Best Practices For Law School Letters Of Recommendation

Law School Letters Of Recommendation

When applying to law school, one crucial component often overlooked until the last minute is the letters of recommendation. These letters are more than just formalities; they are a critical part of your application. Let’s delve into why letters of recommendation are essential, who should write them, how to ensure they are strong and effective, and additional best practices to make your application stand out.

Why Letters of Recommendation Matter

Letters of recommendation provide a unique perspective on your academic and professional capabilities. Admissions officers look to these letters to gain a candid evaluation from someone who has worked closely with you. They offer insight into your performance in the classroom, your work ethic, and your potential as a law student.

Starting the process early is key. Asking for letters well in advance respects your recommenders’ time and allows them to write thoughtful and detailed evaluations. Rushed letters often lack the depth and specificity needed to make a strong impression.

What Admissions Committees Look For

Admissions committees use letters of recommendation to fill in the gaps of your application. While your personal statement and resume provide information about your achievements and motivations, letters of recommendation offer a third-party perspective on your academic and professional potential. Specifically, admissions officers are interested in:

  • Academic Performance: Are you engaged in your studies? Do you produce high-quality work? Do you actively participate in class discussions?
  • Intellectual Curiosity: Do you go beyond the basic requirements to deepen your understanding of the subject matter?
  • Work Ethic: Are you diligent and reliable? Do you meet deadlines and manage your time effectively?
  • Interpersonal Skills: How do you interact with peers and faculty? Are you a collaborative team member?

Who Should Write Your Letters

Choosing the right recommenders is crucial. Avoid going for the most prestigious name you can find; instead, focus on individuals who know you well and can speak to your abilities in detail. Ideal candidates are:

  • Professors: They can comment on your academic skills and classroom behavior. Choose professors who have taught you in rigorous courses and can speak to your intellectual abilities and work ethic.
  • Employers or Supervisors: They can provide insights into your professional skills and work ethic. A supervisor who has overseen substantial projects or has seen you grow in your role is an excellent choice.

Who to Avoid Asking

  • Family Members or Friends: These letters are often perceived as biased and lack the professional or academic insights that admissions committees value.
  • Prominent Figures Without Personal Knowledge: A letter from a well-known figure might seem impressive, but if they can’t provide specific details about your abilities and character, it won’t add value to your application.
  • Instructors with Limited Interaction: If you only took a large lecture course with an instructor and had minimal interaction, they might not be able to write a detailed and personalized letter.

Ensuring Strong Letters

  1. Start Early: Give your recommenders plenty of time to write the letter. This allows them to provide a thoughtful and comprehensive evaluation.
  2. Make it Easy to Say No: If a potential recommender seems hesitant, they might not be able to write a strong letter. Respect their decision and find someone more enthusiastic.
  3. Provide Context and Reminders: Remind your recommenders of specific projects or papers you worked on, your performance in their class, and any other relevant details. This will help them write a more personalized letter.
  4. Follow Up: Stay in touch with your recommenders, provide any additional information they might need, and remind them of deadlines.
  5. Say Thank You: Send a thank-you note after they submit the letter. This not only shows your appreciation but also helps maintain the relationship for future recommendations.

Best Practices for Requesting Letters

  • Request in Person or Over a Call: If possible, ask for the recommendation in person or over a call. This allows you to gauge their willingness and enthusiasm.
  • Provide Detailed Information: Give your recommenders a packet of information, including your resume, a draft of your personal statement, the courses you took with them, and any specific points you would like them to address.
  • Set Clear Deadlines: Be clear about when the letters need to be submitted. Aim to give your recommenders at least a month to write the letter.
  • Offer to Meet or Discuss Further: Let them know you are available to meet or discuss any questions they might have about your application.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid

  • Overloading Your Application: More letters are not always better. Stick to the number required by the law schools you are applying to. Extra letters can sometimes dilute the impact of your application.
  • Ignoring Instructions: Follow the application guidelines strictly. Submitting more letters than requested or ignoring specific instructions can reflect poorly on your ability to follow directions.
  • Writing Your Own Letter: Writing your own letter is generally frowned upon, but there are some instances that it may have to happen. You should never write your own letter unless it is asked of you.

Quality Over Quantity

When thinking about how many people to ask, remember that more is not better; better is better. Each letter should add a new dimension to your application. For instance:

  • First Letter: This might come from a professor who can speak to your critical thinking and writing skills.
  • Second Letter: This could be from another professor who can highlight your resilience and improvement in a challenging course.
  • Third Letter (if needed): Consider a professional reference who can discuss your leadership skills and work ethic.

Each letter should tell a part of your story that other components of your application do not cover.

Beyond the Application: Maintaining Relationships

Your relationship with your recommenders shouldn’t end once they submit the letter. Keep them informed about your progress and continue to nurture these professional connections. You may need additional letters of recommendation in the future for scholarships, internships, or further education.


Letters of recommendation are a vital part of your law school application. They provide a third-party perspective on your abilities and help the admissions committee understand your potential as a student and future lawyer. By choosing the right recommenders, starting the process early, and ensuring that your letters are detailed and personalized, you can strengthen your application and increase your chances of admission.

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