Students of all ages and experience levels often wonder how to appropriately express their professional credentials on their law school application. Whether you have college jobs, an internship, or twenty years of professional experience under your belt, there are a few overall guidelines you can follow to get the biggest application bang from your experience buck.
At Seton Hall Law School we encourage applicants to be thorough in sharing the details of these experiences so they may be considered in the review process. The first step to sharing the details is to determine the best place to highlight your professional experience on your application. Luckily, this answer is pretty easy: your resume and/or your personal statement.
The most obvious place to highlight professional experience is a resume. If you are currently at a university, you should speak to your career development office for guidance on building your resume. If you have been working for an extended period, you likely have a professional resume already on your computer – time to update it.
The old rule of limiting your resume to one or two pages does not apply to a law school application, provided you have the experience level to warrant a longer resume. If you’ve been working for several years, particularly if you’ve moved companies or been promoted, moving beyond two pages is fine. Generally speaking, a current student, or new professional, likely does not have the level or depth of experience to warrant going over one or two pages.
The purpose of your resume is to exhibit to the admissions committee the breadth and depth of your experience. This is not the time to be shy. Your resume should be professional in appearance and demeanor, but also thorough and illustrative. For instance, if you have a generic or obscure title a reviewer should know the essence of what you do within the first two lines of the description. Don’t hide the ball.
Utilizing your personal statement to highlight your professional accomplishments takes a bit of finesse. You need to strike a balance between a “resume narrative” and allowing the committee to feel as though they have gotten to know you better as a person. The resume narrative usually consists of summarizing all or most of your work experience in chronological order, but in an essay format. Instead of recounting the arc of your professional career, I suggest picking one or two aspects of your professional experience (positions, responsibilities, etc.) to focus on and discuss how those areas specifically challenged you or helped you grow.
If you have less professional experience, I advise not making your entire personal statement revolve around this topic. There are many different stories you could tell, and they could make just as excellent an impression as your work experience.
If you’re applying to part time law school after a longer career, your motivation could be based on wanting to pursue a career change or enhancement by obtaining a law degree. In this situation, I recommend taking the approach of “why law school; why now” when writing your personal statement. By utilizing that lens, you can talk about your personal motivation and how law school complements your professional experiences and aspirations.
Be sure to also read this blog post for some advice on making your personal statement stand out for the right reasons. Always remember: your personal statement is a chance to tell your story.
Regardless of how you choose to frame your professional experience, and no matter how much of it you have, the key is to do it in a meaningful way. Overall, you should be clear, concise, and explain the life experiences you bring to the classroom. If you ever have a question about how to highlight your professional experiences on your application, please reach out to us. We are here to help you put your best foot forward.