How To Get Great Letters Of Recommendation
Peg Cheng was certainly busy this week!
After examining law school resumes, Cheng shared her wisdom on how to ask for letters of recommendation. Basically, she advises students to solicit more letters than they need… and request them sooner than they need them.
While most applications only call for two letters, Cheng suggests three letters. Why? Cheng offers three reasons:
“First, it is possible one of your recommenders may not follow through. Second, you may need that third LOR for some schools. Third, for schools that place you on the wait list, you might be able to send the last LOR as further evidence that you are a great candidate.”
Cheng also encourages applicants to meet with recommenders in person. “Treat them with your utmost respect and courtesy,” she warns. “This person is going to spend two to four hours writing a letter for you. That’s a lot of time! They’re doing this as a favor to you.”
To make the process easier for recommenders, Cheng proposes that applicants provide resumes, transcripts, and background on why they want to attend law school. She also advocates giving a deadline to your recommender that’s four weeks ahead of when you actually need it. “I’ve seen too many cases where recommenders put off writing the LOR for so long that she/he actually made the applicant late in applying,” Cheng writes.
So what should be included in a letter of recommendation? According to a piece written by Diane Curtis, Director of Pre-Law Advising at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, letters should cover an overview of applicable legal exams, along with examples of the applicant’s best traits in action:
“Tell the committee what the basis for your opinion is — what was the nature of the project, paper, or assignment that Sally completed which proved she had such great analytical reasoning skills? What did it require of all students, and what did Sally do in particular that set her work above the others’? It is especially important to emphasize those skills that will make the student a good law student: e.g., writing, analytical reasoning, critical thinking, reading, self-discipline/work ethic, etc.”
With law schools relying heavily on LSATs to compare students, Curtis also counsels recommenders to explain how the applicant “stacks up against others you’ve had, and in particular against other students you’ve had who have gone on to law school.”
And it almost goes without saying that students should take one final step: Say thank you. Recommenders are sticking their necks out, and students ultimately reflect on their recommenders. Make them proud.
Sources: Pre-Law Guru, University of Massachusetts-Amherst