How To Ask For A Letter Of Recommendation In Law School
While you’re in law school, you might find yourself needing to ask for letters of recommendation. You may be applying for a job that needs a letter, such as a judicial clerkship. You may need a letter for admission to your state’s bar after you graduate. In this post, we’ll discuss seven tips for how to ask for a letter of recommendation while you’re in law school.
How To Ask For A Letter Of Recommendation In Law School
1. Tailor the letter to its purpose
If you want a strong letter of recommendation, make sure that it’s tailored to its purpose. Read any instructions about what the letter should emphasize. This will give your recommender more information on how to craft a letter that speaks to your strengths.
2. Choose your recommender
You want to be strategic about who you ask to write your letter. It’s better to have an enthusiastic letter from someone who knows you and your work well rather than a mediocre letter from someone well-known.
Ideally, you would have done the work to get to know a couple of professors at your school. Ask professors for whom you worked as a research assistant; they can speak to your research skills and professionalism. You can also ask a professor who supervised your work in a clinic or was an advisor for your student organization. If you don’t have any professors with whom you’ve built a strong relationship, ask professors who gave you your highest grades. You may need to provide more background information to these professors, since they don’t know you as well, but they can still write excellent letters.
You can also ask attorneys who supervised your work as a summer intern or school-year extern. But make sure to read the letter instructions to make sure that letters from non-professors are acceptable.
3. Ask for a letter as early as possible
Ask for a letter as early as possible. Professors are generally willing to write letters of recommendation (it’s part of their job), but they need enough time to write a good letter. You don’t want to rush them because of a lack of preparation on your part. At the very least, ask your recommender 4-6 weeks before you need the letter. Be clear about any deadlines. Remember that professors are usually busy at the end of the term (as they administer and grade final exams) and that supervising attorneys can be busy at any time, so ask early.
4. Ask in person, after an initial email
Write your potential recommender a short email, explaining that you would like to meet in person to ask them to write a letter of recommendation. Keep it short; you aren’t asking for the letter in the email, you’re just setting up a time to meet in person to formally ask. This will let the recommender know what to expect before you meet with them.
When meeting in person, give the recommender some background on how you will use the letter. Ask them if they feel comfortable giving you a strong recommendation. If they hesitate or say no, thank them for their time and move on. You don’t want to put in the work of securing a letter only to have it describe you in mediocre terms!
5. Give your recommender what they need
At a minimum, you will give your recommender: (1) your resume; (2) updated transcript; (3) a cover letter with a narrative about yourself and your law school career; (4) work product that the recommender supervised or an old exam with the recommender’s comments; and (5) instructions on where to send the letter. Ask if there’s anything else the recommender needs. Your recommender is helping you out, so make this process as easy as possible for them!
6. Offer to draft a letter for them
If you feel up for it, you can offer to draft a letter for your recommender. This eases the burden on the recommender, plus gives you the opportunity to highlight achievements that the recommender may not know about or have forgotten. Here is a basic outline for a letter:
Intro: Describe the recommender’s connection with you to build credibility. Provide info about how the recommender knows you, including in what role and for how long. Say how strongly the recommender recommends you.
Body: Highlight 3 attributes you want to emphasize, with concrete examples of each. For example, if you want to highlight your problem-solving skills, provide examples from a research paper or a clinic in which you demonstrated those skills.
Conclusion: Summarize and restate the recommendation.
7. Follow up and provide updates
Follow up with your recommenders as needed, but don’t pester them. Remember, they are busy and are helping you out! Also, your recommenders may have written the letters, but their support staff may not have sent it out yet.
Keep your recommenders updated on what happened with the application. And make sure to thank them!
If you follow these seven tips, you will be well on your way to getting strong letters of recommendation!
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