Letters of Recommendation
Why are Letters of Recommendation Important?
- Law schools have many more applicants than they can admit. Recommendations should provide admissions officers with a more personal sense of who you are than do scores and GPA. They give a feel for things like your work ethic, your diligence, your ability to be organized, and your capabilities.
- Your recommenders should provide very specific information about your academic interests, abilities, and personal qualities.
Whom to Ask for a Recommendation
- Most law schools generally ask for two letters of recommendation; some will accept up to four.
- Ideally, you should obtain two letters from professors who can knowledgeably speak of the quality of your academic work, contribution in the classroom, character, and interests. Consider asking professors who have given you an excellent grade, encouraged you, or with whom you have developed a relationship. Discuss with the pre-law advisor who might be a helpful recommender.
- You may want to seek one or more additional letters from an employer, program director, administrator, religious, or community leader who has seen you demonstrate commitment, great effort, or leadership.
- Ask people who know you, rather than someone with a “big name” but with whom you’ve had little contact.
- Letter writers should be strong advocates for you. Discuss your goals with a potential recommender to get a sense of his/her level of support. If unsure of his/her enthusiasm, you can ask whether he/she knows you well enough to recommend you.
When to Ask for a Recommendation
- Request the letter at least six weeks before you would like it to be sent. Getting your letters on file with the Credentials Assembly Service (CAS, the clearinghouse for the Law School Admission Council, discussed earlier in the "Applying to Law School" section of the website, and formerly known as LSDAS) the spring semester before you apply is a good idea. Since many professors travel during the summer, they can be hard to get a hold of during that time, and they will be busy when they return to campus in the early fall.
- Remember that you can request letters at any time during your college years. If you have done well in a class and have a good relationship with a professor, ask for a recommendation while you are still in contact. This is particularly important if you take time off after college.
- If you have not yet registered for CAS -- because you are not yet ready to apply to law school-- it may be a good idea to "store" your recommendations until you need them. Commercial services such as interfolio.com offer a convenient place to house important letters that students might want updated at a later time. Be aware that it is desirable for students to waive their rights to recommendations, so they remain confidential. Also note that your CAS account, once established, is good for 5 years; the time period is "refreshed" when you register to take the LSAT.
How to Ask for a Recommendation
- Make an appointment with the writer, or if that is not possible, make the request by letter. Discuss your career goals; if applicable, consider touching on why this person would make a good recommender based on those goals.
- Provide a cover letter discussing your goals, your resume, a list of schools to which you are applying, stamped, addressed envelopes, and the dates by which you would like to have the letter submitted. Include (and complete your portion of) the appropriate CAS form if the recommendation is being sent to LSAC.
- It is helpful to include in the packet a draft of your personal statement and copies of your work that the professor has graded at an earlier time. An excellent paper or exam will help a professor write a detailed letter.
- To assist the professor in writing a meaningful recommendation, include the sheet on Letter Writing Guidelines.
Additional details appear in the Pre-Law Handbook, which you can download from the welcome page of this website.