How Important Are Letters of Recommendation for Law School? What Makes a Strong Letter of Recommendation for Law School?Who Should You Ask to Write a Law School Letter of Recommendation?How to Ask for a Law School Letter of RecommendationFAQs: Law School Recommendation Letter
Former Head of Pre-Law Office, Northeastern University, & Admissions Officer, Brown University
Wondering how to get the perfect law school letter of recommendation? Read on to learn more!
Applying to law school means navigating the LSAC application, gathering necessary documents, and presenting your skills and self in a positive light. One application element you don’t have complete control over is your law school recommendation letters, which can make some applicants nervous about asking for them.
We’ll outline everything you need to know about recommendations, including how they impact your candidacy, who and how to ask for a letter of recommendation for law school, and more!
How Important Are Letters of Recommendation for Law School?
While letters of recommendation for law school may not be as crucial as your LSAT scores and GPA, they often carry significant weight in the application process.
UC Berkeley states, “your letters of recommendation could be the deciding factor in the admission process. Strong letters of recommendation can strengthen your application and if there are deficiencies in your application, they can help to outweigh them.”
Law school recommendation letters are important because they:
- Add differentiation to your profile, especially if you have a similar GPA or LSAT score as other applicants
- Qualitatively highlight why you’re an excellent law school candidate
- Offer a credible, third-party perspective on your skills, knowledge, character, and fitness for the legal field
It’s worth spending time securing strong letters of recommendation; law school acceptance rates can be relatively low, especially at T14 schools. Strong recommendation letters can highlight your candidacy and fitness for law.
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What Makes a Strong Letter of Recommendation for Law School?
According to the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), letters of recommendation “that compare you to your academic peers are often the most useful.” LSAC also warns against “general, unreservedly praiseworthy letters.” General, complimentary letters aren’t specific enough to accurately depict your skills and qualities.
The University of Utah’s Academic Advising Center claims, “Letters that reflect real knowledge of an applicant’s performance and character are the most useful to the admissions committee.”
A strong law school letter of recommendation should meet these goals:
- Identifies the writer and their relationship with you
- Conveys factual evidence about you and your achievements/experiences
- Doesn’t use “unsupported adjectives” like “creative” or “mature” without explaining why your recommender describes you that way
- Makes clear judgments about your character based on factual evidence
- Compares you to your peers
- Shares distinguishing characteristics about you to breathe life into your “character” and make you more memorable
- Be carefully edited for clarity, concision, and readability (it doesn’t include local terms, jargon, or other words and phrases that admissions committees may not know)
An excellent recommendation letter is detailed, precise, and quantifies your experiences and fitness for law school.
Who Should You Ask to Write a Law School Letter of Recommendation?
Before compiling a list of potential sources, you must read the admissions requirements for each school you want to apply to. Some schools may be more specific about recommenders, whereas others may give you more freedom to pick whomever you feel would write you the best evaluation.
LSAC states that the best letters of recommendation are written by professors and work supervisors who know you well enough to comment honestly on your overall potential and share your academic, personal, and professional achievements.
Some of the best sources for your law school recommendations include:
- Individuals who you’ve formed deep relationships with and know you well
- A professor or other individual who has academically evaluated you, especially in one of your upper-division undergraduate classes
- Your work supervisor
- Anyone who has supervised you in other activities such as volunteer, internship, or research experiences
Most law schools prefer recommendations from academic sources, such as professors from your university. If you’re still in university, you can focus on relationship building with your professors through actively participating in the classroom and seeking research opportunities and advice.
Avoid asking people for letters who don’t know you well, even if you think their status is impressive; your manager who you interact with daily is a much better recommender than the CEO of your company you’ve met once.
On the other hand, it’s also best to avoid recommendation letters from family or friends: it could hinder your application!
How to Ask for a Law School Letter of Recommendation
It’s time to learn how to ask for a letter of recommendation for law school. We’ll outline the best ways to approach and support your recommenders step-by-step.
1. Identify Your Writers
You know the best recommenders, but you may still have to narrow down your options. Make a list of people you think would be happy to write enthusiastic, detailed recommendations for you.
While you can send the same recommendation to multiple schools, you can choose recommenders to write a targeted recommendation to just one school. For example, if you want to attend NYU Law and your recommender happens to be an NYU Law school graduate, you can ask them to write a tailored letter.
2. Pick the Right Time to Ask
You want to ensure you give your recommenders enough time to write your letters before the application deadline or the date you hope to submit your LSAC applications.
UC Berkeley suggests you “be considerate and courteous of your letter writers' time and workload, and approach them at least two months in advance of your request.” An excellent time to request recommendations is the fall of your senior year.
3. Meet With Your Recommenders
You can connect with potential recommenders by email, but meeting in person has its benefits. The main benefit of meeting in person is to see if your recommender is enthusiastic about writing your letter. If you sense reluctance, you may want to consider asking someone else.
When you meet with your recommender, you can share your motivations for attending law school and your hopes for the future.
4. Offer Supporting Information
Even if you have a close relationship with your letter writer, it’s unlikely they will remember every detail about your accomplishments and candidacy. Showing up to your meeting with supporting documents makes your recommender’s life easier: they’ll appreciate the context!
You can put together a package for each of your evaluators that includes:
- Your contact information
- A list of schools you plan to apply to
- Recommendation forms
- Your unofficial transcript
- A draft of your law school personal statement, if you have it
- A summarization of any important projects, publications, etc.
- Your resume
You should also include a note on anything you want to be emphasized in your law school letter of recommendation. For example, if you want your letter to highlight your research experience, you should explicitly state that to your recommender.
5. Don’t Forget to Say Thank You
You can add a thank you note with your package, but it’s worth expressing in person how grateful you are if your recommender accepts your request. Remember, your recommenders aren’t obligated to provide you with an evaluation; they genuinely want to see you succeed.
After you get accepted at your dream law school, don’t forget to follow up and say thank you one more time!
6. Fill Out Information and Formally Request Letters in LSAC
If you’re using LSAC’s LOR Service, you’ll need to input your recommender’s name and contact information to submit a formal request. Afterward, they’ll receive an email with instructions on submitting their recommendation. If they prefer, they can also submit paper letters.
FAQs: Law School Recommendation Letter
If you still have questions about how to ask for a recommendation letter for law school, read on for more answers.
1. What Should a Law School Letter of Recommendation Include?
A good law school recommendation letter should include your relationship with the writer and detailed, positive judgments about your character, activities, and accomplishments. If possible, a letter that quantitatively compares you to your peers can give you a competitive edge.
2. Who Should I Get Letters of Recommendation From for Law School?
Your letters of recommendation for law school should come from sources you know well. Your writer should be able to accurately reflect on your qualities and fitness for the legal field. The best recommenders are professors that taught you in college and work supervisors.
3. Can I Write My Own Letter of Recommendation for Law School?
You shouldn’t write your own recommendation for law school, even if the person you asked offered to sign off on it. There’s no clear policy on whether this is against LSAC’s rules or not, but admissions committee members may sense that you wrote your own letter, even with your recommender’s signature on it.
4. Do Any Law Schools Require Three Letters of Recommendation?
Many schools request between two and four recommendation letters. Many students will request three letters.
5. Can You Use the Same Recommendation Letter for Multiple Law Schools?
Yes, you can use the same letter of recommendation for multiple law schools. If you’ve asked for general recommendations, you should tag them as “General References” in your LSAC application.
6. Do Law Schools Read Letters of Recommendation?
You can safely assume that admissions committees will evaluate every part of your law school applications. Most schools take a holistic approach, meaning they’ll consider every component before deciding its fate. Stellar letters of recommendation for law school can level up your application, so assume they’ll be read!
Law school recommendation letters offer more insight into your character, motivation, and personality. Now that you know how to ask for recommendation letters, you can feel confident knowing you can put your best foot forward with potential evaluators.
Remember to ask for law school recommendation letters early and provide your recommenders with important information about you. Good luck!
What does a good law school recommendation letter look like? ›
So, this letter should include: An overview of the relationship between the recommender and the applicant. An summary of the applicant's best qualities. Specific examples that support the letter's claims and suggest future success in legal studies.What are the 6 details that should be included in a letter of recommendation? ›
- Introduction and statement of recommendation.
- List of specific reasons you are recommending them to the position.
- Personal story with evidence of their qualities (soft and hard skills)
- Closing statement with contact information.
Most law programs require two or three reference letters for admission, although they may accept more than just three. While references from faculty members are ideal, law schools may seriously consider nonacademic references as well, especially if applicants have been out of school for several years.What should you avoid in a letter of recommendation? ›
- General language or overly broad descriptors of the student's performance in the classroom;
- Focusing on a student's punctuality or ability to complete the readings. ...
- Too much time and attention detailing the relationship with the student or the content of the course.
Don't ask a family member or a friend for a recommendation as a college may not take them seriously. You should always follow the guidelines from the colleges you are applying to when choosing who to write your letter of recommendation.Who is it most impressive to get letters of recommendation from? ›
Get advice from teachers, counselors, and family members on who would be best to write your recommendation letters. Be sure to select a current teacher or one from your junior year, preferably one who knows you well.What do law schools want to hear in a letter of recommendation? ›
Letters that reflect real knowledge of an applicant's performance and character are the most useful to the admissions committee and, therefore, to the candidate. One or two paragraph letters full of generalities, however complementary, are not particularly helpful.Who is the best person to get a letter of recommendation from for law school? ›
Selecting Effective Recommenders
If you're applying to law school immediately after college or within 2-3 years of graduating, then the very best recommendation letter writers are college professors who know you well academically and personally, and who are themselves impressive individuals.
Letters should be 1 to 2 pages long, written on letterhead, and signed by the recommender. They should be submitted directly to LSAC.