Law School Letters Of Recommendation FAQs
Applying to law school can be an expensive, long, and stressful process. Your undergraduate GPA and your LSAT score are two of the most important metrics for determining your chances of being admitted to any given law school. Although, sometimes applicants overlook law school letters of recommendation. Most law schools require you to submit at least one letter of recommendation, but it shouldn’t be an afterthought. Strong letters of recommendation can be the difference between being admitted or waitlisted/outright denied from a school. Here are some tips for handling this part of the law school admissions process.
Law School Letters Of Recommendation FAQs
Who should I ask?
Well, that depends on how much work experience you have and how removed you are from your degree program. For most candidates, it’s ideal to have at least one academic and at least one professional law school letter of recommendation. Some schools will have parameters on who should be writing your law school letters of recommendation. This may depend on how recently you graduated. For example, if you graduated from undergrad in the last two to five years, schools may require an academic letter of recommendation. Other schools might not have parameters on who you can collect letters of recommendation from. Still, other schools may just have a range of the appropriate number of letters of recommendation. Even if it isn’t explicitly prohibited, you should try to stay away from references that don’t know you in a professional or academic context. That is, you definitely don’t want to ask a friend, a family friend, or an immediate family member.
If you graduated from undergrad in the last few years, you should absolutely include a professor as one of your law school letters of recommendation. This demonstrates that you were invested in your college experience, and at least made an impression enough to have one professor recommend your enrollment in law school.
Try speaking to your academic advisor if they were a professor. Maybe you had to do an extensive project or wrote a thesis with a professor. Contact the professor who supervised those projects because they will have a more personal idea of your abilities and accomplishments. You can also ask a professor from within the department you majored in. If you are a history major, perhaps try contacting the history department head if you have a relationship with them. Alternatively, you could ask a professor you have taken multiple classes with. They are more likely to remember you, even if it’s been a few years. Also, keep in mind that if you have an education beyond undergrad you should get a letter of recommendation from a professor from that program as well!
With any letter of recommendation, you want to be sure the author knows who you are so that their letter of recommendation is personal. You don’t want the letter to look like every other letter that the professor is writing for students who are also applying to law school. If possible, try to get a letter of recommendation from a professor whose name is recognizable or who is established in their field.
The type of person you choose to write you a law school letter of recommendation varies largely on the applicant. If you are entering law school from another career or after a few years in the work force, you should ask a supervisor or an established manager. If you are heading to law school directly from undergrad, try contacting someone from a past internship or someone from a place you volunteered. Much like an academic recommender, these recommenders should know you at least enough to articulate why you are a good law student candidate!
What if I don’t have anyone to ask?
The truth is, if you want to apply to law school, that isn’t really an option. If you are concerned about not having any solid law school letters of recommendation, you still need to ask people! You may be surprised how willing someone is to write recommend you.
Alternatively, if you have the time and no one to ask, you can try to build a relationship with someone who will eventually be able to write you a letter of recommendation. We don’t recommend just getting to know a professor or supervisor so they can help you exclusively for this purpose. Knowing your professors can also be incredibly helpful to your academic and professional development!
How should I ask?
Politely and professionally! It might seem like common sense, but you’ll need to actually ask a recommender if they’d be willing to write you a letter of recommendation. It’s not polite and certainly not professional to send an email assuming someone will write you a law school letter of recommendation. And you absolutely don’t want to list someone as a recommender in your application before you’ve even asked them!
You can ask someone to write a letter for you either in-person or via email. If you have the opportunity to do so, always ask in person. If you’re asking them to do this via email, try to make it as personal as possible.
In making the ask, re-introduce yourself if it’s necessary. Don’t assume a professor will remember who you are from years past. Explain that you are applying to law school, and ask if they would be willing to serve as a recommender. You should give a bit of information about what the process will look like (explain that they will submit the application through the Law School Admissions Council), and be sure to share an updated copy of your resume and what your future goals are in going to law school. Be sure to let the recommender know you are happy to answer questions about the process. Check out our blog with a more comprehensive overview of how to ask for a law school letter of recommendation.
When should I ask?
Early! Nothing says “unprofessional” like asking someone to write you a law school letter of recommendation at the last minute. If you do this, your recommender will either get an unfavorable image of you or they’ll be unwilling to recommend you! Make sure you give your recommender 4 – 6 weeks at the absolute latest. They’ll need time to write a quality letter of recommendation. And let’s be honest, it probably isn’t at the top of their priority list. There’s no need to make your recommender uproot their schedule to get a letter of recommendation to you on time. Just be proactive and responsible!
How should I collect the letters of recommendation?
The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) is responsible for compiling admissions materials for students applying to ABA-accredited law schools in the United States. LSAC has a Credential Assembly Service (CAS) which is used to collect students’ law school letters of recommendation. Applicants are required to use this service. It can be frustrating to have a middle-man, but it helps streamline the process in the long run. You’ll enter your recommender’s contact information and the CAS will take care of the rest. You will be able to see when recommenders have submitted their letters of recommendation, but you won’t be able to read them unless the author consents to sharing the letter with you. Learn more about the Credential Assembly Service and the Law School Admissions Council, here.
Preparing to compile quality law school letters of recommendation can make or break your application! Your recommenders will most likely be thrilled to help you get admitted to your top choice of law school. And absolutely don’t forget to send a thank-you note!
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