How to Write the Perfect LL.M. Statement

ChatGPT has ignited concerns over cheating, but, for now, law schools say the personal statement remans a key piece of the LL.M. application

If you’re applying to an LL.M. program, writing a personal statement to your graduate law school is likely to be one of the first steps on the road to being admitted. The LL.M. statement is an opportunity to showcase what you can bring to your future cohort, which will be finely balanced to include a diversity of perspectives.

Although they may not ask you directly, the admissions committee will be looking to assess your fit with the law school’s unique culture. So, it’s important to show that you have done thorough research into the law school and its LL.M. program. 

It’s a good idea to go beyond the information offered on the school’s website, and speak to current or past students to get a feel for the institution, its strengths and attributes.

“Statements are an applicant’s opportunity to highlight what makes them unique and their fit for a particular institution,” says Maureen Tracey Leo, Director of International Graduate Programs at Boston University (BU) Law School. 

While some experts believe the personal statement will become less important because of advances in technology, others say that the digital era is only going to make authenticity more important in LL.M. statements.  

Make a strong first impression 

They’re one of the earliest interactions that you’ll have with your intended law school, so make sure your first impression counts. Law schools will say they judge each application holistically, paying attention to the application as a whole. But without a strong personal statement, you are unlikely to make it to the latter stages of the process.

“Paying careful attention to detail is critical, so students should make sure the statement is grammatically correct and error-free,” stresses Tracey Leo.

A good personal statement is likely to lead to the admissions interview, one of the final stages of the LL.M. application. The point is to demonstrate insight into your personality, background and ambition in greater detail that your CV will go into -- but in a way that makes you shine.

“It's very important,” stresses Tracey Leo of the personal statement. “It gives admissions officers a chance to see the candidate outside of their resume, GPA or test scores.”

How to structure your LL.M. statement 

In terms of structure, the LL.M. statement would normally start with an overview of who you are, clearly spelling out your past achievements, motivations as well as your short-term and long-term career goals. Crucially, stress how the LL.M. will help you get where you want to go.

“The LL.M. statement allows us to evaluate what the candidate has already done and what they hope to achieve in the future,” Tracey Leo says.

From there, go into more detail about why you have chosen your law school, highlighting specific elements of the LL.M. program that resonate with you and your specific areas of interest.

A personal statement should be around one side of A4 paper, but it’s important to check the admissions requirements with the law school before sitting down to write your statement. 

While some business schools now let prospective students submit other forms of content, such as videos and images, law schools generally still require written statements for admission to their LL.M. programs.

“There has been very little innovation in LL.M. personal statements in the past. Many schools have not changed their questions or prompts for many years,” says Martin Stanford, a Senior Consultant at GoLLM Admissions Consultants.

ChatGPT: will it kill the personal statement?

However, he stresses that law schools may place less emphasis on written statements in the future because of fears over cheating sparked by the emergence of generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools such as ChatGPT.

“We know that law schools have recognized the problem and we can expect to see several changes with regards to the personal statement, but also to the admissions process more generally, being rolled out soon,” says Stanford.

In terms of the personal statement, he believes schools will emphasize the “personal” element even more. “It’s easier to let AI write a generic essay about a legal topic but not yet as easy to have it write a truly personal story, which is what most schools want to see,” explains Stanford.

Tracey Leo appears to strongly agree. “Generative AI tools may be a useful resource for students to check for grammatical or language errors in statements they have already drafted,” she says. 

“However, students should avoid using these tools to write the entire personal statement for them because the products generated by these tools often lack character, humor, and all the things that make the best personal statements unique.”

So while law schools may place less emphasis on the written elements of the application in future, for now, prospective students will need to focus their efforts on writing a cracking LL.M. statement if they’re to secure admission. 

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