We thought it may be helpful to show an example of a personal statement in its first-draft stage vs. the final product. While brainstorming/topic selection is sometimes the most difficult component of the law school personal statement process, even the strongest and most differentiated of stories (as this one is) often need significant conversations with our clients as we work together putting words on paper. We hope this example helps some of you in your own editing process. It really is a process that should not be rushed, I can't state this enough. You'd much rather hand in a great application 2 weeks after some arbitrary deadline you have given yourself, versus making the deadline but rushing the applications. Good luck to all!
Please note that we have full permission from the applicant to post this essay, but we have redacted/changed any identifying information included.
My name is [First Name] [Last Name] and I am a non-traditional applicant in every sense of the word. My upbringing and path to law school has been anything but ordinary. I grew up relatively poor, raised by a single mother in public housing for a large part of my childhood. It breaks my heart that my mother still lives in public housing to this day. Neither of my parents graduated high school, so the bar was set pretty low from the onset. To say that I am defying odds by submitting this application would be a tremendous understatement. In high school I performed poorly, ranking 94/96 at graduation after attending for five years. The fact that I actually graduated was a massive accomplishment and a moment of pride for my parents. After high school I went to community college and it was much of the same. Throughout high school and college I was excessively truant and often in trouble hanging out with the wrong crowd. From [year]-[year] (age 16-21) I was convicted of multiple traffic offenses and misdemeanors. After several run ins with the law and failing out of community college in 2010 I hit rock bottom.
In [year] I began looking to the trades for opportunity and decided to attend barber school. This became a defining moment in my life and a tremendous learning experience. A man named Dan [Last Name] took me under his wing and became my mentor. Dan was my instructor and the owner of the school. He had owned four barber schools and was a wealth of knowledge in barbering, business, and customer relations. My time learning under Dan and my experience at his college completely changed my life. Dan taught me how to excel in the barber business, but more importantly, he taught me how to be a good man and helped me find my potential.
After finishing my barber training in [Year] I moved to [City] and bootstrapped [Name] Barber Shop with a $3,000 shoe-string budget. When I opened the business I gained support from the community very quickly. I attribute this success to Dan and the lessons he taught me. In [Year] I founded [Name] Barber College, which became a huge success almost immediately, largely because of the reputation I had created with my first shop. My experience as the director of the college was extremely gratifying because it gave me the opportunity to help others trying to change their lives and find their paths, people who looked much like me only a few years ago. Soon after establishing the school I opened three more barber shops in the area and was able to provide jobs and opportunities for many barbers. During my time as the owner of the barber network we were honored with many humbling awards from the Chamber of Commerce and local publications. Additionally, I established a rental business that grew to include over 100 rental units. By the age of 30 I had completely turned my life around and achieved the American Dream, a huge point of pride for me. However, in pursuit of a more significant purpose, I decided to sell my barber businesses and follow my dream to become a lawyer. I have been chasing that dream since [Month] [Year] with intense focus.
I chose law as my career path because I believe that the legal profession gives me the opportunity to serve the community while leading a challenging yet rewarding career in a field that excites me. While serving my community through the barber industry I realized how much I truly enjoy serving others. I also find that I thrive when helping others and solving problems. I believe that a legal career gives me the opportunity to do these things. The rigorous nature of law school and the ongoing challenges faced while practicing law excites me and inspires me.
My path to law school has been anything but ordinary. I grew up poor, raised by a single mother in public housing. Neither of my parents graduated from high school, and the bar was set low from the onset. In high school, I started using drugs and drinking frequently. Naturally, I began to align with the wrong crowd as I found a sense of belonging and identity associating with other misfits. Skipping class and getting high became more important than focusing on school, and the fact that I managed to graduate was seen as a massive accomplishment. From ages 16-21, I was convicted of multiple traffic offenses and misdemeanors, and after failing out of community college in [Year], I hit an inflection point in my life.
In [Year], I met someone who would change my path entirely. Searching for direction, I decided to attend barber school, and Dan, the owner and instructor, took me under his wing and became my mentor. Dan was the kind of man who everyone respected and admired. He had a strong sense of equality and fairness, and this was often demonstrated by the way he treated people; Dan listened to everyone, and he made everyone feel important, whether they were clients or students. His passion for serving others was both inspiring and contagious. My time learning under Dan completely altered how I looked at the world: he taught me how to excel in the barber business, but more importantly, he taught me how to be a good man and helped me find my potential.
After finishing my barber training in [Year], I moved to [City], [State] and started [Name] Barber Shop with a total starting budget of $3,000. I attribute much of the success that followed to Dan and the lessons he taught me — the importance of listening to clients, taking a genuine interest in their lives, and understanding that serving others is an honor.
In [Year], I founded [Name] Barber College, which became a huge success almost immediately, possibly because of the reputation I had created with my first shop. My experience as the director of the college was gratifying because it gave me the opportunity to help others trying to change their lives and find their paths, people who looked much like me only a few years prior. Over the next two years, I was able to open three more shops in the area, providing jobs and opportunities for dozens of members of my community, and we were honored with many humbling awards from the Chamber of Commerce and local publications. As my success grew, I was also able to establish a real estate business that has grown to include over 100 rental units. By the age of 30, I had completely turned my life around and achieved the American Dream, and it is a huge point of pride for me. However, in pursuit of a more significant purpose, I decided to sell my barber businesses, go back to college, and follow my dream of becoming a lawyer. I thrive when helping others and solving problems, and through the law I hope to serve my community while leading a challenging yet rewarding career in a field that excites me. I have been chasing this dream since January [Year] with intense focus.
Although my path to law school has not been ordinary, and my journey to this point in time has been checkered with many setbacks and failures along the way, these experiences did come with a silver lining: they led to powerful inflection points that produced the best version of myself. Dan taught me that to find success you must become resilient in your efforts; when things get tough, you must keep going. To many this may seem rudimentary, but at the time this was a significant lesson for me. It motivated me to pick my head up and look to the future, and it helped me realize it was not too late for me. It inspired me to follow my dream of being a lawyer, and it will undoubtedly serve me well as I tackle the rigors of law school and embark on my legal career.