One of our top 10 tips for getting into law school is to optimize each law school letter of recommendation. This will give an admissions committee insight into how you function as a student. Your transcript and LSAT score will show numbers, of course, but they don’t necessarily reflect your motivation, commitment, and ability to get along well with others the way that letters can. Of course, part of optimizing your letters is finding people who will be supportive of your goals for law school. Since a law school letter of recommendation will be the only piece of your application that you won’t get to see before submitting your applications, you want to make sure you’re asking the right people to vouch for you. Who falls along those lines?
Best People to Ask
Turn to people who can speak to the quality of your academic work. These people will most likely be your professors, teaching assistants, or lecturers. Make sure these are people you’ve developed relationships with over time. In other words, asking for a law school letter of recommendation and being greeted by a blank stare is probably not going to bode well. Your letter writers should not only be familiar with your academics, but also who you are as a person. You want your letters to present a snapshot of what an interesting, intellectually capable candidate you are. The more you know your recommenders, the better position they’re in to support your application. You can maximize face time with professors by taking the same instructor for more than one semester or conducting research under the supervision of a professor.
You can ask for your supervisor or manager at work to write a letter for you, as well, but try to find a way for these letters to highlight your academic and/or critical reasoning potential if possible. This is particularly the case if you’ve graduated from college a while ago and are far removed from academics.
There’s a great synopsis of what Harvard looks for in a law school letter of recommendation, and you can almost certainly find a similar statement on the websites of any law schools to which you’re considering applying.
People to Avoid Asking
There’s no need to ask a Supreme Court judge for a letter of recommendation just because he’s a friend of a relative of a friend of a… you get the idea. Someone who’s five times removed from actually knowing you isn’t going to write an effective letter. The same goes for political figures or prominent members of a school’s alumni community. Unless these people happen to have seen you perform in the classroom firsthand over a sustained period of time, avoid asking them for letters. When it comes to impressing admissions officers, your recommenders’ titles and status won’t make you shine, but outstanding content in your letters will!
As another word of caution, find people who can review your work objectively and professionally. Your best friend may be vastly impressed by your ability to throw a well-organized, highly-successful surprise birthday party, and your roommates might be able to give positive reviews about how committed you are to coordinating Saturday night dinner outings. But having family and friends write law school letters of recommendation on your behalf is likely to result in letters that admissions officers can’t take seriously.