By Ben Feuer, photo by Kevin Dooley

It’s a truth that these days borders on a truism; you can’t get into a top-tier school without a top-tier application. That means having the right names and dates on your resume, having the right numbers in the right boxes, and most importantly of all, connecting with readers through the medium of your personal statement.

If you’re reading this article, you probably already have a sense of what an LL.M degree is and who it’s for. But just in case you’re some sort of zombie with a Google account, the LL.M is a degree for people with international legal training to become academically acquainted with America’s laws and systems. Some folks use it as a way to transition to the US legal market, and others use it as a way to gain prestige in their home countries and advance in their careers. Either way, it’s a useful set of letters to have in your pocket.

The personal statement (or statement of purpose, or personal essay, or whatever your institution of choice prefers to call it) is a bit different for LL.M students than it is for JD applicants (or, for that matter, the wide range of other degrees that call for one). Here are a few vitally important points for you to remember as you start writing.

This is an academic degree. Although many people see it as a professional degree, the LL.M is first and foremost an academic degree, particularly on the higher end. It’s important to emphasize which legal questions and subjects interest you, and to explore how you might advance your understanding of them at your target school. Academics value curiosity, intellectual engagement with the world and a willingness to ask questions, so make sure your essay highlights a few of these qualities.

Be conversational and tell a story. While you’re busy trying to sound smart, remember that all of this fabulous research and thinking you have done in the past and plan to do in the future has to fit into a larger narrative; who are you, and why is this the ideal moment for you to apply for an LL.M?  Far too often I see personal statement drafts that simply list a string of things that happened to you, expecting the reader to connect the emotional dots. Focus less on the what and more on the why of your history, and don’t feel enslaved by chronology – deal with incidents in whatever order best helps you tell your story.

Create a call to action, or engagement. Much like a marketing campaign, personal statements should invite the reader to join the writer on a journey to a specific destination, whether that’s a deeper understanding of a particular point of law or a platform from which to move the world. Once you know your goals and your trajectory, don’t neglect to explain why they matter, not just to you but to those around you. Give schools a reason to support you and they’ll happily do just that.

Still got questions? Of course you do! Fortunately, we’re just an email away, and we’re happy to help you better understand your next steps. Until we meet again, happy writing!