Getting in to Law School – How to Land a Letter of Recommendation

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In our applying to law school timeline, we emphasized the importance of law letters of recommendations.  So, how do you get letters of recommendation that will make a law school admissions officer sit up and take notice?  Follow these six easy steps.

1. Plan Ahead.

Compile your list of potential recommenders at the beginning of the year in which you will apply. Most law school applications require 2-3 letters of recommendation. Your recommendations should expand on what admissions will already be able to see from your UGPA and LSAT score. Be sure to give your professors, colleagues, and bosses a minimum of 2-3 months to write your letter of recommendation.  This gives them plenty of time to clear their schedule and write you an impressive recommendation.

2. Make A List.

Keep in mind that not everyone you ask will have the time (or desire) to write you a letter of recommendation. So, start with a list of 6-8 people who know you well enough to speak highly of you and then rank them in terms of effectiveness.  Your ranking should reflect:

  • The Recommender’s Level of Enthusiasm.  Select recommenders who will be enthusiastic and unequivocal in their endorsement of you.  Remember that a lackluster recommendation may hurt your application. 
  • The Length and Familiarity of Your Acquaintance.  Generally those who have known you longer and worked with you more closely will write a stronger recommendation.
  • The Recommender’s Vantage Point.   Admissions officers look for indicators that you will do well in the scholarly enterprise that is law school.  So academic references are strongly preferred.  If you are a returning student; however, these may be difficult to come by.  So, seek recommendations from your employer or a nonprofit organization where you serve.

3. Provide Supporting Documentation.

 

Even your mother wouldn’t know all she that needs to write a comprehensive letter of recommendation.  So, take pity on your recommenders.  Don’t make them beg for more information about you.  For instance, your favorite History professor can speak to your academic prowess but may not know about your campus leadership involvement.  Provide your recommender with an updated resume that encompasses your work history, extracurricular activities and interests.  

4. Have a Form Letter Available.

Sometimes a person writing a letter of recommendation will ask you to write the letter yourself so they can tweak it without having to look through your resume. Have one of these ready; we like Vault’s strategy for writing your own recommendation. Consider asking a mentor or close friend to help you draft the letter if you don’t feel comfortable coming up with it on your own.

5. Ask to See the Letter.

Don’t feel shy about asking to see a letter. What you don’t want to happen is that you end up with a terribly written or unflattering letter. Ask to see the letter in advance of it being submitted to the LSAC service. If your request is denied, consider moving further down your list of recommenders. It is better for you to be safe than sorry when it comes to the quality of your recommendations.

6. Provide Mailing Instructions.

Do not rely on your recommenders to send your letters to the correct address for the LSAC service. Provide a pre-addressed stamped envelope to the LSAC service.  If you’re pressed for time, note that your recommenders can also fax in their letters of recommendation to LSAC.

Who did you ask to write your letters of recommendation for law school? Did your recommender share his or her letter before sending it off? Let us know in the comments.

 

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K. Suzette Akins

K. Suzette Akins

Managing Editor at Blueprint JD
K. Suzette Akins is a 2011 graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law. She works in the Commonwealth of Virginia's judicial system and serves as Blueprint JD's managing editor.

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