Harvard Law Students Respond Positively To Virtual Fall Term

How To Approach Optional Recommendations and Essays

Every law school application requires applicants to submit personal statements and recommendations to be considered for acceptance.

Personal statements can often enable admissions officers to better understand why you want to attend a law school.  And letters of recommendation allow admission officers to learn more about you from another perspective.

Many times, law school applications will ask for essays and recommendations – some of which are required and some of which are optional. Anna Ivey, of Anna Ivey Consulting, recently discussed how much is too much when it comes to essays and recommendations.


Most law schools will require two recommendations with the option to submit up to four total.

Ivey counsels applicants to focus on sending only the two required recommendations, unless they have a strong reason for submitting more.

“Most top law schools prefer academic recommendations, and so the two you send should ideally come from people who have taught you in college or in graduate school, unless the instructions expressly say otherwise,” Ivey writes.

There are certain situations that may call for more recommendations.

“If you have been out in the workforce for a while and are changing careers, a professional recommendation can be interesting,” Ivey writes. “In that case, in the hypothetical above (two required, up to four permitted), one of the two you send can come from a supervisor, or — if you’re lucky enough to be able to drum up two academic letters after being out of school for a while — you can submit the professional recommendation as a third letter.”


When it comes to optional essays, Ivey says, there are two conditions to submitting more than the required: if you have something interesting to say on the subject and if you can write about it very well within a one-page limit.

“If you’re going to bother writing a ‘Why School X’ essay, have something to say that really does distinguish that school (for you) from other wonderful peer schools,” Ivey writes.

Some applicants may consider also submitting an optional diversity essay. However, Ivey recommends applicants to take some time to think about what they want to write about and why it matters.

“It’s not enough to identify that you have that background; you have to explain why and how it matters,” Ivey writes. “This piece also needs to be personal rather than abstract. If you can’t discuss that part of your background in a meaningful, personal, well-written way, showing not just the ‘what’ but also the “so what” (why it matters to you), don’t submit the essay,” Ivey writes.

Sources: Anna Ivey Consulting, Tipping the Scales, Tipping the Scales