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Your Summer Homework: Letters of Recommendation


It’s summer. School’s out – well, not forever, but at least for a few months. If you’re applying to law school, that means it’s a good time to get around to asking for some letters of recommendation.

See, professors are notoriously slow at getting these things turned around. If you were a professor and had students asking you to take unpaid time to write about how great they are, you probably wouldn’t be in any big hurry either.

So summer has a couple advantages. First, professors often have a bit less going on in the summer time, so they might be a bit more inclined to get on it and write those letters. Just look at them; it’s clearly not like they’re taking off to the beach. Second, even if the professors you ask are as slow as usual, there’s plenty of time before you need to get those applications in. It won’t screw you over.

That leaves the questions of whom to ask and how to ask. Let’s take those in order. It doesn’t matter how famous your recommenders are, or how prestigious their name might look. It also doesn’t matter how closely their fields are related to the law. What matters is that the letters say good things about you and your academic potential. A letter from a chemistry TA who knows you really well trumps one from the famous legal scholar whose taught a pass-fail class (you passed if you showed up) in which you sat in the audience your freshman year.

If you’ve been an anonymous student so far and you don’t think you know any professors very well, summer session classes can be a great time to brown-nose develop relationships. Go to office hours. Ask questions. Back it up with good work and a good grade. Instant recommender – just add water.

Now let’s talk about how to ask. Don’t just write an email. Try to ask in person, or at least by phone. This is especially important if you don’t know the person in question terribly well – you want to gauge their reaction.

Help them help you. Don’t tell your recommenders what to write, but supply them with some information. Definitely pass along your resume. A draft of your personal statement wouldn’t hurt if it looks coherent by now. Talk to them about what you’ve been up to and why you want to go to law school. You’ll make it easier for them, and they’ll have more to say about you.

If all goes according to plan, you’ll have sterling letters of recommendation sitting in LSDAS’s servers, just ready to be sent to law schools at your command. One part of the law school application process: done. That just leaves the rest…