Who Should Write Your Law School Letters of Recommendation

Law schools are particularly interested in academic letters of recommendation. Much of the information they hope to gain from these letters is best judged by another professor. Ideally, your letters will come from professors who taught classes where you excelled.

Law schools are also looking for the letter to come from someone who knows you well. General letters of recommendation from professors, or even well-known politicians, judges, etc. should be avoided. Look for a professor who worked with you extensively and who could comment on your intellectual and analytical abilities—one that personally mentored you if possible. The best choices for these letters come from your undergraduate advisors, professors from your major field of study, your thesis sponsor, a professor who has written an evaluation of your work, or your supervising professor if you are a graduate student.

The ideal letter of recommendation comes from a tenured professor who understands what it takes to succeed in law school, has worked closely with you, and has a high regard for your intellectual capabilities. Praises like “one of the best students I’ve seen,” or “she was the best student in my class,” are ideal. Great letters contain not only a glowing assessment, but enough supporting detail to convince the reader that the professor is not exaggerating. The best recommender has seen your growth and development, is able to attest to your writing skills and intellectual ability, and is able to communicate it effectively to the admissions committee.

If you have been out of college for more than 1 year consider having a supervisor write a letter for you. This should be used as your second or third letter. Admissions committees expect academic letters of recommendation, although most understand this can be difficult if you have been out of school for a while. This is especially true for people who attended large universities. If a letter from your direct supervisor is not possible because you don’t want your employer to know you are considering law school, get a letter from someone else who is familiar with your work that is equal to or greater than your title. If possible, the letter should speak to your intellectual capabilities as well as your work ethic.

If you plan on taking some time to work between undergraduate and law school, you can still get recommendation letters written before you graduate. In this situation, you merely explain to your recommender that you intend to take a few years to work before law school, but request a letter nonetheless. LSAC registration lasts for five years. If you plan on working, but know you are going back to law school, register now and have your letters submitted; LSAC will hold onto them.

If you have been out of college too long to have an academic letter of recommendation, look for recommenders who are credible, know you well, and can assess any of the following traits: writing ability, research ability, ability to work independently, ability to complete major projects, analytical ability, sound judgment, leadership, public speaking skills, ability to persuade others, and attention to detail.