How to Get the Best Letter from Your Recommenders

1. Give your recommenders plenty of time.

You should ask your recommenders for letters early so they'll have plenty of time to write. If you're still in school, consider asking in the spring to prepare for the fall application season. It may also help to give them a deadline.

2. Explain why you are applying to law school.

It’s important to talk to your recommender about your law school application for two reasons. First of all, you want to make sure that her message is in sync with yours. If you tell the admissions committee that you are interested in finance law, you’ll look silly if your recommender writes that you are interested in public service. Second, and more importantly, you want to motivate your recommender to write a really good letter. Sometimes professors despair when their favorite students end up going to law school. If you convince your writer that you have sincere, thoughtful reasons for applying, she will be more inclined to go to bat for you.

Ask your recommender if you can take her out to coffee so you can talk about your career choice. If she doesn’t have time, try to schedule a phone call. A meaningful email exchange can work too, but if your recommender doesn’t seem interested in connecting with you, you should probably thank her and look for someone else.

3. Be clear about the process.

Ask your recommender if she prefers to upload a recommendation or send it via snail mail. Make sure that she can get it to the LSAC in time, and that she knows how.

4. Remind her of your good work.

Consider giving a professor copies of your graded work along with her feedback. If it’s been a while since you’ve taken the professor’s class, you might jog her memory by summarizing your important papers or projects.

If you’re getting a recommendation from a boss, you might remind her of your accomplishments and, again, give her a copy of any written feedback you’ve received.

In some cases, it’s okay to give your recommender suggestions. You’ll have to feel out the situation for yourself.

5. Give her your résumé.

She may also want to see your admissions essay and your transcript.

6. Ask her if she needs guidance, maybe.

You don’t want to insult your recommender by implying that she doesn’t know what she’s doing. Don’t presume to offer guidance to a professor. On the other hand, a teaching assistant or professional supervisor might appreciate some tips such as the next lesson contains. Use your judgment.

7. Be grateful.

Let her know that you understand how much work it takes to write a good letter, and that you appreciate her time and effort.

After you receive the recommendation, you should send a handwritten thank you note. It’s not a bad idea to buy your recommender a small gift—a bottle of wine or flowers, for example.

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