One of my earliest memories, is picking up a book and staring at the printed words on its fresh, crisp pages. I was stood in the middle of a bookshop, in my home town with my mother and I knew, from that time, that I would love to read. Reading is my only constant, and 13 years on I’m still reading and savouring every word. When I was six years old I was asked what I wanted to be when I was older, I answered the usual - a princess. We were then asked to draw a picture of what we would look like. In my picture, I sat in a throne, surrounded by books, a crown upon my head, a gavel in my hand. I wasn’t just any princess, I was intelligent, and I was decider of the law. When I imagine my self in 15-20 years, I see myself in a black robe; a wig upon my head; deciding and explaining the law to a jury. Just as I’d seen myself 11 years ago, except know, I’m all grown up, and ready to take on my role.
The law is constantly evolving overtime in order to reflect societies ever changing moral attitude and values. It’s everywhere, keeping order and encompassing a world, encouraging its people to keep safe for themselves and others around them; promoting fairness and equality. I believe this is what piqued my keen interest and curiosity for the legal systems and practices of the world. With each turn of a newspaper and change of a channel, we can witness a range of different crimes and how they’re dealt with within the legal system. But, what the real question most people want answered is why, why do people commit such crimes?
When studying Law at ‘A’ level, I have built my knowledge of the legal practices, the rules used by lawyers and a range of civil and criminal cases. This intensive study verified for me that Law was the subject I wanted to explore further. I particularly enjoyed this subject as I find it mentally challenging that requires lawyers to be particularly precise and assured in the law. I have also observed and marvelled at the elasticity of the law in certain areas, creating room for the moral values of society and technological advances.
I also studied sociology. In my second year the subject covers the basic aspects of criminology, providing me with a ‘taster’ of the theories behind crime in society. The subject has helped me to develop my understanding of how society works and explore the moral values of society, which may be relevant to the broad subject of Law. I have also studied Religion, Ethics & Philosophy that helped me to develop the necessary debating skills that is used in law and the courts. This subject forced me to look at arguments from another’s point of view, which may be a useful skill when studying law and trying to understand a criminals mind. However, when talking about a criminals mind, my study in psychology would be more beneficial. Whilst in my second year, I was require to conduct a study in psychology, which I believe may give any communication skills required for the study of the law. Both subjects require looking at societies behaviour closely which may have given me the essential skills of observation and problem solving.
I developed many essential communication skills whilst working as a waitress. This helped me to build confidence within myself and conversing with customers. I learnt to take and make customers food and drinks orders precisely in a busy, flustered environment with many distractions. Whilst working here, I had to have initiative, work speedily, and efficiently to avoid a build up of customers.
In the last two years of high school, I was voted the deputy head girl by the senior staff. This involved the responsibility of acting as mascot for the school. I also acted as the role of Head Prefect for my house team. With this role came many responsibilities which included: organising prefects in my house, attending the monthly meeting, and also taking part in the prefect responsibilities of patrolling the corridors with the staff and helping to keep order within the school premises. By the time I got the year 9, I decided to apply to participate within the school council, who met once every month to acquire feedback from students and amend any ‘school rules’. The meetings usually consisted of discussions and debates about new policies and upcoming events led by the students. Taking part in the school council demonstrated to me the process of making such ‘rules’ and futures events, which truly humbled me. I believe it helped me to develop my organisational and communication skills, which are essential for a career in law.
Since year 8, I have taken part in cooking competitions - winning a few awards. These competitions have shown me that organisation and preparation are key to success paired with hard work and elbow grease. Without which, I would not be where I am in my educational career.
If you’re interested in the intricacies of a criminal mind, don’t bother putting it in your personal statement for law, says Pamela Thomas, admissions tutor and law lecturer at Birmingham City University. “Students often write about the psychology of criminals in their statement, but that’s really criminology rather than law. Before you start writing, make sure you know what’s covered in the course.”
Another way to irk admissions tutors is to write about your “passion” without any supporting evidence. To really show your enthusiasm, the opening statement should be based on your experiences and how they shaped your ambition to study law, says Dr Martina McClean, legal admissions tutor for the University of Hull.
Whether you’re interested in family, criminal or EU law, you need to immediately pique admissions tutors’ interest and convince them you’re right for the course. So what should you include? And what are the mistakes to avoid?
What to do
Make your first paragraph memorable: The key points to cover in your first paragraph are: “why law?” and “which aspects of law interest you?” says Thomas. And your opening sentence needs to immediately grab the reader’s attention. “Admissions tutors are looking for active, engaged learners with enquiring minds. Write about how you have reflected about an experience, what type of questions you had and how you went about finding answers,” says McClean.
Be curious: Seek out opportunities to learn more about law and mention this in your application. “You could visit your local courts and talk about what you learned from the experience. They are open all year and free to attend,” says Deborah Ives, senior lecturer in employment law at the University of East Anglia.
Another way to show you’re committed to law is to draw on everyday life. “You could tell a story about a work placement in a local supermarket and how complaints were handled there,” says McClean. “This may have inspired you to look up consumer protection laws and reflect on dispute resolution mechanisms, for example.”
Demonstrate that you can stick with something difficultImogen Goold
Show you’re hard working: Use your personal statement to show off your work ethic. Imogen Goold, associate professor and admissions co-ordinator at the University of Oxford, says that if you mention extra-curricular activities, such as sports or positions of responsibility, you should “do it in a way that demonstrates that you can stick with something difficult”.
Writing about volunteering or doing work experience will show you’re proactive, says McClean. The placement doesn’t have to be law-related, but try to relate your experiences to the legal profession.
Be honest: “We want the statement to give us an insight into who you are, not who you think we think you should be,” says Goold. Our tutors recommend resisting school or parental help. “We want to hear your voice. A statement that is overly sophisticated for a 17-year-old stands out and gives us cause for concern,” adds Ives.
What not to do
Don’t fixate on criminal justice: “Criminal law is a small part of a law degree,” says Ives. Yet this is what admissions tutors often see written about in statements. Instead, talk about a variety of law specialisms, such as civil rights, intellectual property or immigration law. “We want students who understand the breadth of the law and how it influences day-to-day life.”
Avoid jargon: Words are all you have in law and clarity is essential, so you shouldn’t overuse legal concepts or jargon, says Ives. “Tell the reader about yourself in simple and clear language,” says McLean And make sure you proofread your statement so it is clear, accurate and authentic.
Don’t plagiarise: Admission tutors read hundreds of statements, so they are likely to notice if yours is similar to something written online. “Stay away from the internet. When you receive 1500 statements a year, it’s easy to see where copying has taken place,” says Ives.
Don’t be formulaic: “We don’t have a checklist of things we want to see that you’ve done, and we don’t penalise you if you haven’t done work experience or don’t have lots of extra-curricular activities,” says Goold. “You don’t need to include a quotation, or list the law books you’ve read. Just tell us why law is for you.”
Thomas agrees: “We often get people writing a philosophical quote about law – which really doesn’t add anything to their application.”
Ives adds that you should avoid writing long lists of work experience. “We want to know about you. It is not the quantity but what you thought of the experience and how you have learned from it that counts.”