Most law schools require applicants to submit letters of recommendation to gain a different perspective on the applicant’s academic strength and personal qualities. Admissions officers find most helpful specific examples of applicants’ motivation and intellectual curiosity, an assessment of communication skills, and a comparison with peers.
How many recommendations should I have?
Typically, law schools like to see two or three letters of recommendation for each applicant. If letters are not required, it is a good idea to submit them nonetheless. Admissions committees will be seeking information not provided elsewhere in the applications. Recommendation letters should include concrete examples of intellectual strength, judgment, motivation, and leadership, along with an appraisal of communication skills and a comparison to peers. These letters are sent directly from your recommenders to your Credential Assembly Service file, along with a pre-printed form from your CAS file, which you will get access to after you enter the names of each of your recommenders.
Who should write my recommendations?
Letters written by members of the academic community carry the most weight, since they can address your performance in an academic setting and discuss your potential for success in law school. At least one letter should be from a professor in your undergraduate major, if possible. As you consider whom to ask, remember that it is better to have an in-depth letter from a faculty member with whom you worked closely than to have a cursory letter from a renowned professor who barely knows you.
Unless you have been in the work force a few years, letters from people outside academia often carry considerably less weight, since they are unable to address the topic of greatest interest to admissions committees: your academic potential. Law schools are generally less impressed with letters from well-known politicians, state supreme court justices, etc., since the letters tend to be effusive and contain little concrete, substantive information; frequently the letters are not written by the individuals but rather by someone on their staff. If you would like to submit additional letters even though a school asks for only one or two, this should be fine. Three letters will be acceptable to most schools.
How should I approach my potential letter writers?
Approach potential letter writers well in advance of the application deadline. Ask them "Do vou feel you know my work well enough to write a positive letter on behalf of my application to law school?” If the answer is yes, provide sufficient information about your background to assist him/her in writing a detailed letter:
- Cover sheet describing your relationship, including courses you have taken, research you have conducted, etc.
- Copy of your unofficial transcript
- Draft of your personal statement (if available)
- Copies of exams or papers written in his/her class
- Recommendation forms from the CAS, with your recommenders name pre-printed
- Stamped envelopes addressed to the LSAC
- List of dates when recommendations are due
Also be sure to discuss waiving your right of access to the letters. You may want to waive vour right since you may find writers unwilling to write letters if applicants have access to them, and most admissions committee members will discount disclosed letters. Since you may not have access to letters, be sure your recommenders are suitably enthusiastic about writing letters for you; if you sense any hesitation when you ask someone, even if he/she agrees, thank the person but do not follow through.
Regularly check your CAS file to see which letters have not yet been submitted. Immediately contact those writers who have not yet sent letters yet and remind them politely of the approaching deadline. After you have received decisions, send thank-you letters to your recommenders and let them know where you have been accepted and where you intend to enroll.
What if my professor isn’t sure what to write?
Refer him/her to the Top 10 Guidelines for Letter Writers.