Law School Personal Statement Length Law

How Long Should My Law School Personal Statement Be?

by Daniel Coogan

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Although much of the law school application process has been standardized, there are still some aspects of it that change from school to school. One such aspect is the length of the law school personal statement.

To illustrate this point, let’s take a look at several schools’ personal statement length guidance:

  • Harvard has strict requirements for length and formatting of personal statements: 2 pages maximum, 11pt minimum font size, 1-inch margins, double spaced
  • Columbia asks for two double-spaced pages “using readable fonts and margins”
  • UC Berkeley asks for a personal statement that is “ideally four, double-spaced pages”
  • Georgetown states: “There is no minimum or maximum length. We do not feel that an applicant’s personal statement should be limited.”

These examples show that there is great variety in both length requirements and in specificity in describing those requirements.

So what is an applicant to do? Most applicants apply to ten or more schools, and it is unfeasible to write a different version of one’s personal statement for each school one applies to. Instead, we recommend that you write two versions of your personal statement: a 2-page version and a 3+ page version. These two versions, with some minor modifications, will satisfy all length requirements.

Start by writing the three-page version, finalize it, and then pare it down to a two-page version if necessary. (It will almost certainly be necessary: two pages is the most common length requirement.) The process of paring down the essay may be painful and may take several hours over a couple of sittings, but it is much easier than writing two different essays.

A few additional rules of thumb:

  • Follow each school’s instructions to the letter. We mentioned Harvard’s requirements above: 2 pages, 11pt minimum font size, one-inch margins, double-spaced. If they spent the time putting together those requirements, they don’t want you to deviate from them.
  • Don’t play games with margins, font size, etc. First of all, it’s obvious to the reader that you have changed the document properties to fit more words into less space. Second, it’s just less pleasant to read. Remember that there is an actual human being at the other end of this process, and he or she will not appreciate reading an essay that is cramped or significantly different in format from the other components of the application.
  • Keep it brief. When no length is specified, only consider writing something longer than three pages if you have something truly compelling to say.
  • Use a header. Create a header that includes your full name and LSAC number, and indicates that the document is your personal statement. Do this for every written component of your application, not just your personal statement, and make sure it’s on every page of the document. 📝

Daniel Coogan is the Director of Law School Admissions Counseling at Stratus Admissions Counseling.Daniel is a graduate of the New York University School of Law and Bowdoin College. At NYU, Dan was an articles editor for the Journal of Law and Business, and did extensive coursework in corporate and partnership taxation and tax policy. After preparing for the LSAT and applying to law school with the help of Stratus Admissions Counseling, Dan tutored Stratus clients on the LSAT and GMAT before and during law school. After law school, Dan was a tax attorney at a major corporate law firm before rejoining Stratus in his current capacity. Dan has advised dozens of applicants over the past several admissions cycles at Stratus. Follow this link to learn more.

Application Components FAQ


How long should my personal statement/essay be?
How many letters of recommendation should I submit and from whom?
I have been out of school for awhile and am no longer in contact with any of my professors. Do I still need academic letters of recommendation?
Does Columbia require the submission of a dean’s certification?
Are there any instances in which I need to submit a dean’s certification with my initial application?
I completed a study abroad program while I was in college. Do I need to submit a dean’s appraisal/certification form from the institution abroad?
Can I submit an addendum or additional written materials along with my application?
How do I submit a request for a deferral?

Does the Admissions Committee conduct interviews as a part of the admissions process?


How long should my personal statement/essay be?

While there is no official page limit, a good guideline is two double-spaced pages, using readable fonts and margins. Your personal statement/essay should be a clear and concise example of your best writing. It should also be free from spelling and grammatical errors.


How many letters of recommendation should I submit and from whom?


Columbia requires two letters of recommendation to complete your application. We expect applicants currently in school or recently graduated (i.e., applying within less than approximately one year of receiving their degree) to submit two academic letters from faculty who can provide insight about their candidacy. Academic letters should come from individuals who have taught applicants in the classroom or have evaluated applicants in a significant academic capacity. Applicants with substantive work experience who are not recent graduates must submit one professional letter and at least one academic letter of recommendation. While the Committee will accept more than two letters of recommendation, we suggest that applicants use discretion when determining the appropriate number of letters to submit.

Please be advised that, unless we are otherwise notified in response to Question 9.2 of the application, we will complete your application upon receipt of two letters of recommendation.


I have been out of school for a while and am no longer in contact with any of my professors. Do I still need academic letters of recommendation?

You may submit letters of recommendation from professional references (e.g., former supervisors) if you are unable to locate former professors. However, the Committee does prefer academic letters of recommendation, so please make every attempt to obtain at least one.


Does Columbia require the submission of a dean’s certification?

Columbia will require admitted applicants to submit a dean’s appraisal/certification form, or an equivalent certification, from every educational institution at which he/she has been matriculated toward a degree (regardless of whether a degree was conferred) throughout his/her educational career. Matriculation at the Law School is contingent upon the satisfactory completion of the dean’s appraisal/certification form(s), which will be made available once an applicant has been notified of acceptance into Columbia Law School.

Withholding information regarding disciplinary history from your initial application will be considered by the Admissions Committee as a violation of the Law School’s principles of academic integrity. If you answer yes to questions 8.1—8.2 on the application, then you will need to furnish a statement from the administration at your school regarding your disciplinary history.


Are there any instances in which I need to submit a dean’s certification with my initial application?

Yes. If you have been subject to disciplinary censure by any educational institution you attended or if there are any disciplinary charges pending against you, then you will need to submit a dean’s certification or letter that includes an explanation of the incident, as well as a statement of current standing at that academic institution at the time of your initial application. If you have ever been convicted of a crime other than a minor parking violation or if there are any criminal charges pending or expected to be brought against you, then you must provide a detailed, complete, and truthful written explanation with your initial application, irrespective of advice you may have received to the contrary.


I completed a study abroad program while I was in college. Do I need to submit a dean’s appraisal/certification Form from the institution abroad?

The dean’s appraisal/certification form is required only from institutions at which you were matriculated toward a degree. Since during most study abroad programs students continue to be matriculated at their home institutions, a dean’s appraisal/certification form is generally not required from the institution abroad. This rule of thumb also extends to summer classes, continuing education courses, evening courses, and/or any other classes taken for a reason other than the completion of a degree (e.g., personal interest, professional development).


Can I submit an addendum or additional written materials along with my application?

Yes. The Admissions Committee believes that candidates should be able to expand upon aspects of their candidacy that are otherwise not represented in the required materials. Some examples include diversity statements, statements of strong interest in Columbia Law School, explanations of undergraduate and/or LSAT performance, etc. We strongly suggest that applicants use their best judgment, in terms of content and length, when considering the submission of supplemental materials.


How do I submit a request for a deferral?

Columbia Law School maintains a liberal deferral policy—one to two years after admission. Admitted students who have submitted a seat deposit must notify the Office of Admissions of their wish to defer no later than June 1, 2018.

Admitted students who have been granted deferred admission are required to:

  1. Submit an additional, nonrefundable deposit that will be applied to tuition at the time of matriculation; and
  2. Sign an agreement that indicates the individual has withdrawn all prior applications to other law schools, does not currently hold deferred status at another law school, and will not submit new applications to other law schools.

Applicants admitted from our Reserve category cannot defer admission.


Does the Admissions Committee conduct interviews as a part of the admissions process?

While we are unable to interview all candidates that submit an application for admission, some candidates may be contacted for interviews during the admissions process. Please note that we are unable to consider requests for interviews. For more information, we encourage you to review the Frequently Asked Questions regarding the Interview Program.


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