Tips for Law School Letter of Recommendations

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The major components of your application packet will be your LSAT score, GPA and personal statement, but your letters of recommendation are an integral part that you cannot afford to overlook. In fact, we recommend starting the process of acquiring letters of recommendation for law school as soon as possible, as professors are notoriously slow at writing them.

Surprised? Don’t be. They’ve got a life! Plan ahead by reading our full guide below and you’ll nab effective and powerful letters of recommendation that can give you an important edge in the applicant pool. Here’s how to transform your letters of recommendation for law school from an afterthought into a dealmaker:

1. Ask for Letters of Recommendation for Law School Early

When we say early we mean early. As we said, professors don’t clear their schedules to write your letter of recommendation right away. It will also take a few weeks for each of your letters of recommendation to process through the administrative channels of the LSAC offices.

Meet with your professors (or employers) three months ahead of when you plan to apply to request letters of recommendation for law school. This is ample time to get the letters completed and submitted in most cases. Another factor to consider: don’t ask for a letter of recommendation too early, or the professor might forget about it or procrastinate. During the meeting explicitly mention when you would like to receive your letters of recommendation for law school. You can even fudge the date and request them a few days ahead of time for a cushion.

Also, ask for more letters of recommendation for law school than you actually need. You never know who will forget to send it in or be too late and miss the deadline. Prepare ahead to avoid frustration.

2. Ask for Letters of Recommendation for Law School in Person

If possible always meet your professor in person to request a letter of recommendation for law school. This carries two distinct advantages over a phone call or email:

  • Scheduling a meeting communicates that you are taking the application process seriously. Emails can be misconstrued, and it’s easier to forget an email exchange than an in-person conversation. Solidify your commitment to law school with a quick meeting.
  • An in-person meeting helps you gauge their interest in writing you a letter of recommendation. You can usually read their body language and interpret their enthusiasm easily when face-to-face. If they don’t seem enthused consider asking someone else.

You should arrive at the meeting fully prepared with application materials that will assist them in writing the best possible letter of recommendation for law school. These materials include:

  • Transcript
  • Resume
  • Personal Statement (at least an outline)
  • The best piece of work you completed for that professor
  • An answer to the question “why do you want to go to law school?”
  • A cover sheet listing a few qualities you believe you demonstrated in class

In the meeting be polite and engaging, but try to be quick. Don’t linger unless your professor is a fan of small talk — you don’t want to take up too much of their time. That’s why it’s important to come prepared with materials you can leave behind.

What if you live several hours away from where you went to undergrad? It’s still better to schedule a meeting. Plan ahead and schedule meetings with multiple professors so you can make the most of your trip.

3. Ask for Letters of Recommendation for Law School From People Who Know You Well

Don’t ask a family friend who is a judge or an alumni of your top choice law school to write you a letter of recommendation if you met them once when you were 16 years old. Even John Roberts can’t do you any favors if it’s obvious he didn’t know you.

Don’t ask someone to write you a letter of recommendation because of who they are; ask someone for a letter of recommendation for law school because they know you well enough to write a personalized, thoughtful recommendation.

It’s perfectly acceptable to ask for a letter of recommendation from a TA if you were in a large class and didn’t get much face time with the professor. In this situation be sure to have the professor sign off on the letter of recommendation for law school along with your TA’s signature.

4. Prioritize Academic Letters of Recommendation for Law School

Try to include at least two letters of recommendation for law school written by professors. Your third can come from a supervisor at work, but law schools are evaluating you as a student, not as an employee. They care about your academic habits and want to evaluate you in that light.

If you have been out of undergrad for five or more years you can start using more letters of recommendation from employers instead of academic ones. However, still try to submit one academic letter of recommendation for law school if you have a friendly relationship with one of your former professors.

5. Ask English Professors for Letters of Recommendation for Law School

The quality of the writing of your letters of recommendation for law school isn’t technically being evaluated, but a beautifully written recommendation will really persuade an admissions panel. English professors tend to write more eloquent and evocative letters of recommendation than, say, math professors. If you have enough possible candidates consider who demonstrates the best command of language.

6. Request Letters of Recommendation for Law School From People Who Have Seen Different Sides of You

This will perhaps be the most difficult rule to implement, but it will also put you the most ahead of other candidates who won’t think to do this. When considering who to ask for letters of recommendation for law school think about the context of the class and your relationship with the professor.

Instead of asking multiple composition professors, for example, ask a variety of people who will create a nuanced portrait of you with their combined recommendation letters. If one professor knows your writing abilities very well, find another professor who saw you in a more clinical or oratorical light. Your letters of recommendation for law school will be more effective if they don’t read as copies of each other.

 

Follow these tips to have multiple well-written letters of recommendation for law school submitted weeks before your application deadline. Learn how to craft an effective personal statement and position yourself for acceptance from your “dream” law schools. Take advantage of a special discount for Blueprint students and meet with a law school admissions consultant to boost every element of your application, from your resume to your diversity statement.

25 Responses

  1. Great advice, particularly #3 and #4, which I hadn’t really thought about.

    It’s also really critical to make sure that you’re going to get a great letter from each recommender. If they’re lukewarm, better to move on to someone else!

    Here’s a script for getting clerkship LORs from law school professors, but it’s equally applicable to law school LORs from undergrad professors: http://thegirlsguidetolawschool.com/08/make-your-clerkship-application-letters-of-recommendation-shine/

  2. Tammy says:

    What advice do you have re: asking for letters of rec when you live out of town? Also asking for letters of rec in classes where you didn’t get an A, such as a B+?

    I am about 2 years out of school and live about 6 hours away from my undergrad. 1 professor specifically offered to write me a letter of rec when i talked to him about law schools a couple years ago and requested an email.

    However, I still need to request 1-2 more. Contemplating how I should do it. Suggestions? I do plan on requesting 1 from my employer since I’ve been working for the last 2 years.

    • Making that 6 hour trip > phone call > e-mail.

      If it’s at all possible to make it out there, arrange a few meetings ahead of time and then schlep your way over. Meeting in person makes you seem more serious as well as allows you to gauge how interested the potential recommender is in writing you a LoR.

      If you can’t do that, try to get the person on the phone (probably by arranging it through e-mail), or get in touch by e-mail as a last resort. Though if the person is ducking your other e-mails and calls, you might want to reconsider asking them for a LoR.

      As far as asking a professor who gave you a B+, that depends on your relationship. If you feel they have a positive view of your abilities as a student, then go for it. However, be careful, because they obviously didn’t think you were one of the best students they taught (otherwise, they’d give a grade that reflected those accomplishments). If you developed a personal relationship that transcended the academic one, and the professor recognizes that you’re a strong student in spite of the B+ grade (which is by no means bad, and there’s an number of legitimate reasons for receiving that instead of an A), then go for it.

      • Tammy says:

        Ah, i was afraid you were going to say that. But yes that is a good point. I’ll make some time to do that.

        And, ironically it’s the class that I got a B+ in that I really felt like I had made an effort to the point where my TA/professor would’ve noticed it. In most of my other classes, (even the ones with good marks) I feel like my professors hardly knew me.

  3. Lisa says:

    Rule # 5 (” go into the meeting unprepared”) threw me…

    • shah says:

      I believe its supposed to say “prepared”. Threw me off too.

      Thanks for the tips, I have searched many places for good ones and some of these are not mentioned anywhere else.

      • I don’t know what the two of you are talking about. *quickly edits original post* It’s said ‘prepared’ the whole time!

        • shah says:

          Matt I have a question for you, hoping you could give me some advice. I haven’t asked for any LOR’s yet because I am having a hard time choosing which teachers to ask. I feel like none of them really know me that well because I didn’t really interact with any of them outside of class. Do you have any tips so that I can help them write a more detailed and personal letter about me? I know rule #5 helps in this respect, but I haven’t written my personal statement, nor have I finished my resume to give to them. I would like to ask them to write it ASAP because I am taking the test in December and then applying write away and its some time to process too.. (Obvisouly I didn’t follow rule #1)

          Thanks!!

          Any help would be appreciated.

          • shah says:

            At this time I’d like to ask for an edit feature to me added to the commenting system, haha, sorry for the spelling mistakes!

          • On that short of a timeline, it’s going to be hard. I can’t tell you to start developing a relationship with a professor, because you should really be asking for the LoRs RIGHT NOW.

            I would pick a few professors who gave you top marks. Meet them during office hours, show up with a copy of your best work for that class, write out a beautiful cover letter discussing your background, and talk with them for a little while before leaving that information behind. Being polite and gracious will get you everywhere.

          • Tammy says:

            This might seem like a dumb question but, I’m not taking the test in December but I haven’t formally asked for LoR yet either because I barely started my personal statement. Would you say it’s advisable to spend some time, say 1-2 weeks (I’m leaning towards 1 week) preparing a draft of a personal statement, or throw together a cover letter, some bullet points, (I have transcript and resume) and ask RIGHT now?

  4. Hey Tammy,

    Are you planning to apply to start in 2012? Do you already have an LSAT score?

    If you answered yes to these questions, get to asking the professors for LoRs ASAP. It’s going to take a few weeks to get everything in, and you want to aim to be done by Thanksgiving.

    If you answered no, then you’ve still got time.

    If you answered yes to the first, but no to the second, you’re in trouble. You want your applications in as early as possible, so if you’re planning on taking February to apply for 2012, you’re way behind the game and might want to consider taking a year off to get some work experience and allow yourself time to apply early.

  5. Tammy says:

    Yes I’m planning to apply for 2012. Yes I have an LSAT score. I was ready to ask for my LoR’s as soon as I got my score a few days ago, but then i saw the blog post mentioning the personal statement and freaked out, haha.

    • Ah, well in that case, ask them ASAP! The sooner, the better. It’s good to be prepared and have all those materials when going into the meeting, but at this point it’s better to get the ball rolling ASAP. You can always send them a draft later (believe me, the ‘ideas’ for their LoR will still be roiling in their heads, and not on a sheet of paper).

  6. Tammy says:

    Would you advise nixing rule 1, asking my profs now and give them a month-ish for my LoR, to get all my applications materials in by Thanksgiving then?

    • Yes, definitely. The ship on Rule #1 has already sailed. Don’t throw Rule #5 out – meet it to the best of your abilities (which won’t include your PS).

      Realistically, however, you’re looking at a post-Thanksgiving application. Professors drag their feet to begin with on these things – it gets worse over the holidays. Add to that postal transit time and LSAC’s processing time… it adds up quickly.

      Which is why you should be asking now! Stop posting! Come back when you’ve asked and let me know how it went :)

      • shah says:

        Thanks you so much Matt for all your advice!! I am definitely going to put everything together this weekend and go after my teachers this Monday. I will let you know how it goes!

  7. Carolina Guiral says:

    Hi! I am a bit confussed about how the application process goes…
    I have been studying intensely for the LSATs since July and I did not take the october test because I did not feel prepared (and I still have a terrible 155) but I am taking the December one and I am applying for 2012. I already asked two of my professors for LORs last week since I have my personal statement and resume done and I thought I was early for all of this, but I guess not? I thought applications were due in the months of March and April so I have an ample amoung of time since I have not taken the LSATs yet I can’t send in applications until after I get the results anyways…does this mean I’m supposed to send in everything in already to the schools not knowing my LSAT score or should I wait to get my LSAT score and then send my applications and the application fees according to what I get on the LSAT, because my current score is really not good at all and I’m losing hopes I will get into most of the schools I am applying to….

    Sorry for how long this is, I will appreciate the advice though! :)

    • Hey Carolina,

      You are definitely confused about the application process. March and April will put you WAY behind in the process – in fact, many schools (including most of the higher ranked ones) won’t accept an application that late, having deadlines in February (or early March).

      You can send in all your information to LSAC to have on file so that you can apply as soon as your December score is released in early January. However, that also puts you behind the curve – Thanksgiving is generally the split between ‘early’ and ‘regular’, and Christmas is the split between ‘regular’ and ‘late’.

      Sorry for the bad news, but hopefully you can adapt your schedule a bit to get your applications in in early January!

  8. Tammy says:

    Matt,

    Just popping in to let you know all my 3 recommenders accepted! :) 1 of my professors anticipated my question and accepted and offered to proof my personal statement. The professor I had emailed (he told me to email when he previously offered) I had to call after a week. He basically accepted without me even having to ask. He said, “Don’t stress. Your letter of recommendation will get written.” They were all very warm and nice about it. So far, the experience has been a lot less scarier than I anticipated. :)

  9. Emily says:

    Dear Matt,

    This is a really helpful post. My question is what would you recommend for someone taking three years off before law school? I will graduate this semester and will be volunteering for the Peace Corps for the next three years. People have told me to ask for LORs now instead of in three years, which makes sense (so that the recommenders’ memories of me are fresh) but how would one go about holding onto those letters? Aren’t they supposed to be sent directly to LSAC? Can I start my LSAC application this far in advance (I’ll be applying to begin in 2016)? Thanks for your help!

  10. CJ says:

    Hello!

    I found this article doing a google search on advice for letters of rec.

    My main concern is that every one says to have at least 1 academic letter of rec, but I’ve been out of undergrad for (counting on fingers, 1,2,3…14 years!).

    At this point none of my professors will remember me, even if they’re still teaching. Even if they did, I barely remember them!

    So, are 3 letters from former employers/colleagues acceptable here? Or do I need to ask my H.S. english or journalism teacher who happens to be a friend on Facebook.

    Thanks!

  11. Nora says:

    Hi, I’m getting ready to request letters of recommendation and need some advice. Is it considered okay to get a general letter of rec from each recommender, then send that on to all schools? Or is it advisable that I have each recommender write a specific letter for each school to which I’m applying?

    • Hi Nora,

      That would be very impressive if you could convince the recommender to write different letters for each school, but the norm is to have each recommender write a letter that then gets dispersed to each school that you apply to.

      Good luck on your applications!

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