Law School Letters of Recommendation
Where Do My References Send the Letters of Recommendation?
The first step to requesting letters of recommendation is registering for the Law School Admission Council’s Letter of Recommendation (LOR) service. If you use the LOR service, your references will only need to submit their letters of recommendation once to LSAC—even if you intend to include these letters in every one of your law school applications.
When Should I Request My Letters of Recommendation?
Request these letters as early as possible, since gathering them will take much longer than you anticipate. One key to a glowing recommendation is not requesting it at the last minute.
Who Should Write My Letters of Recommendation?
The most effective letters of recommendation are from professors or work supervisors who know you well enough to support their praise of your academic or professional achievements with specific examples. When requesting letters of recommendation, do not hesitate to tactfully remind professors or supervisors of those achievements. (For example, “I wanted to ask you to write my letter of recommendation because I feel you can best speak to [X accomplishment/skill].”) The Law School Admission Council also notes that “[l]etters that compare you to your academic peers are often the most useful.”
Letters from academic sources are preferable, but applicants may wish to supplement these with a professional letter, especially if they have been in the workplace for some time.
In choosing your references, do not select someone simply because of their title. Law schools are not impressed by, and in fact frown upon, generic letters from big-name academics, politicians, or CEOs. A Teaching Assistant who can support their praise of your intellectual capacity with examples from your thesis or a small seminar is preferable to the senator for whom you worked but with whom you rarely interacted.
What Should My References Say?
Regardless of who your references are, they should mention, if possible, skills relevant to the practice of law. According to the American Bar Association, these include:
- Analytic and problem-solving skills
- Critical reading abilities
- Writing skills
- Oral communication and listening abilities
- General research skills
- Task organization and management skills
- The values of serving others and promoting justice
References need not use these exact phrases. For example, praise of a well-argued thesis is implicit praise of your critical reading abilities, writing skills, and general research skills.
Additionally, references should not feel limited to those traits. Law schools also want applicants who are hard-working and dependable, creative, emotionally mature, self-aware, culturally aware, resilient, honest, etc. Ideally, at least one reference will include a detailed and positive assessment of your intellectual abilities, but broader moral and ethical qualities are also important.