Letters of Recommendation for Law School: A Step-by-Step Guide

Letters of Recommendation can be nerve-racking for applicants. Here's a step by step guide for law school candidates:

Who do you ask?

Law schools prefer letters of recommendation from faculty you worked with at your undergraduate institution. When trying to decide whom to ask, think about the classes you took with each professor. A letter from a high-level course in your major will count for more than the underwater basket weaving elective you took sophomore year. Furthermore, the rank of your recommender is much less important than a strong letter from someone who knows your work well. If you have been out of school for some time and have lost touch with your undergraduate professors, choose recommenders who know you well and can write detailed, positive letters from their own experiences working with you.

How do you ask?

Once you've decided who you want to write your letters, get in touch with them in person or via phone or email. Make sure to tell this person why you are applying to law school and why you think you will be successful there. Let them know why you would like them to write the letter for you and make sure that they are confident that they can write you a strong letter because you will not see it after they have written it. Make sure to provide your recommender with the following documents once they've agreed to write the recommendation for you:

  • Your Transcript

  • Your Resume

  • Your Personal Statement if you have written it

  • A copy of any work you did for their class if applicable

  • A signed LSDAS/LSAC letter of recommendation form if you are using them

  • A stamped, addressed envelope to the LSDAS, LSAC, or school to which you applying.

Make sure to ask your recommenders to let you know once they have sent your letter and allow at least 4 weeks for them to complete it once they have agreed to write the recommendation for you. Make sure to follow up with a friendly reminder if necessary as you get close to the deadline for recommendations.

Can you do it yourself?

Occasionally, individuals will ask you to draft your own letter of recommendation. Law schools do not look fondly on this practice and many admissions officers say that they can tell the difference. Some people are unsure of how to draft a letter for law schools, so often times sending them a guide on how to do it (easily found online) as well as a detailed document highlighting the accomplishments you would like them to mention, will make potential recommenders more at ease with the task. Politely requesting that they reconsider and submitting this information to them will usually resolve this issue. If not, consider asking someone else.

Should you read it?

Most schools as well as the LSAC give you the option to waive your right to read the letter of recommendation once it is submitted. Admissions committees prefer candidates to waive this offer. This ensure that the writer of your letter is able to submit a candid and meaningful assessment of your personality and accomplishments. Opting not to waive the right often means that committees will place less weight on your recommendations. If you have been candid and thoughtful about choosing who to write your letter, you should not be worried about signing the waiver.

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Check out Getting into Law School: Expert Tips