The law school recommendation letter is a document that supports a student’s application for law school.
The letter often plays an important part in the outcome of the student’s acceptance into Law School.
Although a few institutions don’t put much weight behind the letter, most universities will consider your application incomplete without at least two letters of recommendation. The specific contents of the law school recommendation letter will vary from person to person, depending on how the writer seeks to praise the applying student.
How a Law School Recommendation Letter Helps?
Law school officials say that a recommendation letter helps to contextualize the rest of an application. The law school recommendation letter can provide insight into the attributes and characteristics of a candidate that he or she might be unable to express themselves. For instance, a professor could discuss a student’s tenacity in a difficult course while an employer could; for example, speak about an applicant’s resilience when faced with adversity in the workplace.
“The school letter of recommendation is a piece of supporting evidence to the rest of your law school application. The fundamental purpose of the letter is to give the law school admissions board or committee a firm and better understanding of the applying person’s eligibility, outside of the GPA and LSAT score”
First, a law school recommendation letter should give an endorsement of the academic success and potential of the applying student, and second offer testimony of any other skills, achievements, ambitions that are indicative of a promising or successful law student and attorney.
Contents of a Law School Recommendation Letter
It is helpful to remember that first and foremost, a law school is an intellectual pursuit. Although there are numerous ways of recommending someone, the main purpose of the law school recommendation is to underscore the applicant student’s likelihood to succeed once admitted there.
The introduction should state the writer’s recommendation of the student, describing their qualifications as a credible reference, will state their relationship with the applying student, and why they think the student is deserving of a reference.
The LOR’s first paragraph should be concise because the subsequent body paragraph(s) will expound further on the claims conveyed in the opening statements.
The most effective law school recommendation letters will come from a direct supervisor or professor. The writer must explicitly detail their credentials to convince the law school admissions council that the LOR is coming from a credible source.
A law school recommendation letter must highlight the character traits and skills which are treasured in a good lawyer; intelligence, leadership, communication (oral and written), and independent/creative thinking.
Those skills and character traits should then be backed by specific examples/anecdotes to illustrate the law school recommendation letter writer’s point. Besides, mild constructive criticism can be used to strengthen the credibility of the provided claims.
Often, comparing the applying student to his/her peers is the strongest statement within a law school recommendation letter.
Prerequisites: What is Required From the Student
If a tutor or professor is requested to provide a LOR, he/she first should consider whether they can supply a strong letter based solely on the nature of their professional relationship with the applicant. If not, the two should hold a conversation explaining why the LOR cannot be provided. If the writer agrees, the recommender and applicant should meet to discuss the letter.
Ideally, the applicant will supply the LOR writer with a portfolio that contains:
Cover note should first thank the LOR writer. It will contain the applicant’s contact information, the traits, talents, and accomplishments they would like the writer to emphasize, a list of the law schools they are applying for (emphasizing their top choice). The applicant should mention any school(s) for which he/she needs a specific LOR and due dates for submissions
A completed LSAC recommendation form
The law school recommendation letter writer should request the applying student to supply a fully filled Law Student Admissions Council’s Credential Assembly Service (LSAC) recommendation form. This is a service that allows for the one-time submission of all letters of recommendation and transcripts to the LSAC who will then distribute them to the law schools for which the applicant is applying.
A list of the work completed in the professor’s class
If any records of work and assignments are done in the professors or tutor’s class are available, these should be availed to the letter writer. These include copies of the student’s best work, particularly which has been graded by the tutor or instructor.
Draft of personal statement (optional)
As part of the LOR include a copy of your personal statement. The student should try and focus on activities that have happened since they joined college. Be concise, going for quality over quantity.
Producing and attaching a good resume is a basic requirement for a successful law school admission application. The applying student should supply the law school recommendation letter writer with a copy of their resume/CV. If the student opts to submit their LOR through the Law Student Admissions Council’s Credential Assembly Service, they should supply the writer with instructions on how the law school recommendation letters should be submitted.
Writing the Letter
Note that often universities require applying students to do so through the Law Student Admissions Council’s Credential Assembly Service. The service allows for the one-time submission of all your letters of recommendation plus transcripts to the LSAC who then distributes them to the law school(s) for which the student is applying.
Begin with a proper salutation
To start, greet the law school recommendation letter recipient with a salutation. As much as possible, be specific, but if you are not sure or aware of who will be officially receiving the LOR, simply use ‘To whom it may concern.’ By starting things off properly and politely, you are setting the right tone for the rest of the law school recommendation letter, which is particularly vital for important documents like this one.
Introduce yourself and the applicant
The objective of the next paragraph is to not only introduce the student you are writing about and but also yourself. Take this opportunity to flesh out the relationship between you two; whether you are an academic mentor or former professor to the applying student, or otherwise. This backs your claim of being an authority who can talk at length about the suitability of the applicant for admission into law school.
Describe the applicant’s suitability for law school
In these paragraphs, the writer illustrates, in persuasive and clear language, exactly why the law school applicant makes a good candidate. The law school recommendation letter attempts to communicate how the student excelled among his/her classmates and cites which led the writer to believe that the student has the characteristics that make a successful lawyer. It is essential to avoid platitudes and generalities and to be as subjective as possible. The goal is to convince the admissions council that the recommender’s case holds merit.
Include all relevant academic accomplishments
After writing about the student’s personal attributes, now is the time to describe the academic accomplishments the applicant may have. Remember, however, that this is a purely supplementary effort, and as such you do not need to be as detailed or broad about it compared to the previous paragraphs.
Summarize and give your direct recommendation
This is where you can now summarize what you have written so far. Besides the summary, this is where you give the law school applicant a glowing recommendation. This is your stamp of approval or official vote of confidence and with this, your former protégé or student is now closer to securing admission to their desired law school.
Concluding with a final statement
As part of the last but one step, ensure that you have provided your contact details. This might only be your email address or personal phone number. This provides the admissions school admissions committee with a means of contacting you if they want to. More than likely they will do conduct their own background checks on the applicant and when you give them another way of talking to you, it may in speeding up their process. Once that’s done, wrap your recommendation by writing your final statement.
Decide on the manner of sending the letter
This is technically a post-letter writing step yet one that will have an important role considering that different law schools have different submission guidelines. Some may prefer that you send the law school recommendation letter via email while others prefer the old-fashioned way of a physical copy.
Generally, the most effective and eloquent letters of recommendation are written by people who have observed an applying student’s work and witnessed their growth. You need to pay much attention to the person you are getting to write the letter of recommendation for you and how he/she is writing it.
It is advisable to remember following the following elements in the process of writing the law school recommendation letter;
Anna Ivey, a former University of Chicago Law School dean of admissions and founder of the Ivey Consulting admissions advisory company says the most impressive letters of recommendation describe an applicant’s grit and persistence.
Some of the best letters she recalls from her days as an admissions officer came from professors who narrated the applicant’s academic failure and the student overcame that challenge and ultimately excelled. One striking letter described how an applicant struggled with calculus and the eagerness shown to learn by revisiting basic math concepts and attending instructor office hours.
Effective letters of recommendation supply descriptive anecdotes about applicants. You would think that using a catchy phrase like ‘The applicant is a brilliant student’ would be compelling in a law school recommendation letter but it really is not. Why? This is because the phrase is so generalized and could apply to an endless list of students.
Instead, what you want is specifics like, ‘The applicant ranks among the finest students that I have ever tutored in my lengthy teaching career. He would rank among my top five students of all-time.’ Although both these statements are saying the applicant is a great student, only one has the reader scrambling to admit that particular applicant.
Evidence of growth
Experts say letters that describe the personal development of an applicant help humanize the applicant. Traits like writing ability, intellectual curiosity, and history of enthusiastically confronting academic challenges help applicants stand out.
Academic recommendations form an essential component of the admissions process in a law school. The best academic law school recommendation letter discusses the applicant’s growth over time as a college student. Faculty members reviewing applications are seeking students who will be a pleasure to work with or teach.
Take a look at the following table of dos and don’ts and see how each one additionally helps you write a better law school letter of recommendation for your law student.
Do stick to the appropriate format. No doubt, the student you are writing for will have a specific law school in mind, so you need to check the specific guidelines if anything unique is required including the overall letter format.
To emphasize the student’s most impressive character traits. What makes the applying student suited towards a career in law is a question you need to bear in mind when talking about their attributes. If they display not just a passion for the work ethic and learning to get the job done, then, include that in the law school recommendation letter. Rather than just stating such traits write in a way that tells a story, demonstrating just how such impressive character traits can serve the applicant well should they gain law school admission.
Do write as positively as possible. As someone in a position to accurately speak of how deserving the student is, note that a positive tone goes a long way. Even if you happen to be perfectly aware of the prospective law student’s many weaknesses, you need to either refrain from mentioning them or if you must include it, find a way of making it work for the student rather than against.
Do follow the submission guidelines whenever possible. Different law schools tend to have their own set of standards and guidelines for the application process. When writing the law school recommendation letter, keep those guidelines in mind. Admission is not just granted given to prospective law students with the most impressive intellectual prowess, academic accomplishments, or inspiring character traits, but also to those who follow simple instructions. Talk to the applying student about the guidelines and ensure they are closely followed. For example, if the law school recommendation letter is to be sent only through email, then do that only.
Do not omit important attributes or characteristics. To win over a school’s admissions committee, a prospective law student must have multiple attributes and good characteristics. As the LOR writer, your responsibility is to ensure that none are omitted. Failure to bring out even one would be a great disservice to the applying and may greatly affect their standing with the law school. It is why it makes much sense to have pre-writing discussions with the applicant. Talk about the attributes, qualifications, and skills to emphasize. As much as you possibly can, gather as much information because you can never know just how much a particular detail can make a difference in the law school application process.
Do not write irrelevant content. You can look at this tip in more than one way. It would first be how the contents affect the letter’s length itself. The second is whether or not the contents are all relevant to the main goal of the law school recommendation letter. For example, when introducing the applicant and yourself, there is a need to include names and how you know each other. However, the inclusion of explicit details such as birthdays, religion, and political leanings are simply irrelevant. By removing all irrelevant details, you are drastically improving the quality of the letter, making it easier to read for the recipient.
Do not be afraid of including mild and warranted criticism. An applicant has his or her own share of weaknesses and strengths. Although it is the goal of a recommendation letter should be to emphasize the strengths, there is no need to shy away completely shy away from the weaknesses. There are instances when including some mild criticism could even help improve the applicant’s odds of success as it paints a realistic and balanced image of the applying student.
Do not neglect the act of proofreading. Take enough time to carefully reread the letter checking for any mistakes before sending it on its way. For greater effectiveness, take a break drafting to refresh your perspective and come back after some time. Be as detail-oriented as possible, Checking not just for typos but also for inaccuracies and potential misinformation. Even if you do not find any mistakes, the break may inspire to improve the LOR in other ways after rereading and proofreading.
You should use the conclusion of the law school recommendation letter to restate the writer’s support and admiration for the applicant. While summarizing the previous paragraphs, it should end on an extremely positive note while summarizing the statements. This is also an opportunity to provide your contact information.