Letters of recommendation are required for almost every law school application and are a very important part of the application process. Strong letters of recommendation can strengthen your application and if there are deficiencies in your application, they can help to outweigh them.
Each institution will let you know how many letters it requires – usually two to three. If you have more letters than required, you can consider submitting an extra one if it is strong and provides new information about you not mentioned in other letters. You may also want to save the letter in case you are waitlisted as it could lend further support to your candidacy.
Law school admissions officials tell us the following make the best letter writers:
- Someone who knows you well
- Someone who has academically evaluated you in an upper-division class such as a professor or graduate instructor
- Someone who has supervised you in a meaningful job or internship
- Note: letters from family friends, political figures, judges, and the like usually are discouraged and may, in fact, be detrimental.
Approaching Your Writers
First, make a list of professors and/or supervisors who will be your best advocates. It is ideal to set up a meeting to discuss your request in person. Be prepared to articulate your interest and reasons for attending graduate school. Letters of recommendation are written strictly on a voluntary basis; a faculty member or employer may decline to write them. The best approach is to ask potential letter writers if they are willing to write you a strong letter. If you sense reluctance or the answer is no, ask someone else.
To support your writers with writing a strong letter of recommendation, prepare the following documents to share with them:
- Transcript (unofficial)
- Personal statement draft
Generally, you want to provide your recommenders 4-6 weeks to write your letter. The summer before the application cycle opens is an ideal time to ask. If you are planning to take “gap time” to develop professional experience before law school, we strongly encourage you to ask for your academic letters of recommendation shortly after you graduate and store them in a letter storage site such as Interfolio Dossier or LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service (CAS).
Guidelines for Letter of Recommendation Writers
A strong recommendation should address the following questions:
- Personal effectiveness: Is the applicant the kind of person you would choose to consult as a lawyer? Does the applicant enjoy the trust and respect of professors and fellow students?
- Intellectual qualifications: What is your assessment of the applicant’s analytical skills and ability to grasp new ideas? Has the applicant’s academic record been affected by any special circumstances such as work, social or academic background? What is the applicant’s ability to deal with complex or abstract matters?
- Ability to communicate: Is the applicant an effective writer? Does the written work submitted demonstrate a mastery of the conventions of English? Is the written expression clear, well-organized and forceful? Is the applicant articulate in oral expression?
- Industry and self-discipline: To what extent does the applicant possess the traits of persistence, efficiency and motivation? Is there any reason to doubt the applicant’s commitment to law study or the applicant’s diligence as a student?
- Potential for the study of law: What is your prediction of the applicant’s probable performance in the study of law? Would the applicant stand in the top quarter, near mid-class or simply make the grade in a rigorous program? Do you have any special familiarity with the process of legal education?
- Is there any other information about the applicant which you would like to share with admissions committees?