How to Get Great Law School Recommendation Letters

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Guest Post by Kristine Thorndyke Getting a great recommendation letter can have a huge impact on your law school admission. As a candidate, it is important to ensure that the letters you get from your references stand out and highlight your strongest personal qualities. Generic sounding letters will not only make you less competitive, but will also decrease your chances of getting accepted.

Build a relationship with reference

It’s important to build a relationship with your reference before they can write a personal recommendation letter. Spare some time and talk to your reference about your strong points, as these should be highlighted in your letter of recommendation. Give your reference a copy of your resume, personal statements, and transcripts. All this is done to make sure that your reference(s) get to know you and your strengths well before attempting to write about you.

Don't be surprised to learn that your reference does not know you as well as you would have thought. It's a good idea to give your reference a written summary highlighting your:

  • Accomplishments
  • Leadership skills
  • Projects you brought to completion
  • Strengths and special talents

A great choice for the person to write a recommendation on your behalf would be someone whom you are confident will speak positively about you. This is someone who will speak in great detail about your passions, skills, and strengths. Going for a reference who does not know you that well will at best give a generic sounding recommendation.Trust me, the admissions committee gets to see lots of these kinds of letters and you don't want yours to be among this pile.

It is the details in a letter of recommendation that matter and does have the biggest effect.

  • Form a connection with your reference by building a relationship
  • Give your reference a written short summary about yourself i.e. a personal statement.
  • Get your references to write something positive about you.
  • Give your references an outline of your skills, strengths, leadership positions held.

Select a reference who can write about your chosen qualities

Not everyone knows you well, so not everyone can write well about you, even after spending a bit of time together before writing his or her reference letter. In selecting the best reference to write a letter recommending you, choose wisely. Your reference should be someone you have worked together with in some capacity, as letters of recommendation require a great amount of knowledge about someone to write.

You are not going to see the recommendation letter, so it is important you ensure that you get a reference who can write well about your chosen qualities. Be brave and ask your references if they will write something positive.

Your goal should not be to just get a letter of recommendation but an outstanding letter of recommendation highlighting your strong points. Your reference should be able to tell a credible story about you and your accomplishments. There is no one who can tell a credible inspiring story about you other than one who knows you quite well. This is someone who will go further to give examples that support the opinion they have of you.

Choose quality over quantity

Quality of the recommendations you get will always matter more than the quantity of the recommendations. Your goal should be to get the maximum number of outstanding letters recommending you. Most of the Institutions usually give an applicant an allowance of two to four letters of recommendation. Don't feel compelled to submit all four of them, especially if you can't find four people who know you well. Keep in mind that your reference has to demonstrate that they know you very well in their writing.

Additional letters that describe you in detail are a plus to your application. Additional letters that vaguely describe you is a loss you can't afford to take. Always go for outstanding letters. References who know you to the small details will write more about details that are not reflected in your transcripts and application materials.

This makes it easier for the admissions committee to have an impression of who you are as a whole and predict easily who you'll turn out to be increasing chances of getting accepted.

Ask for the recommendations early

Great recommendation letters take a considerable amount of time and effort to write. Start as early as possible to avoid the last minute rush to get the recommendation. By asking early enough, you prepare your reference psychologically to know what to write about you. Many references might be more than willing to help recommend you.

This, however, does not mean you can promptly surprise them by asking for a recommendation letter a day or two to the application deadline. You may need to ask the reference in advance by politely calling or emailing them.

Inquire if the reference will be willing to write a letter of recommendation on your behalf.

If the answer is yes, go ahead and arrange a face to face meeting for a more positive outcome. Collect all your documents, application materials and any related documentation your reference might need in writing your letter. Don't forget to include contact information for your reference to reach you in case they have any questions.

If your application includes a personal statement, prepare one in advance and have it included in the materials you will be handing over to your reference. Doing this will help your reference to have the context to write about you for your letter of recommendation as well as jog their memory.

A letter recommending you has a huge impact and role to play in increasing your chances of admission to your dream school. That is why it is important these letters be taken seriously. In doing this, you need to carefully plan by asking for recommendations early enough, choosing wisely who to approach to write about you and quality over quantity. It is also very important to build a relationship with your references. Recommendation letters throw a limelight on the personal relationship you have had with your references. They illustrate who you are holistically by highlighting your leadership skills and special talents something that can't be found in your transcripts.


About the author:

Kristine works for 7Sage Admissions, an admissions consulting service that offers high-level law school application advice as well as professional, published writers who will help get your law school essays ready for the eyes of admissions teams.