6 Steps to Powerful Law School Recommendation Letters

Recommendation letters play an important role in the law school admissions process—and they’re also an application component that’s out of your control once an individual agrees to write one for you.
So, what can you do to help ensure your recommenders present you in the most favorable way? Here are six steps to help secure strong recommendation letters:

  • Ask early.

    Give each recommender as much time as possible before the deadline. If you are asking a professor, do so in the early fall before midterm pressure looms. Nothing guarantees a ho-hum letter of recommendation like giving someone just two days to write it.

  • Ask for the letter in person.

    If possible, try to set up a time to chat with your recommender so that you can explain why you are applying to law school. It is also helpful for the recommender to put a face to a name—especially if it’s a professor from a large lecture style class. If you are not able to request the letter in person, be sure to provide each recommender with a package of information about yourself.

  • Provide work samples.

    Supply all recommenders with samples of your work, your resume, reasons why you want to go to law school, how you see your candidacy relating back to your experience with them, and what you think you might do with the law degree. If the person writing the letter does not know you particularly well or you were in a large class with them, give them a little more background about yourself and some highlights of your experience with them.

  • Diversify your recommendation letters.

    Choose individuals who know you from different aspects of your life. Having three Economics professors write your letters is not going to be nearly as helpful as professors from different disciplines and an internship supervisor who can attest to different skill sets.

  • Explain what law schools want.

    If the person writing the letter has little experience writing recommendations, you can explain to them that law schools are looking for the following traits in strong applications: a willingness to take on responsibility, demonstrated experience as a strong team player, strong writing and speaking skills, a willingness to go above and beyond the basic expectations, active listening skills, and the ability to prioritize and organize tasks. These are traits that can be found in any job, internship, or classroom.

  • Provide a specific list of talking points.

    If the person asks you to write the letter for them, offer to provide them with a very specific list of things that they might think about including in the letter but ask them to put it in their own words. Law schools are very good at figuring out if a letter is self-written.

What your recommender needs to know

A few final suggestions for ensuring your letter writer is fully informed: Be specific about when the recommendation letter is due, remembering that it may take LSAC up to two weeks to process it. To avoid delays in sending, provide the recommender with the LSAC recommender form and a pre-addressed and stamped envelope.
Be sure that your recommender understands that they are writing one general letter that will go to all the law schools to which you are applying. If the person has a specific connection to one of the schools, be very clear that they will be writing both a general law school admissions letter and one school-specific letter.
Choose your recommenders wisely and do your best to provide them with everything they will need to write you the best recommendation letter.