8 tips for letters of recommendations for law school

By Hillary Mantis

“Who should I ask to write my letters of recommendation?” Julian, a senior back on campus for the fall semester, recently asked me. “And when should I ask them?”

“I recommend you ask for them right now,” I replied, knowing that professors quickly become swamped with requests for recommendations soon after school begins.

So, if you are waiting for LSAT scores, or ready to get started on your applications, that is something you can work on now.

Here are some tips:

- Some law schools will accept two letters of recommendation; others will accept three or more letters. Schools often prefer letters from professors, especially from applicants who are still in school.

- It does not always have to be from a professor in your major; it can be a professor who knows you well in any subject that you have taken. Presumably, you will have done well in their class.

- Often, applicants will try to obtain two letters of recommendation from professors, and an additional recommendation from an employer or internship supervisor. If the applicant graduated several years ago, however, they may be more focused on obtaining letters from employers.

- If you think you may take a year off between undergrad and law school, you may want to consider asking your professors if they will write your recommendations for you before you graduate. That way, you won’t have to come back to campus and track them down when you are applying to law school.

- It’s a good idea to go to office hours, or talk to them if you can before they write your letters, so you can update them about your goals and plans for law school, rather than just sending an email request, especially if you took their class a long time ago.

- It’s wise to give your recommenders a deadline. It may be helpful for them to know when you need it, and your file will not be considered complete until recommendations are in. I have seen missing letters of recommendation hold up applications.

- Remember that they may be getting requests for other recommendations, so give them several weeks to complete your recommendation. They may be getting requests from students applying to other grad schools, or for jobs, so they may be inundated with requests.

- It’s a good idea to participate in class, go to office hours and get to know your professors when you are a freshman, sophomore and junior—so by the time you are a senior, you will have several professors in mind who you might ask for a letter of recommendation-which will make this process a lot easier!

Hillary Mantis advises pre-law students, law students and lawyers. She is the assistant dean for pre-law advising at Fordham University and author of "Alternative Careers for Lawyers." You can reach her at altcareer@aol.com.