Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation (LORs) can be quite influential in admissions’ decisions. With this in mind we encourage you to consider the following:
Whom should you ask to write your LORs?
- Most schools specifically request recommendations from someone who can evaluate your academic performance. We recommend that you request a minimum of two academic references from professors or GSIs since this will cover the recommendation requirements of most schools.
- Choose someone who knows you well. The prestige of the letter writer will have little influence especially if the letter is superficial and fails to evaluate your academic ability.
- Additional letters of reference from employers/supervisors will help to round out your application (check with each school to verify that they will accept more than two references). If you graduated two or more years ago, a letter of recommendation from your employer/supervisor is expected.
How should you ask him or her?
- Whenever possible, you should ask to meet with the letter writer in person. This will give the potential recommender the opportunity to ask questions and it will give you the opportunity to access his or her enthusiasm for you as a law school applicant.
- Bring relevant materials such as a resume, brief statement explaining why you are interested in law school and a writing sample, if available. Your recommender may not want these items, but it is best to be prepared.
- Politely ask if he/she is able to write a strong recommendation for you.
- Be sure to discuss a specific deadline for submitting the letter.
What are the characteristics of a “good” LOR?
- The letter should specifically assess the student's academic achievement and potential, particularly his/her research skills, capacity for analytical thinking and writing ability. Additional comments that reflect on the candidate’s character, maturity, insight, organization etc. are also valuable.
- Whenever possible, the letter should include concrete examples such as performance on a particularly challenging assignment, team project or contribution to class discussion.
When should you begin thinking about LORs?
- Begin early in your academic career. Give your professors a chance to know you by going to office hours, asking meaningful questions, actively participating in class discussions, seeking advice and then demonstrating that you can follow it. Cultivate these relationships by staying in contact with these professors even after the class has ended and potentially taking a second class from the same instructor.
- Plan to acquire recommendations by the end of your junior year if you are applying in your senior year. If plan to take time off before applying, request your letters of recommendation before you graduate.
How should the letters be sent?
- Most law schools require that applicants use the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) to process all aspects of the application. There are two ways to submit your LORs to CAS.
- For a small fee, store the letters at the Career Center using their Reference Letter Service (RLS). Upon your request, RLS will send copies of the letters to CAS for a small nominal fee. This option may be good for candidates that plan to take time off between their undergraduate and law school experiences.
- Your LORs can be submitted by your recommenders directly to the CAS.
What is the difference between a letter of reference and an evaluation?
- Letters of reference are written narratives expressing the writer’s opinion about the candidate’s academic abilities.
- Evaluations use a scale to rate applicants on the basis of both cognitive (e.g., analytical ability) and noncognitive (e.g., trustworthy) abilities.
- Evaluations are typically optional but you should always check with each school where you plan to apply.
Where can I go for additional tips?
- Consult the Career Center website for further insight.
- The Law School Admission Council, which oversees CAS, provides details about evaluations and how to manage your letters of recommendation.
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