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Law School LOR: supportive & professional vs neutral & academic

HopefullyHLSHopefullyHLS Monthly Member

Hi folks,

I am currently preparing for my law school applications this fall/winter and dealing with the Letter of Recommendation part.

So far, I decided to apply for JD/MBA programs, and already found 2 recommenders from my professional environment with whom I've closely worked with in projects. Both know me well personally, we have an excellent relationship and I am sure that I will get excellent LORs from them. I also informed them regarding the fact that they should adjust the law-school-LORs so that there is a focus on my academic abilities (analytical, writing, reading skills etc.).

However, I found out that law schools generally prefer academic over professional recommendation letters. E.g. Harvard requires at least one academic LOR, and Yale explicitly states that they strongly prefer academic over professional LORs (even if applicant has been several years out of school).

Although it's only 1.5 years since I graduated, I don't feel very comfortable with having an academic source as my recommender. I have a Master's degree in engineering from a top US university, but that's precisely where I found out that I did not like this profession at all. It was a time where I suffered from a lot of anxiety, did not really participate in class and really struggled to keep pace in group projects. Therefore, I feel that, if any professor or instructor will be willing to provide me with a LOR, it will not be a very impressive one (and, worst case, it will have negative formulations and hurt my chances of being admitted).

Regarding my undergrad professors: it's been 2.5 years since my graduation, and it was a European mass university where students don't really get a chance to know their professors personally. I also had a very bad relationship with my thesis supervisor back then. Therefore, I don't think a recommender from undergrad would be helpful at all.

Do you think I should stick with my current recommenders from my professional environment for both JD and MBA part? Or should I also try to add at least one academic recommender to the JD part of my application, although it will probably be not an excellent one?


  • trishuestrishues Alum Member
    130 karma

    Following as I have a similar situation...... I know my professional recommendations will be so much more meaningful than my academic ones.

  • Selene SteelmanSelene Steelman Member Admissions Consultant
    1924 karma

    Speaking as a former admissions officer, you should follow the application instructions strictly. If a school requires a certain number of a certain type of LOR, you should try to do so if you want to be a competitive candidate. The schools you mention happen to have faculty members who are part of the review process. They may want to see what other academics have to say about you as a candidate.

    In obtaining an effective LOR, you want someone who will write something that is (1) strong, (2) positive, and (3) specific. You should do what you can to help your recommender produce such a letter. This may require you to have a conversation with the person and explain your motivations. You might remind them of 3-4 projects or achievements that reflect your strengths as a law school candidate (in case they don't remember or need some direction). It might be useful to offer the recommender a copy of your law school application resume, a draft of your personal statement, or at least a written narrative that explains why you want to become a lawyer, what you want from the law school experience, and what you hope to be doing in 4-5 years. Good luck!

  • HopefullyHLSHopefullyHLS Monthly Member
    445 karma

    Thanks, I found two additional academic recommenders meanwhile, so all good.

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