If you are finishing up your undergrad degree and planning on applying for law school, it is important for you to start gathering letters of recommendation. Letters of recommendation are required by many graduate program, but they could hold more weight when applying to law school. Below are some tips regarding letters of recommendation, who to ask and how to ask, as well as what should be included in these letters.
The letter of recommendation is one part of your application for law school that is not entirely in your control. It’s important to request these letters early, so that the people you have asked for them have time to write something and get it submitted well before your application deadline. If you’ve chosen well, your writers will need some time to construct a letter that really tells your prospective school about you, your qualifications, and your drive to succeed.
Understand and Follow Directions
It is important that you understand exactly how your prospective school would like you to submit these letters. Some schools will ask the writer of the letter to send the letter of recommendation directly to the school. Others will request that your writer give the letters to you – often signing across the seal so that the school knows you didn’t open or alter the letter in any way.
There may also be specific requirements about who writes the letter. Typically, you will be required to present three letters, with two of these letters being from professors and a third letter which can be written by someone else. Current or former employers, people you have worked with in a volunteer capacity, are examples of people who can write the third letter. The important thing is that the people who write your letters for you should know you well enough to speak to your abilities, talents and personal character. Certainly, many professors, who may have hundreds of people in a specific class, may not know you extremely well, but they have access to records that can help them write something meaningful.
Consider Signing a Waiver
You may be able to sign something that waives your right to see letters of recommendation that have been submitted on your behalf. Consider doing this. Many schools give a little higher weight to your letters of recommendation if you waive your right to read them because they feel it allows the writer of the recommendation to be more candid with the school, since you’ll never read the document.
Be Specific with Your Requests for Letters and Follow Up
It’s important that you communicate with those who have agreed to write you a letter of recommendation. You don’t want a generic letter. Let them know you want something that tells a personal story about you, something that will stand out from other applicants. Likely, when you chose a person to write, you chose them because of specific things that they experienced with you that show off your abilities or your character. Remind them of those things and ask them to be as specific as possible in the letter.