Law school applications: Dean’s Certification or Letter

A handful of law schools still require a “Dean’s Certification” or “Dean’s Letter” as part of the application process. This is a letter from the undergraduate institution that details the applicant’s student conduct (sometimes referred to as “disciplinary”) record (if any) and, in some cases, confirms the applicant’s grade point average and class rank (if available). Some schools require them of all applicants; others require them only of those applicants who attest on their application that they were disciplined by their undergraduate institutions; and still others require them only of admitted students.

The Dean of Students Office is responsible for processing these certifications, which they refer to as “clearances.” You can find the instructions for requesting Dean’s Letters from the Dean of Students Office on their website here.

Remember that Dean’s Letters do NOT go through LSAC. Rather, they are sent directly to the law schools that request/require them, sometimes with accompanying law-school-specific forms, sometimes without. Make sure you understand each law school’s requirements before you request your letter.

Note about student conduct records: The main purpose of Dean’s Letters is to report on your student conduct record. Many students do not realize they have records, especially when the record consists of something minor, like a housing violation that resulted in a warning.  The Dean of Students Office does not report on minor violations that resulted in only a warning or reprimand. However, depending on the question(s) asked of you by each law school, you may need to disclose more than what the Dean of Students Office reports. As a result, the Pre-Law Advising Office strongly recommends that you obtain and review your full student conduct record from the Dean of Students Office before completing this section of your application, and before drafting any required addenda.  You should understand clearly what is on your record, what will be reported by the Dean of Students Office, and what differences (if any) there are between the two. And don’t hesitate to contact the individual law school admissions offices to gain clarity on what they want reported—very few care about minor housing violations, for example.

Nonetheless, in grey areas, always err on the side of disclosure.

Please see the page on Disciplinary and Criminal Records for more information on how law schools take these into consideration.

If you have any questions about what and how to report on your record, please contact me for assistance.