If you are planning to apply to law school, professional relationships are an important part of your strategy. It pays to be nice to your professors and bosses— you will to need several of them to write letters of recommendation for your law school application.
Check each application to know how many letters are required, but most law schools require between two and four. If possible, most of your letters should come from academic references. If you’ve been out of school for a while, it’s fine to include a letter from an employer, but try not to rely solely or mostly on employer recommendations.
Find the Ideal Recommender
What are you looking for in a recommender? Most critically, they need to know and like you. Ideally, you’ve cultivated relationships with your professors, so there are a few who know you well and would be obvious candidates to help with your letters. Don’t be shy about asking for help! Writing letters of recommendation is part of a professor’s job, so most are happy to help.
I Can’t Think of Anyone!
If you can’t come up with anyone, think about the smaller classes you took, particularly if they were discussion courses. Would any of these professors be good candidates to write a letter on your behalf? If you’re still in school, could you set up an independent study or work on a thesis project with a professor you like? Worst case, how about taking another course or two with one of your favorite professors and dropping by their office hours a few times during the semester? That’s a great way to get to know your professors.
Be Sure You’ll Get a Good Recommendation
Once you’ve figured out who you want to approach, make sure you’ll get a good recommendation. If you ask for a LOR and get anything other than “Of course, I’d be happy to help,” be careful. You don’t want a lukewarm recommendation. In that case, offer an unenthusiastic professor an easy way out. Something along the lines of “I know you don’t know me that well, so I understand if you’re not comfortable writing a letter for me” can save you from a tepid recommendation. Getting enthusiastic recommenders who recognize your awesomeness is worth the effort! You want someone on your team, so find someone who thinks you’re really great.
Spell Out Exactly What They Need to Do
Once you’ve nailed down your recommenders, it’s your responsibility to ensure they know exactly what they need to do, and in what time frame.
You have to register for the LSAC reporting service before any letters can be submitted on your behalf, so do this as early as possible to avoid inconveniencing your recommenders.
If applicable, gather contact information for each recommender’s assistant, so you can follow up to be sure everything is submitted in a timely manner.
Provide a Copy of Your Application
Your letters of recommendation will be most convincing if they echo the themes of your application.
How can you accomplish this? The easiest thing to do is to give each recommender a copy of your application essay, so it’s clear why you’re applying to law school.
It’s also helpful to have a conversation about your goals and plans, of course, but always leave your recommender with something in writing that can consult after you’re gone.
Start Early and Expect Delays
It’s inevitable that some recommenders will procrastinate. Be prepared: solicit letters well in advance and set your personal deadlines well before the application deadlines.
Keep in mind that it takes at least two weeks to process letters submitted to LSAC, so don’t leave this task until the last minute! Ask early, be clear about deadlines, and follow up regularly to make sure everything is on course.