3 Tips For Getting Stellar Letters of Recommendation

When you apply to law school, letters of recommendation (otherwise known as LOR) will be an important component of your application. They are an endorsement from those who have taught you or supervised you, and know your work. Typically, applicants submit two or three letters of recommendation with their applications.

This application cycle seems to be a competitive one, so far. So it’s important to have letters of recommendation stand out. How do you make them effective? Here are a few tips:

  1. Go With Recommenders Who Know You Best:

    One admissions director told a group of us at a pre-law event that the most memorable letters include ‘anecdotes, not just accolades.’ What she meant was that almost anyone who writes a recommendation letter will probably include accolades. But those letters can also sound generic, unless they include details. A recommender who can write very specific examples of how you excelled at work or in their class will write a more memorable letter. Go with who can write the most detailed letter with examples, over a recommender who just has a fancy title, but does not know you as well. 

  2. Should You Focus on Letters of Recommendation From Professors or Employers? 

    Most law schools are going to want at least one or two of the recommendations to be from professors. You are applying to grad school, and one that is very academically focused. Usually admissions will want to hear from faculty who taught you. It does not always have to be from a professor in your major. It can be anyone who you think knows your work well and will write a good LOR. Often applicants will include two from professors and one from an employer or internship supervisor, assuming the school accepts three. If you are taking time off between college and law school, it becomes more important to also have a LOR from the employer you worked for during that time.  

  3. Give Your Recommenders A Firm Deadline: 

    One mistake I often see applicants make without realizing it, is that they are not giving recommenders enough time. During the fall, they might be extremely busy teaching classes (especially this year, with hybrid models of learning). Or they might be extremely busy at work, or have many other recommendation requests. I would give them at least 3-4 weeks to write your recommendation. I would explain to them how it works(directions for submitting LOR are on www.lsac.org). I would also give them a deadline. Don’t be afraid to follow up. If they do not submit it and you don’t have your LOR on file, your application will not be considered complete. Most likely they will actually appreciate the reminder.

Hillary Mantis consults with pre-law students, law students and lawyers. She is Assistant Dean for Pre-law Advising at Fordham University and author of career books, including Alternative Careers for Lawyers. You can reach her at altcareer@aol.com.