Letters of Recommendation ("LORs") allow a third party to speak to the law school on your behalf. There are two main points to consider when selecting people to write your LORs:
- Who does the law school want to hear from?
- What does the law school need to know about you?
[See what law admissions officials say about how to get in.]
The credibility of the writer is paramount. This doesn't mean you should pick the senator that is golfing buddies with your father's second cousin. This means that the writer needs to be in a position to evaluate either your academic or professional performance.
The writer must establish the following in order to be credible:
- The context in which he knows you;
- How long he has known you and in what context; and
- The credentials that allow him to evaluate you in a meaningful way.
LORs need to share examples of your skills and abilities. The law schools want to know about your writing ability, problem solving ability, communication skills, leadership, and work habits. The people who can best speak to these things:
- Professors (or graduate assistants);
- Supervisors from work (so long as the position you held was professional in nature; a letter from your supervisor at Gap talking about how well you fold shirts is not what the law schools are looking for); and
- People who supervised you in a leadership capacity.
Never pick the person to write the letter based on their title at the expense of someone who knows you better and can provide more meaningful insight into your accomplishments. Make sure the person can list examples of projects you completed at levels above expectation, and ways you contributed meaningfully to the class or team.
[See the Best Law Schools rankings.]
Once you've selected the right people (two to four individuals) to write LORs on your behalf, make sure to ask them in a professional way that makes it easy for the recommender to write a meaningful letter. Some tips:
- Have a conversation with the recommender about why you want to go to law school and why you selected that person to write your LOR.
- Provide the LSAC cover form for each recommender. This year, LSAC is trying something new: In lieu of a letter, a recommender can fill out an online evaluation form. (The problem is that few schools have announced that they'll be using the forms so it'll be interesting to see what happens.)
- Write up a few bullet points of projects/papers/tasks you accomplished under the person's watch.
- Gather papers you wrote for the professor or memos you wrote for a supervisor.
Ask the person to submit the letter to LSAC two weeks before you plan to apply to law school, and mark it in your calendar to follow up if the letter is not posted on LSAC by that time.
[Read Making Friends With LSAC.]
For more articles I've written about LORs, see: