A law school letter of recommendation is a document that discusses an applicant’s qualities, characteristics, attributes, and capabilities related to his or her potential as a future law student and lawyer. Letters of recommendation are written at the behest of an applicant who, more often than not, knows the recommender personally.
The letter of recommendation (LOR) is an important part of any law school application. Although it may not count toward admissions as much as your LSAT score, GPA, or Personal Statement, the LOR is still an integral piece of your law school portfolio because it, along with your Personal Statement, will show admissions committees who you are beyond the numbers.
Letters of recommendation are especially important for borderline students who need a slight bump over the competition. Strong LORs from relevant recommenders can even help mitigate deficiencies in your application by spotlighting the positive aspects of your overall application.
This guide will take you through the LOR process by detailing requirements and procedures, explaining how to broach the subject with recommenders, and illustrating a few great tips that will ensure your letters of recommendation will impress.
Requirements for Your Law School Letters of Recommendation
Although the requirements for the actual letters of recommendation are quite straight forward, the process of collecting and submitting them can be a little difficult. Lucky for you, LawSchoolAdvice has your back.
Most law schools require at least two LORs and will accept no more than four. I’m sure you’ve been taught since a young age that doing the minimum isn’t usually the best course to take. However, in this instance it is preferred. Two good letters of recommendation are sufficient, and any more is seen as slightly superfluous. So unless you absolutely feel that a third is necessary, try to stick with two.
Note: While two LORs is the norm, you should always carefully read each school’s specific instructions before completing your application.
As a part of your application process, you will at some point need to sign up for LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service (CAS). The CAS helps consolidate all the little pieces of each law school application. By using this service, you only have to submit the necessary documentation to the Credential Assembly Service, who will then disseminate the required pieces to each school you are applying to. Once you register for CAS, you will also gain access to LSAC’s Letter of Recommendation and Evaluation Services, which will further guide you through the process of submitting your documentation.
And because CAS streamlines the application process, American Bar Association (ABA)-approved law schools require its use.
It is important to note that letters may be submitted electronically or on paper, depending on each recommender’s preference.
Who Should Write Your Letter of Recommendation?
Since most schools request two LORs, you will need to choose wisely when it comes time to ask your possible recommenders.
If you are still an undergraduate student or a recent graduate, it is ideal to get both letters written by professors. First try to obtain a LOR from instructors within your major (or minor if you have to). If you don’t have a close connection with any professors in your major, well, now is as good a time as any to make a concerted effort.
If you have taken any undergraduate law classes, you may want to label those professors as potential writers as well. Law professors who teach in undergrad universities have most likely been writing law school LORs for years, so they can be extremely valuable during this process (assuming you’ve garnered a personal relationship with him or her).
Other than professors and undergraduate faculty members, you can also obtain a LOR from a professional acquaintance such as an internship supervisor or professional employer. If you’ve been out of school for a number of years, and don’t have a lasting connection with one of your professors, you may have to settle for professional letters of recommendation. But before you settle, at least try and reach out to a past instructor or two. Who knows? They may remember how great of a student you were!
Just remember, stick with quality over quantity, and use recommenders that know you personally.
How to Approach a Possible LOR Writer
The best way to maximize the chances of your target recommender saying “yes” to your request is by 1) building a relationship with the recommender and 2) asking early on in the process.
If you’ve built a relationship with a potential writer, he or she will most likely be excited to write your recommendation. However, you may not be the only applicant that views this person as a potential LOR writer. Make sure to broach the subject early on in the process to guarantee that your recommender isn’t already booked.
Actually approaching a possible LOR writer is simple if you have already built a relationship with the recommender. It is absolutely in your best interest to ask in person instead of through e-mail or phone conversation. But, if you have moved on from your undergraduate university or professional job/internship and cannot do it in person, draft a courteous e-mail explaining the importance of the LOR and why you are seeking their help.
There is no need to be nervous when asking someone for a letter of recommendation. The recommender will most likely be flattered that you specifically chose him/her, and will actually be excited to write it for you.
Tips for Guaranteeing a Great Recommendation
1) When Targeting Recommenders, Choose Wisely
– Use professors if possible
– It is better to choose professors who you know somewhat personally
– Ideally, the writer should be able to attest to your personal characteristics and attributes, as well as the quality of work you produce in the classroom
– If you need a third recommender, or don’t have a second quality professor, use someone you know professionally
– Do NOT use family members, friends, attorneys, judges, political figures, etc. as recommenders
2) Build a Rapport with the Recommender
– Law schools use LORs as insight to your personality, character, and potential. Therefore, it’s necessary that you use recommenders who can attest your personal qualities
– Do everything you can to get close with your target recommender
– Go to office hours
– Seek extra help
– Ask for professional advice
– Stay after class to chat for a bit
– Participate in his or her class as much as possible
3) Give Your Recommender Things To Write About
– Help your writers out a bit by giving them some useful stuff
– Write an “About Me” paper that details your personal side
– List a few things you’d like them to emphasize in the letter
– Make sure to send them a draft of your personal statement (if it isn’t already finished)
– Give them an updated version of your resume
– If they have time, ask to meet with them privately for an or so while you discuss your goals, aspirations, and anything else that may give them insight that reflects your personality outside of the classroom
4) Necessary Stuff to Give Your Recommender
– An updated resume
– An unofficial transcript
– Any papers or tests you’ve taken in his or her class
– Any forms or documentation provided by your university or LSAC that needs your recommender’s signature or attention
– A stamped envelope addressed to the law school or Credential Assembly Service (depending on each school’s specific requests)
– A thank you note for all of their time and effort