Five Tips for Powerful Law School Letters of Recommendation
- Choose recommenders who know you well. The admissions committee has a limited amount of information to help them compare you with hundreds or thousands of other applicants. They're looking for help from people who actually know you and can provide insights they won't draw from the simple facts in your application file, and those insights are most likely to come from someone who really knows who you are, where you excel and what makes you tick.
- Choose recommenders who will invest some time. The vast majority of letters of recommendation say basically the same thing-and when an admissions officer has read that three or four or seven hundred people are honest and hard working and brilliant, the adjectives start to lose their meaning. The best recommendations will come from people willing to learn what the admissions committee is really looking for and invest in writing a fresh, personal letter for each person they recommend.
- Make it easy for your recommenders. You're asking for a favor and it's important to you that the recommender gets the job done well, so don't ask them to do homework. Put together a packet for each recommender with a draft of your personal statement, information about your other recommenders, your resume and the specific reasons you're asking this particular person to recommend you-in addition to making it easier for the recommender, this is a great way to remind your professor or past employer of the specific events, experiences, past comments or accomplishments that made you think he'd be a good person to write your recommendation.
- Mix it up. Depending on whether you're a current student, a recent graduate, or several years out into the workforce, the academic/employer balance of your recommendations will vary. But the breakdown doesn't end there. Even if you're a current student and all of your recommendations will come from professors, you'll want to think about what each has seen of you in terms of performance, character, academic potential, etc. and put together a group that will cover a range of information and insights instead of three versions of the same idea.
- Plan ahead. It may take your recommenders several weeks to get around to, write and perfect their letters, and then it takes LSDAS some time to process those letters. How long that is, exactly, will vary depending on the point in the cycle at which your letters of recommendation are submitted, but the bottom line is that there are two steps in the process over which you'll have little or no control: how long it takes your recommender to get the letter out and how long LSDAS processing takes. That means that you should allow plenty of margin for error. At a minimum, request letters 2 months before you plan to submit your applications.