How to Get Valuable Law School Recommendations
- Student Tips
Congratulations on your decision to apply to law school. Now comes the hard part: getting in. It’s not just stellar grades and all of the exciting things you’ve done that will get you there. It’s what other people think about what you’ve done and how you’ve done it that will help.
What do you need? Recommendations. Great ones. You need people who can offer objective feedback on your intellect, talents, and endeavors. You need people you trust who can speak to your strengths—and your areas for growth.
How do you find these people? Let’s take a look at 5 ways to get valuable law school recommendations.
1. Top up the positive people in your corner.
You need to ensure that your law school recommendations are positive. How do you do this? When you ask a professor or other recommender to write you a recommendation, ask directly if they feel comfortable writing you a positive recommendation—and give them plenty of time—at least three weeks.
These people should know you well and have a sense of your academic accomplishments. They should be able to speak positively to your character, work ethic, problem-solving skills, initiative, and academic strengths.
Make it a point to meet with each recommender either in-person or over the phone to offer insight and information into your recommendation (see #2).
Remember: keep it positive, short—and sweet.
2. Give your recommender lots of information.
You should give each recommender a packet of information—not of overwhelming size—that includes your: resume or CV, transcripts, well-written papers (if you’re asking a professor), any work evaluations (if you’re asking an employer), your personal statement, any forms required by the law school, and directions for submission. Some law schools want the recommendations online and otherwise want them by mail. Give your recommender whatever he or she needs to submit the recommendation easily.
Bottom line: your recommender should be able to use your packet of information, combined with a brief meeting (see #1), to compose a brilliant, positive recommendation that will get you into the law school of your choice.
Recommended reading: How to study in law school?
3. Get concrete examples of your skills.
Positive, flowery prose won’t get you into law school. Admissions officers want concrete examples of what you can do—and why that’s an asset to their program.
This is where you have a chance to shine and set yourself apart from the pile of other applicants.
Ask your recommender to discuss tangible things you’ve done—papers you’ve written, projects you’ve lead, and any other specific things you’ve done that demonstrate your suitability to law school.
One tip? In that packet (see #2), highlight two or three strengths you have—and ask your recommender to tell a brief story that shows at least one of them. A paragraph or two is sufficient.
Admissions officers will enjoy getting to know you—and the specificity of your recommender’s letter will illuminate that for them.
4. Don’t submit too many letters.
Submit only what the law school requests. The norm is two—the upper end is four.
Make sure the letters are distinct and that they each tell something unique about you. The recommendations should reflect you as a balanced, unique individual, highly qualified to tackle the demands of law school and the legal profession.
Too many recommendations and admissions officers start to wonder—what is the applicant hiding?
5. Make sure you know the deadlines.
Give your recommender more than enough time (see #1) to meet with you, draft the letter, and send it. Ensure that you equip your recommender with appropriate deadlines—and all materials, like envelopes, stamps, or log-in information.
Ask to be notified when the letter is sent so that you can follow up with the admissions office to ensure their receipt of the letters.
Bottom line? Submit letters of recommendation with your law school application. Send handwritten thank you notes. You’ll be glad you did.
Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.