Wondering how to get the perfect law school letter of recommendation? Read on to learn more!
Applying to law school means navigating the LSAC application, gathering necessary documents, and presenting your skills and self in a positive light. One application element you don’t have complete control over is your law school recommendation letters, which can make some applicants nervous about asking for them.
We’ll outline everything you need to know about recommendations, including how they impact your candidacy, who and how to ask for a letter of recommendation for law school and more!
A law school letter of recommendation in an application material that attests to students’ preparedness for law school. These letters are generally written by professors and are around one page long.
Amidst the hustle of acing the LSAT, meticulously selecting an affordable yet ideal school to fulfill your aspirations, and writing a captivating personal statement and resume, it’s essential not to underestimate the role of your letters of recommendation!
UC Berkeley emphasizes letters of recommendation can strengthen students’ applications if there are deficiencies in your application. These letters can help to outweigh these shortcomings.
Law school recommendation letters are important because they:
It’s worth spending time securing strong letters of recommendation; law school acceptance rates can be relatively low, especially at T14 schools. Strong recommendation letters can highlight your candidacy and fitness for law.
According to the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), letters of recommendation “that compare you to your academic peers are often the most useful.” LSAC also warns against “general, unreservedly praiseworthy letters.” General, complimentary letters aren’t specific enough to accurately depict your skills and qualities.
The University of Utah’s Academic Advising Center claims,
“Letters that reflect real knowledge of an applicant’s performance and character are the most useful to the admissions committee.”
A strong law school letter of recommendation should meet these goals:
An excellent recommendation letter is detailed, precise, and quantifies your experiences and fitness for law school.
Your letters of recommendation should be organized as follows:
Your recommendation should begin with a letterhead including the writer’s name, position, email address, and sometimes number, if your writer is comfortable with it.
Your letter should begin with a short opening explaining the relationship between you and the writer and the purpose of the recommendation.
Letters of recommendation typically have a few main paragraphs. These paragraphs will detail the reasons you’re an excellent candidate for law school, including specific examples to provide context. These paragraphs should highlight your best academic and personal qualities.
The recommendation should conclude by providing a concise summary of the writer's overarching perspective on the candidate and reiterate their readiness for law school.
Before compiling a list of potential sources, you must read the admissions requirements for each school you want to apply to. Some schools may be more specific about recommenders, whereas others may give you more freedom to pick whomever you feel would write you the best evaluation.
LSAC states that the best letters of recommendation are written by professors and work supervisors who know you well enough to comment honestly on your overall potential and share your academic, personal, and professional achievements.
Some of the best sources for your law school recommendations include:
Most law schools prefer recommendations from academic sources, such as professors from your university. If you’re still in university, you can focus on relationship-building with your professors through actively participating in the classroom and seeking research opportunities and advice.
Avoid asking people for letters who don’t know you well, even if you think their status is impressive; your manager who you interact with daily is a much better recommender than the CEO of your company you’ve met once.
On the other hand, it’s also best to avoid recommendation letters from family or friends: it could hinder your application!
It’s time to learn how to ask for a letter of recommendation for law school. We’ll outline the best ways to approach and support your recommenders step-by-step.
You know the best recommenders, but you may still have to narrow down your options. Make a list of people you think would be happy to write enthusiastic, detailed recommendations for you.
While you can send the same recommendation to multiple schools, you can choose recommenders to write a targeted recommendation to just one school. For example, if you want to attend NYU Law and your recommender happens to be an NYU Law school graduate, you can ask them to write a tailored letter.
You want to ensure you give your recommenders enough time to write your letters before the application deadline or the date you hope to submit your LSAC applications.
You should be considerate of your letter writers' time and workload, and approach them at least two months in advance of your request. An excellent time to request a law school recommendation letter is in the fall of your senior year.
You can connect with potential recommenders by email, but meeting in person has its benefits. The main benefit of meeting in person is to see if your recommender is enthusiastic about writing your letter. If you sense reluctance, you may want to consider asking someone else.
When you meet with your recommender, you can share your motivations for attending law school and your hopes for the future.
Even if you have a close relationship with your letter writer, it’s unlikely they will remember every detail about your accomplishments and candidacy. Showing up to your meeting with supporting documents makes your recommender’s life easier: they’ll appreciate the context!
You can put together a package for each of your evaluators that includes:
You should also include a note on anything you want to be emphasized in your law school letter of recommendation. For example, if you want your letter to highlight your research experience, you should explicitly state that to your recommender.
You can add a thank you note with your package, but it’s worth expressing in person how grateful you are if your recommender accepts your request. Remember, your recommenders aren’t obligated to provide you with an evaluation; they genuinely want to see you succeed.
After you get accepted at your dream law school, don’t forget to follow up and say thank you one more time!
If you’re using LSAC’s LOR Service, you’ll need to input your recommender’s name and contact information to submit a formal request. Afterward, they’ll receive an email with instructions on submitting their recommendation. If they prefer, they can also submit paper letters.
Keep this template in mind as you gather your first recommendation letter for your law school application:
[Writer’s place of employment]
[Writer’s address, city, state, ZIP code]
Dear [intended law school] Admissions Committee,
[Opening paragraph explaining relationship and purpose of recommendation]
[Main paragraph 1]
[Main paragraph 2]
[Main paragraph 3]
[Conclusion reiterating perspective on student]
[Writer’s position and place of employment]
You can modify this law school recommendation letter template as needed!
To ensure you’re on the right track and know exactly what your recommendation should look like, here are two examples of strong letters of recommendation for law school:
Dr. John Doe
451 College St, New Haven, CT, 06511
Dear Harvard Law Admissions Committee,
I am writing this letter of recommendation on behalf of Kiera Dimmings, who was a dedicated and exceptional student in my Psychology class during the 2022 academic term at Yale University. I am delighted to provide my strong endorsement for Kiera as she pursues a career in law.
Kiera consistently demonstrated a remarkable level of intellectual curiosity, critical thinking skills, and an impressive work ethic. Her active participation in class discussions showcased their ability to grasp complex concepts and analyze intricate psychological theories. Notably, Kiera exhibited exceptional writing skills through their thought-provoking essays and research assignments, which highlighted their capacity to convey ideas succinctly and persuasively.
What particularly stands out about Kiera is her exceptional aptitude for understanding human behavior and motivation. She displayed a keen interest in exploring the intersections between psychology and the legal system, often engaging in insightful discussions about the psychological underpinnings of legal proceedings, ethics, and decision-making. She even wrote her final research paper on this topic, which awarded her the highest assignment grade in the class, a 93%. Her engagement in such dialogues showcased their passion for applying psychological principles to real-world scenarios, which I believe will greatly benefit them in their pursuit of a legal education. She is also involved in some of our department research, and is an integral part of our current study on the impact of social media on student relations.
Considering Kiera's impressive academic record, analytical abilities, and passion for the legal field, I am confident that she has the qualities necessary to excel in law school. I wholeheartedly recommend Kiera for admission to your law school and am confident that she will continue to excel and make significant contributions to any academic community she becomes a part of.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you require any further information.
Dr. John Doe
Professor of Psychology at Yale University
Dr. Jane Doe
University of Illinois
1201 W. University Avenue, Urbana, IL, 61801
Dear Columbia Law Admissions Committee,
I am pleased to write this letter of recommendation on behalf of Adam Smith, a remarkable student whom I had the privilege of instructing in multiple political science courses during their time at the University of Illinois. I am delighted to wholeheartedly endorse Adam in his pursuit of a career in law.
Over the three years I taught Adamn, I had the pleasure of witnessing his exceptional growth, intellectual abilities, passion for learning, and dedication to academic excellence. Throughout his engagement in various political science courses, Adam consistently stood out for his insightful contributions to class discussions, as well as his impressive written assignments.
Adam has an outstanding ability to synthesize complex political concepts and theories into coherent, well-reasoned arguments. His analytical skills, combined with a thorough understanding of political dynamics, allowed him to critically evaluate issues from multiple perspectives. This capacity for nuanced thinking is an essential asset in the study and practice of law, where the ability to navigate intricate legal matters is of paramount importance.
Adam not only excelled academically but also demonstrated exceptional leadership and interpersonal skills. He took the initiative to organize and participate in extracurricular political debates and seminars, where he showcased his ability to articulate ideas persuasively and engage in constructive discourse. It is also evident that Adam possesses a strong ethical foundation and an unwavering commitment to justice and fairness, as he spends the majority of his free time contributing to activist initiatives led by our justice-related school organizations. He has made an impact both inside and outside of the classroom and has certainly left a mark on our school community.
These qualities, in conjunction with Adam’s deep understanding of political systems and institutions, equip him with the necessary tools to excel in law school and, subsequently, in a legal career. As such, I am confident in his ability to thrive in law school and beyond. Adam’s ability to think critically, engage in thoughtful discourse, and approach complex problems with a solution-oriented mindset will undoubtedly set him up for a prosperous future. I am confident that he will continue to impress and make an excellent addition to your law school.
Should you require any additional information or further insights into Adam's capabilities and qualifications, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Dr. Jane Doe
Professor of Political Science at the University of Illinois
If you still have questions about how to ask for a recommendation letter for law school, read on for more answers.
A good law school recommendation letter should include your relationship with the writer and detailed, positive judgments about your character, activities, and accomplishments. If possible, a letter that quantitatively compares you to your peers can give you a competitive edge.
You should provide two to three letters of recommendation, depending on your law school’s admission requirements.
You shouldn’t write your own recommendation for law school, even if the person you asked offered to sign off on it. There’s no clear policy on whether this is against LSAC’s rules or not, but admissions committee members may sense that you wrote your own letter, even with your recommender’s signature on it.
Many schools request between two and four recommendation letters. Many students will request three letters.
Yes, you can use the same letter of recommendation for multiple law schools. If you’ve asked for general recommendations, you should tag them as “General References” in your LSAC application.
You can safely assume that admissions committees will evaluate every part of your law school applications. Most schools take a holistic approach, meaning they’ll consider every component before deciding its fate. Stellar letters of recommendation for law school can level up your application, so assume they’ll be read!
Typically, students reach out for recommendations at least two to three months before their application deadline. This timeline allows ample time for your busy professors to craft compelling letters on your behalf.
Law school recommendation letters offer more insight into your character, motivation, and personality. Now that you know how to ask for recommendation letters, you can feel confident knowing you can put your best foot forward with potential evaluators.
Remember to ask for law school recommendation letters early and provide your recommenders with important information about you. Good luck!