Letters of Recommendation
Most law schools request that two or three letters of recommendation be submitted on behalf of applicants. If letters are not required, it is a good idea, nonetheless, to submit them. 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 LSDAS file, along with a pre-printed form from your Credential Assembly Service file.
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.
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 Letter of Recommendation (LOR) service, with your
recommenders name pre-printed (see example in this manual)
• 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.
Check your on-line 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.
You may want to establish a credentials file in the Career Center to maintain letters of recommendation and other documents, if you plan to work prior to applying for law school. You will still use the recommendation service offered by Credential Assembly Service when the times comes that you are ready to apply. Recommenders send letters directly to the LSAC, which then forwards the letters to each law school where you are applying. Information about this service can be found at the LSAC website at www.lsac.org.
A dean's certification letter is required by some law schools to confirm that applicants have not been involved in academic or disciplinary transgressions as undergraduates. The certification is generally a formality handled by a designated college official. At Dickinson the contact is Shirley King, Director of Advising.