8 Tips for Writing a Better Diversity Statement for Your Law School Application.
Your law school application likely requires several written documents in addition to the usual suspects, like transcripts and test scores. This entire package gives admissions officers a comprehensive, yet personalized picture of your aptitude for advanced study and fit for their specific program. And, more and more often, admissions offices are asking that a diversity statement be included in that picture.
What is a Diversity Statement?
Generally speaking, a diversity statement details  your experience with diversity, personally and professionally, and  your approach to advancing equity and inclusion within the community and your workplace.
At Stetson Law, for example, our school’s statement includes our definition of what diversity means to us: “an acknowledgment of differences between groups of people and perhaps an invitation for such groups to join a community, inclusion involves embracing those differences by valuing and supporting the backgrounds and experiences of every individual and group in a way that will help create a sense of belonging and unity.”
Because we value the perspectives from the communities represented by our student body, faculty and staff, we also include their voices in our statement.
Similarly, the American Bar Association places great emphasis on diversity and inclusion, and has created its own mission statement outlining what diversity means within the justice system and for practicing lawyer: “promoting collaboration, coordination, and communication to … eliminate bias and enhance diversity and inclusion throughout the Association, legal profession, and justice system.”
Of course, these are statements written by a group to represent institutions. They can be helpful in getting you closer to your own definition of what diversity means to you, but their aims are ultimately a bit different from a diversity statement you write for law school.
That’s why we’ve developed this comprehensive guide to help you get started with yours.
Should I Write a Diversity Statement for Law School?
Some schools require a diversity statement as part of their application process, but others keep it optional. If you do get a choice in the matter, you’re left facing the question: should I write one? Is there any benefit, or risk, to your application if you choose to forego or submit a diversity statement?
Here are a few things to weigh as you make a decision.
- 1. Your diversity statement may be able to tell part of your story that the rest of your application can’t.
If you have expertise in working across different communities, including those that are historically underserved by the justice system, you’ll probably want to write a diversity statement. You’ll be able to use the extra space provided by a diversity statement to convey that depth of experience and to outline your specific skills in more detail.
Or maybe you’ve encountered obstacles, experienced injustice yourself, in ways that shape your desire to pursue legal studies and your approach to law. A diversity statement could be an opportunity for you to point out related interests or specializations, like Social Justice Advocacy, or to speak to the unique skills you’ve developed that make you a stronger lawyer-in-training.
If there’s more to your story, a diversity statement is a great place to tell it. Just make sure that you explain the connection between these experiences and your interest in studying law at that school.
- 2. The type of law you plan to study, or where you wish to practice, may ask that you have diversity training and experience connecting with people across different communities.
For example, maybe you state in your application that your dream is to work as a public defender or a district attorney. Given that such roles require you to represent people from different backgrounds and communities, it’s a good idea to write a diversity statement. In your statement, you could point to specific resources and courses of study offered by that law program, which you plan to pursue throughout your studies to prepare you for your chosen career.
Or perhaps you’re interested in a specialized field, like LGBTQ+ policy or environmental law. Identifying a preferred area of focus in your overall application can be a great way to show admissions committees that you’re aware of the programs they offer (you’ve done your research!) and that you’re already thinking long-term about a legal career. But you may also want to write a diversity statement that expands on those investments. You could include volunteer or advocacy work you’ve done for environmental causes, for instance, or whatever area of interest you’ve chosen. You could identify landmark cases that you’d want to study and revisit in your own career, or existing policies you’d want to examine closely throughout your studies.
And if a prospective law school offers specific concentration, a diversity statement could help you make your case for why you should study at that particular school.
Jen Rex, 2L at Stetson, did precisely that. "When I was looking into law schools, I really wanted to find a school that had a student organization for LGBTQ+ students and offered a welcoming environment,” Jen said. “ I was happy to find Stetson's Lambda Legal Society...The organization continues to grow and find ways to get involved and I am excited to be a part of it. I also appreciate that I can see myself represented in the faculty by multiple professors who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community and a host of others who are allies to the community. "
1. You may not have enough time in your busy schedule to create another quality piece of writing for your application.
If the diversity statement is optional, you may choose not to write one because you’re pressed on time. The written documents for law school applications can take hours to polish, and ideally include a few rounds of revision. If you’re fortunate enough to get your written pieces in front of word-sharp colleagues, professors or practicing lawyers, all the better.
But maybe you’re working full time, have an overbooked family life, or have been out of school for a few years and no longer have a campus-size roster of resources to workshop your writing samples. In this case, you may decide that writing a diversity statement isn’t the right choice for you at this time. It’s important to showcase your best work to admissions committees, and sometimes your best work includes wise restraint.
- 2. You may not have enough experience, knowledge, or training in diversity and equity issues to write effectively on the subject.
It’s vital that lawyers and legal professionals have diversity training. Hopefully your law school has built diversity education and resources into its program.
That said, maybe at the time of your application you don’t have that much knowledge or experience about the issues. In that case, it’s probably a good idea to hold off on writing a diversity statement. Instead, you could spend that time researching recent law articles on diversity topics or request a syllabus reading list from your chosen law school. That way you can get a head start on the work of diversity education, even if you’re not prepared to write an effective statement.
These are just a few of the pros and cons of writing a statement. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide if a diversity statement can advance your candidacy, or if your application is strong enough without one.
How Do I Write a Diversity Statement?
If you’re here, you’ve decided that writing a diversity statement is the right option for your law school application. Now you’re faced with the bigger challenge: outlining, drafting, and revising your statement.
Here are some useful guidelines to get you started.
- 1. Identify your statement’s purpose.
Approach your diversity statement with a clear purpose in mind. Are you writing it because of a specific experience that has shaped your approach or inspired your interest in a specific field? Are you invested in pursuing a particular type of legal practice or course of study at that law school?
Whatever the reason, it’s best to be upfront about it early in your diversity statement. Think of it as your opening statement, pun intended.
- 2. Define your approach to diversity, then explain what shaped that approach in the narrative that follows.
“Diversity” is a big word. And while diversity in thought and practice centers on inclusivity, it’s crucial that you define your own approach to that practice. This definition is also helpful from a structural vantage point: once you outline your approach to diversity, you can make sure the rest of the narrative that follows supports that definition. For writing in general, it’s best practice to define the terms you’re using as a framework. This way, you’ve gotten your readers on the same page as you, and the rest of your writing will be clearer and cohesive. All the makings of great legal writing!
- 3. Use that narrative structure to connect your personal experience with your professional training and education.
Your diversity statement might be very personal to you, and include very personal details. Or your diversity statement may center on education and professional training. Either is a great reason to write a diversity statement. But no matter what path your narrative takes, all roads lead back to your pursuit of legal studies - and your pursuit of legal studies at that law school, in particular. Many applicants get caught up in the details of their own narrative and forget their audience is an admissions committee. Law schools are invested in your stories, but they also need to know how they fit into your story and, in turn, how you fit into theirs. Make your case clear throughout your narrative. For example, you could cite specific courses you want to take that would help you advance skills you’ve already started. Or you could point out a legal society you’d like to join at the school that brings communities together around advocacy work that matters most to you. You could research that society’s recent and upcoming events, even its publications or press releases, to incorporate specific ways you’d want to get involved and do your part.
Personal and professional narratives work best when they forge a connection with an audience. So don’t forget to center that connection as you tell your story.
- 4. Before you conclude, make sure you’ve outlined how your law school pursuits align with your diversity goals for growth and engagement.
Building off of the previous tip, make sure that you end with a clear picture of how law school will help you advance your diversity goals. This is a great tip to revisit during the editing stage of your writing process. If, by the end of your read-through, it’s not clear (1) what your diversity goals are, and (2) how this law school will help you achieve them, you know you need to go back and edit your statement. The point to keep in mind here? Admissions committees need to leave your application with a firm grasp of how this school is right for you, and how you are right for them.
- 1. Tell a story, but avoid cliches.
“Throughout time,” “the human condition,” “society as a whole.” The phrases your writing teacher warned you about? They all apply here. A diversity statement can’t possibly take us through a history of time, or define what we mean by something as lofty as “the human condition.” Your statement is short, so you need to take advantage of the space by telling your story, in your terms, as specifically as possible. And, given that your application is designed to make you stand out as a prospective student, it’s best to avoid any phrases that cast you back into the crowd.
- 2. This is about you, so don’t be general.
Similar to the previous tip, it’s important to offer concrete details wherever possible. When you make general or generalizing claims in a personal diversity statement, you’re losing valuable real estate. Give the admissions committee a specific glimpse into how you think, how you learn, how you write, how you approach justice and communities.
- 3. Eliminate filler words or unnecessary padding.
Legal writing should be clear and to the point. As a prospective student, you should try to model that in your own application materials. That doesn’t mean eliminating turns of phrase or thick descriptions that give readers insight into your personality. It does mean cutting “filler” words from your prose. If you can rewrite a sentence the same way, but shorter? Do it! This is great practice for legal writing, but it’s also respectful of your readers. Admissions committees read a lot of applications, so great editing is a true kindness.
- 4. Be aware of your audience: be thoughtful in your word choice.
Speaking of admissions committees…
It’s important to remember that you’re writing for them. Even if your diversity statement is quite personal, your goal is to communicate your readiness to study law to a committee of experts. This means you need to be thoughtful in your word choice and focus. Lawyer jokes? Probably not a great idea. And, given that you’re writing a diversity statement, insensitive word choice is particularly glaring. Be thoughtful and deliberate in how you write your statement.
How Long Should a Diversity Statement Be?
Before you take advice from anything you read online, contact your law school admissions department first. They may have specific guidelines on how long your statement should be.
That said, if no parameters exist, you could safely aim for one to two pages, single spaced, with 12 point font. That’s about 500 - 800 words.
Ready to make real change? Stetson Law invites you to join our community of movers and shakers.
As you research prospective law schools, consider Stetson Law. We offer a range of courses, programs and resources dedicated to building diversity, equity and inclusion in the legal community.
We’re also here to answer any questions you may have about the program and admissions, including diversity statement guidelines! Contact us any time.
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Topics: Applying to Law School, Law School Prep