Letters of Recommendation
Letters of Recommendation (LORs) serve a fluid function in the law school admissions process. While a good letter can reassure an admissions committee, a poor one can undermine a candidacy. Most law schools require at least three, but the number varies from school to school. The updated LOR service in LSDAS will contain this information along with the law school’s admissions materials available both on the web and in applications packets.
Like other components of the application, LORs are processed through LSDAS. Once a reference agrees to write for a candidate, the candidate should hand over a packet of materials: the signed recommendation form available from the LSAC & LSDAS Book or downloaded from the LSDAS website, a stamped envelope addressed to LSDAS, and whatever other materials the reference writer might request including a curriculum vitae (or cv, a résumé that does not mention the job sought). Below are the answers to the most frequently asked questions about LORs.
Q: Whom should I ask to write a LOR?
A: The best letter writers are those who have a positive, wealth of knowledge about your qualities as a prospective lawyer and law school student. Professors are a must. Employers are good if the job revealed something about your lawyer-related skills. Family friends and clergy are not that helpful unless they can write tellingly of your intellect, professionalism, energy, analytical skills, and writing skill. You should keep this requirement of law school applications in mind as you pursue your undergraduate education and in your work outside of school.
Q: How should I ask for a LOR?
A: If you have prepared the groundwork properly, a polite request in a professional manner is a must. Professors especially are familiar with the process and have noted the qualities of their excellent students. Because they should be the targets of your request, most have an interest in passing along the good word about your qualities. They share in your success. As long as you conduct yourself in a professional manner, most professors will have no difficulty writing an unqualified recommendation. If a professor expresses some reservations about writing for you, do not press the matter. Respect his or her opinion, and ask someone else.
Q: Are there any tricks to the process I should know?
A: While there are no tricks, there are two general rules. First, you must approach this task intelligently. Many candidates have erred in selecting professors they really liked, but who did not reciprocate with helpful LORs. With the opportunity to take more than one upper level course from a good professor who knows and thinks highly of your work, Seton Hall students should have no difficulty discerning whom to ask. The second rule is to approach this task as you would approach any other aspect of the applications process (as well as your future clients): with professionalism. Friendly, but courteous, appreciative without sycophancy, and obeying the forms of polite society are the qualities of your relationships with possible writers of LORs. This means thank-you notes, preparation, timely requests and responses, and only gentle reminders about writing the letter and sending it off.
Some Last Words
The LOR is not merely a requirement to show you stand out in some way, but a chance to give the admissions committee a glimpse of you as a person rather than a statistic. Give it the attention it deserves and it may prove the tie-breaker in getting into the school of your choice.
While the rest of this website centers on the law school application process, keep in mind the above career paths. As with any other job search, you must find the right match for you. Enjoy the search!