It is never 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: they shed light on 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 when requesting letters of recommendation:
1. Make a list.
Start by brainstorming the top four or five people whom you might ask to write your letters of recommendation. Include college professors in whose courses 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. Always be polite.
Be gracious and polite in your e-mails 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, try to connect in person over lunch or a coffee. Otherwise, schedule a virtual chat to catch up. Get a sense of their interest in helping you in your law school admissions efforts and make the ask. Follow up with a brief e-mail to each recommender requesting a letter of recommendation. Provide them with a suggested deadline for completing the letter.
Be sure to follow up if you haven’t heard back four to five days after sending your e-mail.
4. Provide clear instructions.
The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) will provide you with guidance about how recommenders should upload recommendation letters. Provide these instructions to each recommender. Share any page limits or character limits the LSAC or the law schools may set. Be sure to check each school’s specific requirements, as they may differ.
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. Keep in mind that any content you provide should emphasize your strongest academic and professional qualities.
6. Send a thank you note.
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 them over the long term.