Is the Law School Diversity Statement for You?
First of all, let’s be clear: the law school diversity statement is not just for racial or ethnic minorities. Although race and ethnic diversity are one component of diversity, the term is far more expansive. You should approach the diversity statement as an opportunity to tell the admissions committee something unique about yourself, about what makes you tick or has shaped your worldview. This opportunity is best understood by recognizing why the personal statement frequently makes it difficult to do this.
Although the personal statement should be personal, by definition, the reality is the personal statement requires you to marshal the facts of your life into a coherent and compelling story about how those experiences make you a good, dare I say natural, fit for law school and legal practice. This necessarily involves careful selection of often personal, but frequently, academic or professional experiences. For a fortunate few, your deepest passions or most fundamental personal experiences will intersect perfectly with your dream job as a lawyer. For many, though, that simply is not the case.
For most people, then, you are forced to limit your statement to those experiences that build the inferential chain that reaches the conclusion that law school is right for you. So although you are able to give the admissions committee a window into who you are, it is usually a very narrow window, the parameters of which are determined by your topic and “angle.” But you are more than your personal statement or resume suggests, and the diversity statement is just the place to make that known.
A good law school diversity statement requires you to be extremely introspective. The end goal is not to say “I am a perfect fit for law school.” The end goal of the diversity statement is to leave your reader with a better understanding of how your unique set of experiences has shaped your worldview or belief template. Perhaps it is about how your racial or ethnic identity has shaped how you interact with the world around you. But it could just as easily be your religious experience, or family makeup, or significant age difference from the median law student, or upbringing in a rural community or Appalachia. Alternatively, it could simply be your love for art, or music, or – fill in other creative endeavor – and the confidence or solace you have found in it. The list goes on.
All of these are ways of showing that you are not just some academic automaton or future legal star: they show you are human, that you will add complexity and texture to whichever law school you attend, both inside and outside of the classroom.
So, here’s some practical advice:
1) Are there certain assumptions people would make about you given the profile you have presented in your personal statement, resume, and academic record? Do you have interests or experiences that cut against that narrative and might deepen an admissions committee’s appreciation for you as a person? Then you may have the building blocks of a strong diversity statement.
For example, some of the best diversity statements I have read have complicated the assumptions I had about a person: a black Jew comfortable and conversant in totally different social settings, a white rapper and DJ moved by the spirit and genealogy of old school hip-hop, a religious fundamentalist who constantly interrogates their belief system, and an urban cowboy who traverses different racial and cultural divides. Importantly, however, what made these statements effective is not just that they were unexpected or quirky, what mattered most is that they relayed to the reader the unique perspective that those experience had given them.
2) Think of all the things you love, that would tell an admissions committee who you are as a person, that you wanted to put into your personal statement but couldn’t. Do any of these things tell a deeper story about what animates how you see the world, about what makes you come alive? If they do, they might make for a great diversity statement.
It’s not always easy to identify these qualities or experiences and understand how they can be tailored into an effective diversity statement. But that’s what we’re here for. Feel free to contact us and set up a free consultation to get some perspective on statement ideas you might be toying around with.