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​​Law School Addendum: Writing Tips, Samples & Expert Advice

October 24, 2023
6 min read


Reviewed by:

David Merson

Former Head of Pre-Law Office, Northeastern University, & Admissions Officer, Brown University

Reviewed: 10/24/23

If you’re in the process of applying to law school and want to know more about how and why you should write a law school addendum, read on!

person typing on laptop

Law school addendums can either make or break your law school application. While this optional supplementary letter may not seem like an important part of your application, it definitely is!

Writing a good addendum can boost your chances of gaining admission into your dream law school, helping you get one step closer to your ultimate goal of becoming Harvey Specter.

However, a poorly written or unnecessary addendum can harm your application and put a damper on your dreams of becoming a hot-shot attorney.

To help you decide if writing an addendum for your law school application is right for you, we’ve put together this guide that will tell you everything you need to know about what addendums are, including when and how to write them.

What Is a Law School Addendum?

Let’s begin with the basics. What is an addendum for law school?

Well, consider it your saving grace if you have anything on your application that might make the admissions team raise their eyebrows.

The addendum is designed to close any gaps in your application so the admission committee doesn’t make wrongful assumptions about you or your candidacy. When reviewing your application, you don’t want the admissions team to question your character, integrity, or intelligence.

If there is anything that could make you look like a less-than-ideal candidate, you’ll want to write an addendum to explain the circumstances. But remember, this is an explanation letter – not an excuse.

When to Write a Law School Addendum

You should only write an addendum to an application for law school if you have to. As we mentioned, it is meant to explain anything on your application that could make you seem like an unfit candidate. Read on to find out the most common reasons students write explanatory letters on their law school applications. 

Low GPA Scores

GPA scores and class marks are solid numbers law schools use to assess your academic performance and compare you to other students. If you have a GPA that is significantly lower than average or you failed some courses, you’ll probably want to write an addendum. 

Whether it be a family emergency that took up a lot of your time, a full-time job you needed to support yourself, or other personal difficulties, you can write a letter or essay to explain your low grades.

F grade on test

Low LSAT Scores

The LSAT is a notoriously challenging exam, so it’s not unusual to have a low score. You should only use an addendum to explain low LSAT scores if they were affected by extraneous circumstances, if English is not your first language, or if you have large score discrepancies. 

Even if you have a significant increase in your LSAT score, some law schools will ask you to use an addendum to explain why. 

A Criminal Record

Whatever your criminal record is, even if it’s just a traffic violation, you should write a letter to explain yourself. Lawyers are meant to enforce the law, so having a criminal record may make you seem unfit to do so.

Keep in mind that you should only explain what is on your record. Adding additional details or crimes that aren’t on your record will create more questions than answers. 

Woman looking through prison bars

Academic Misconduct

Whether you were put on academic probation, caught for plagiarism, or expelled from a school, you’ll definitely want to explain why through an addendum on your application. Law schools want to know they’re accepting students who will uphold their values and act with academic integrity.

When Not to Write a Law School Addendum

question marks

Now that you know when to write an addendum for law school, it’s also important to know when not to. 

If you did significantly worse in your first year of college but improved in the subsequent years, you do not have to write an addendum. It is clear you were able to get the marks you needed, and the majority of college students have this experience.

Another reason not to write an addendum is if your scores are just below your school’s requirements. If you are only a few points off on the LSAT, this does not warrant an explanation. Law schools consider your entire application, so slightly lower-than-average scores aren’t necessarily red flags.

If you’ve written about a circumstance in your personal statement and have described why it caused you to perform worse than expected, you don’t have to repeat yourself in your addendum.

Overall, regardless of the reason, you should not write an addendum if you don’t have an appropriate explanation for what happened. If you scored low on your LSAT simply because you didn’t take the time to prepare and refused to retake it, you shouldn’t write an addendum. In this case, it’s actually better to just say nothing at all.

How to Write a Law School Addendum

Woman writing on paper while working on computer

It is important to remember that this essay is not like your personal statement. You aren’t trying to evoke any emotion or present an argument. You also don’t want to have a pity party! 

You should stick to the facts and be concise. Take responsibility for your actions, explain why they happened, and prove they won’t happen again (if applicable). You should also make it clear that the situation will not cause any issues in your legal studies and that you have grown since.

To make writing this addendum simple, here is a list of dos and don’ts detailing how to write your addendum:

Dos Don'ts
Keep it simple and concise Give lengthy explanations
Use strong, positive language Use flowery, emotive language
Keep it at around one page long Make it longer than one page
Stick to a three-paragraph format Write multiple short paragraphs or one long paragraph
Take responsibility for your actions Place blame on someone/something else
Prove how you grew as a person from the experience Only explain past circumstances without mention of how it relates to who you are now and who you will be in the future
Try to convince the committee this situation is not representative of who you are as a person and who you will be as a law student and lawyer Try to make the committee pity you for everything you’ve been through
Watch out for spelling and grammar errors that can reduce the efficacy of your writing Submit your addendum without thoroughly editing it

Source: US News

Knowing what to include and what not to include in your explanatory essay will help you write a good one. Understanding the appropriate structure is also crucial.

To make the process as easy as possible, you can follow a simple three-part process to ensure your addendum flows well:

Part One: The Incident

In your introduction, you want to briefly explain what you’ll address in your addendum (low GPA, low LSAT, criminal record, academic misconduct, etc.) and what happened.

Part Two: The Explanation

Then, you’ll want to explain the circumstances of the incident and take responsibility for it. Don’t make excuses or minimize the incident. Simply state the facts and own up to your actions. 

Part Three: The Growth

You’ll want to end your essay positively and prove how you’ve grown from the incident, how you’ve become a better person since, and assure the committee the incident will never happen again.

Plant sprouting from hand

By following this three-part structure, your addendum will be easy to read and follow. It will flow logically, and the admissions committee will have all the information they need to decide whether to pardon the incident.

Keep in mind that the admissions committee will also be reading your personal statement, resume, diversity statement, and any other supplemental essays you have to write for your application. Accordingly, you don’t want to repeat any information that is in any of these other parts of your application, and you want to keep your writing concise.

Stick to what’s relevant and focus the majority of your attention on getting your thoughts out clearly to prove that you are still a worthy candidate.

Law School Addendum Sample

Female student writing in notebook

If you’re struggling to write your explanatory essay, here’s a sample addendum from Brigham Young University Law School:

“I would like to make the Admissions Committee aware of the circumstances surrounding my grades.
I came to BYU in the fall of 2020 and maintained a GPA of 3.7 or above. In winter semester of 2021, I received a GPA of 2.1. My mother was diagnosed with cancer that semester, and I made several trips home to support her in her illness. In retrospect, I probably should have withdrawn from school, but at the beginning of the semester, I did not understand how much time and effort it would take to help her through this difficult time.
Since that semester, I have maintained a GPA of 3.7 or above. I hope you will take this information into account when you evaluate my application. Thank you for your time and consideration.”

As you can see, this addendum is extremely short, stays on topic, and follows the three-part process:

  • Part One: Incident: The student received a 2.1 GPA in the winter semester of 2021.
  • Part Two: Explanation: His mother was diagnosed with cancer, and he had to make several time-consuming trips to support her.
  • Part Three: Growth: He knows he should have withdrawn from school but has since maintained a 3.7 GPA and above.

Your addendum can be this simple or can be more detailed, depending on your circumstances and the growth you’d like the committee to be aware of. You may choose to look at more examples of academic-related addendums like this one, or you can find an example of a character and fitness addendum related to misconduct. 

FAQs: Law School Addendum

In case you still have questions, here are some answers to a few frequently asked questions about addendums for law school.

1. How Do You Write a Good Addendum for Law School?

The most important step to writing a good addendum is to ensure you are explaining yourself and not providing excuses. You want to show that you are responsible, self-aware, and able to learn from your mistakes.

You should stick to the facts and prove that you’ve grown since the incident, assuring the committee it won’t happen again.

Additionally, you want to keep it short. The admissions committee already has thousands of applications and essays to read; if your addendum is not concise, you risk losing the committee’s interest.

2. How Do You Start an Addendum?

You’ll want to write your name and LSAC number in the top left corner and title the document “Addendum.”

Then, you want to start your introduction by immediately addressing the incident that occurred. Since this is a short explanatory text, you shouldn’t spend time easing into the incident or building up to it.  

For instance, your first sentence could be: “During my final year of my undergraduate degree, I failed two of my courses: Business Management and Applied Mathematics.

This opening sentence gets straight to the point and allows the writer to spend the rest of the addendum explaining more details about the failures, why they occurred, and how the student grew from the experience.

3. How Long Should an Addendum Be?

Your addendum should only be around one page long.

4. Do I Have to Write an Addendum?

No, you should only write an addendum if there is an incident on your application that could prevent you from being offered admission. This can be a low GPA, a low LSAT score, academic misconduct, or legal violations.

5. What Should I Avoid in My Addendum?

Avoid being overly emotional, and don’t try to get the committee to pity you (it won’t work!). Keep your addendum short and stay on topic.   

6. Do Addendums Actually Matter?

Yes! If you have a legitimate reason to write one, an addendum can be the one part of your application that actually gets you in.

Even with perfect LSAT scores, superb supplemental essays, and stellar experience, factors like a criminal record, previous academic misconduct, or even class failures can severely impact your chances of admission.

Final Thoughts

As Harvey Specter wisely said, “you always have a choice.” Now that you know what an addendum is for law school and how to write one, you can decide if you should write one yourself.

Remember, this addendum must be well-written and useful in order to actually benefit you. If you don’t need one, don’t write one! That’s one less step of the extensive law school application process that you have to worry about.

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