Letter of Recommendation for Law School Admissions


Whether applying to law school or graduate school, you will be asked to submit letters of recommendation. In requesting such letters there are some general rules of etiquette. Most faculty are happy to write a recommendation. You should, however, be aware that writing a letter takes a good deal of effort. The recommender is doing you a favor. Beyond taking his or her time to prepare the evaluation, this person is putting his/her name and reputation behind a statement endorsing you as qualified or competent. Always be considerate of this fact when you ask and treat the recommender as someone fulfilling a favor rather than meeting an obligation owed to you.

Whom should you ask?
Ideally, you should ask for letters of recommendation from those familiar with you and your work. Letters of recommendation can be powerful statements that provide detailed evaluations of your abilities to the admission committee. A letter prepared by someone who does not really know you or your strengths will likely be vague and generic. An ambiguous letter like that can convey a poor impression of you as a candidate as readers may assume it was simply written without enthusiasm.

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You should only request letters of recommendation from those people you are confident will give you a good evaluation. In approaching a professor for a letter, it is perfectly acceptable to inquire whether he/she would be willing to write you a generally positive recommendation. Normally, faculty will inform you if they are unable to provide you with a favorable statement. If you are not comfortable asking, or are less than confident as to what a particular recommender is likely to say about you, you should consider asking someone else.

It is also perfectly acceptable to inform the recommender of any particular points you would like emphasized in the letter. For example, if your are looking for someone to attest to your writing ability, or would appreciate having any involvement in extra-academic activities emphasized, inform the reviewer of this fact. Generally, it is a good idea to make certain the recommender knows the specific purpose/audience for the letter so that remarks are addressed appropriately. A letter supporting your application to become an on-campus R.A., for example, may include different information than a letter in support of law school admission.

When should you ask?
You should approach a recommender well in advance of the deadline. Ideally, you should give the recommender at least 2-3 weeks notice. Most recommenders will not take that long, but it is both inconsiderate and unwise to request a letter on short notice. Remember, recommendation sources are doing you a favor and may be busy or unavailable at certain times. A lack of planning on your part should not leave the recommender with a last minute emergency task. You do not want a letter that has been written by someone who was rushed or annoyed by trying to meet a last minute request. In the event that you are working under a tight deadline, however, and are forced to give short-notice, you should definitely adhere to the following basic guidelines.