Sample Letters of Recommendation for a Law School Application

When it comes to letters of recommendation (LORs), there are good ones that help propel you forward in the process, and bad ones that actually can drag you down. Below is a sample of each so that you may properly guide your recommenders to create stellar examples of LORs.

Example of a bad LOR:

August 10, 2010

Re: Suzie Student

Dear Law School Admissions Committee:

For a number of years I taught a part-time course at Minnesota College called Introduction to the International Law of Human Rights – POLS 410. This was a challenging course intended for upper-level students. Students were required to read, analyze and digest a large number of judicial decisions as well as participate in the classes/seminars. Evaluation was on the basis of a term test, a major paper, and a final examination.

I recall Suzie Student from the 2009 fall semester as having been in regular attendance, always obviously prepared and an active and able participant in the class. She wrote an excellent paper for the course dealing with the complexities of the law of citizenship as it is influenced by the International Covenant on Civil Rights.

Based on my experience of Suzie in my course, I believe that she clearly has the ability and work ethic to successfully complete law school, and would recommend that you accept her to your program.

Yours very truly,
Andy Adjunct
Andrew T. Adjunct, J.D.

This letter, while seemingly good, has several flaws:

• The writer needs to establish credibility with the reader, especially since he has a JD. He should state his experience, education, and number of years in practice and/or teaching college students.

• The mention of regular attendance is faint praise.

• The writer gives very little information about the applicant’s skills. The only specific example was a general reference to an “excellent” paper.

• The letter fails to identify any outstanding characteristics of the student.

• There is no comparison to how she stacks up to other students.

Example of a Great LOR:

August 10, 2010

Re: Suzie Student

Dear Law School Admissions Committee:

Suzie Student asked me to supply you with a letter of reference in support of her application for admission to your law school. Suzie has been a student of mine in Labor Economics (fall 2008) and Advanced Econometrics (Spring 2009). I have been teaching at Minnesota College since 1976 and before that as a doctoral student, at University of Nebraska for 3 years. I am one of 3 full professors in my department.

Suzie Student definitely falls into one of the top 100 students I have taught, measured against approximately 10,000 students. Her outstanding grasp of logic, maturity, clarity, and communication skills have made her a standout. I view these skills as extremely important in her planned career.

In my Labor Economics class students participated in debate, and in my Advanced Econometrics class there were presentations. Suzie excelled in both, and was one of the few students with perfect attendance in both courses. Without being loud or interruptive, she was a ready and regular participant in class discussions and always added value to such discussion—a rare occurrence indeed. Her writing skills are similarly strong as she demonstrated in her 15 page research paper about applying U.S. economic models to emerging markets. In that essay, she presented a thoroughly-researched thesis and persuasively presented the benefits of applying American models to the Chilean economy.

Suzie also represented my class, and the University, at the Economic Education Forum held at the University of Iowa last spring. She was kind enough to make a voluntary presentation to the class about what she learned upon her return. Despite growing up in an impoverished community, she is held in high esteem by her peers. My experience is that such students usually have difficulty relating to other students, a trait usually amplified in group projects. Suzie was the opposite. She worked well in group settings and her groups always received the highest marks.

Economics is extremely demanding and I am not known as an easy grader. Suzie was awarded A’s in both of my classes. Economics also has a reputation for forcing students to use logic, the same logic which I have noted to be a characteristic trait of my students who have gone on to be great lawyers.

I am familiar with Suzie’s reputation in our local community where she is held in high regard. She is a regular volunteer at the Minneapolis homeless shelter, and was given a University award for her outstanding community service. I believe she would be a highly professional member of both your school and the bar.

It has been a pleasure to write this letter for Suzie Student. I hope you are able to take into account that she worked a full-time job to help support her family while attending school full-time during her first two years. I believe her grades during the last two years are more representative of her true ability.

Over the years I have written many law school recommendations for my students. I cannot think of another reference I have written, however, where I feel as strongly about a student’s potential to excel in law school. It is for these reasons that I provide her with my most outstanding recommendation. Suzie will make a great addition to your law school’s program.

Warmest regards,

Theresa Tenured
Theresa A. Tenured, Ph.D. Professor of Economics

Note the differences between this and the previous letter:

• Recommender is a credible professor in a demanding discipline.

• The writer seems to know the student well.

• The letter provides concrete examples of the student’s skills.

• The letter reflects well on the student’s character.

• The letter explains weaknesses in the student’s transcript.

• The letter subtly highlights her diverse perspective.

• The letter gives a clear comparison between the recommended student and other students the professor has taught.

• The letter gives the student an enthusiastic recommendation.