may have volunteered at your local community centre and come across people with money issues or landlord rent arrears. Has this caused you to research finance and property law to see if you could offer any assistance?
If you’ve been working in a shop or café at a weekend, think about how you can link this to a law degree. Have your customers left tips? What are the laws on how tips are shared out?
Think of anything relevant and include it in your statement. This will only strengthen your case in front of the admissions tutors, and show you are proactive about getting onto their course.
3. Include extra curricular activities
In the extra curriculum section, feel free to list your hobbies, but only if they are relevant, and say make sure you explain why.
For example, an interest in current affairs is too generic but an interest in current affairs with a focus on the ongoing refugee crisis and how the current UK laws impact this, illustrates a great breadth of knowledge.
Even if your hobbies are sport related they can still be linked to law if you show your grit, resilience and ongoing commitment to your sport (all great qualities for a lawyer).
Have you been in a school debating or chess team, or written articles for the school magazine on current affairs? These are all good examples to include, but be specific and link them to studying law e.g. school debating showcases your public speaking skills and chess demonstrates your strategy planning.
4. Avoid common quotes (and other over-used words or phrases)
A personal statement is just that: personal. Regurgitating often-used quotes wont impress, unless you use them in an original way.
Admissions tutors read hundreds of personal statements so including the same quote as everyone else looks generic and/or lazy.
Also, try to avoid overused opening lines, like “From a young age” and “For as long as I can remember” – it’s OK not to have wanted to be a lawyer since you were a baby.
There are certain words that get overused in applicants' personal statements (and CVs later on in life!), such as "Really interested”, “relish”, “intrigued”, “passionate”.
Instead of saying “I’m really interested in law and would relish the chance to study it”, prove it by giving examples. Stuffing your personal statement with phrases like “highly interested” isn’t the most effective way to show enthusiasm and passion.
What is it about law that draws you in? Is there an area of law that particularly piques your interest? What do you want to do with your degree? Show them that law floats your boat, don’t just tell them.
If you’re going to include quotes from law books or court cases you must research and understand them properly. If you’re questioned on the subject in your interview you need to be able to talk in-depth about them.
5. Don't lie
Although you may be tempted to embellish work experience, remember that you could be asked about it in the interview. If you are caught out, then this is a big risk to take, so it's best to stick to the facts.
However, you don’t have to be entirely honest either; saying “I have work experience with a local solicitors’ firm, but it was rubbish and all I did was make tea” won’t make the admissions tutors want to offer you a place either.
If you do lie about having read certain books, then make sure you read them before the interview!
6. Avoid humour
Although it's a good idea to put your own stamp on your personal statement, it's important to realise that what you think is funny might not appear humourous to an admissions tutor.
To be on the safe side, avoid making any jokes, but do try and make your personal statement interesting so the tutors will be compelled to read to the end.
7. Redraft and revise
Give yourself enough time to not only write your personal statement but to reread, proof, sense check and keep redrafting it until it’s the best it can be.
Concentrate on great content, grammar, punctuation and spelling. Also ask family and friends to second check it for you.
Your school teachers have worked with students in previous years on similar law personal statements. Take advantage of all the knowledge they’ve gained and ask their advice. As it’s a law course, search out friends on social media (or friends, of friends, of your friends) who are or were law students and can provide hints and tips.
You can also browse our law personal statement examples for inspiration to guide you, and use our personal statement template to help you through the writing process. You can also use our personal statement length checker to make sure it will fit on your UCAS form.
Your personal statement is like a court case you can genuinely win.
As a prosecuting or defence barrister you need an impactful opening statement, undisputed, awesome evidence and a powerful closing statement. This means you’ve put your best case forward, (your personal statement) to the judge and jury, (admission tutors) and it’s a unanimous decision to offer you a place on the course.
For more tips and advice on writing your law personal statement, please see:
- Law at Oxford
- UCAS Law Advice
- The Lawyer Portal
- UCAS Personal Statement FAQs
- Analysis Of Example Personal Statement
- Personal Statement Editing Services
- Personal Statement Writing Timeline
- 10 Personal Statement Writing Tips
- Personal Statement Advice From A Teacher
- How To Write A Personal Statement
- 10 Personal Statement Don'ts
- Applying to Law School in the USA
N.B This post was originally written in October 2017 but has been updated to reflect changes in our content resources and the law application process.