It is not too early to get a head start on a critical part of your law school applications: letters of recommendation.
Letters from your professors or employers tell an important story about you: your work ethic, intellectual curiosity, character and drive. You should have a minimum of two, and potentially up to four, strong letters of recommendation for your applications. Here are some tips to put you ahead of the game in requesting letters of recommendation.
1. Make a list.
Start by brainstorming the top four or five people who you might ask to write your letters of recommendation. Include college professors from courses in which you excelled. Law schools want to see your capacity for academic rigor, so prioritize professors who can give detailed descriptions of your hard work and analytical abilities. At least one of your letters of recommendation should be from a professor.
Consider also asking former (or current, if you feel it is appropriate) bosses to write about your capacity for discipline and hard work. Again, prioritize people who have directly supervised you. For example, if you are working as a legal assistant, a letter of recommendation from a junior associate who directly supervises you would be more powerful than one from a senior partner who only has observed your work indirectly.
2. Be polite – always.
Be gracious and polite in your emails and other communications with potential recommenders. You are fortunate to have recommenders who will be part of your application process — you can’t successfully complete this journey without them.
3. Reach out — and follow up.
If your recommenders are in your local area, connect in person over lunch or a coffee. Get a sense of their interest in helping you in your law school admissions efforts and make the ask. Follow up with a brief email to each recommender requesting a letter of recommendation. Provide them with a suggested deadline for when the letter should be ready.
Be sure to follow up if you haven’t heard back 4-5 days after sending your email.
4. Provide clear instructions.
The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) will provide you with guidance about how each recommender is to upload their letter of recommendation. Provide these instructions to each recommender. Share any page limits or character limits LSAC or the law schools may set.
5. Offer content for the letters.
To help shape the letters of recommendation, proactively draft four or five bullet points that each recommender can use in drafting their letter.
Offer to send the bullet points or your Personal Statement to each recommender — they may or may not take you up on it. But any content you provide should emphasize your strongest academic and professional qualities.
6. Send a thank you card.
After your recommender has submitted a letter, send them a thank you note. Be sure to update them on where you ultimately decide to attend law school. Don’t view this letter of recommendation as a one-time transaction. You never know how or why you may come back to this recommender at some point in your professional life.
Letters of recommendation are a unique and powerful part of your law school application because they are the only opportunity for others to speak about you. Take advantage of this opportunity to connect with recommenders who can speak glowingly about you — and use this as one way to maintain your relationship with your recommender over the long term.