Law school applications: Letters of recommendation

Law schools most commonly ask for a minimum of two letters of recommendation, and a maximum of four. Some schools ask for fewer. The best recommendations come from instructors who know your academic work well, who can evaluate your intellectual capabilities and potential to study law, and who can give specific examples of your stellar qualities. Try to get at least one letter from a professor in your major.

Only if you have been out of school for at least two to three years should you substitute a work-related recommendation for one of your academic recommendations. (For more information on recommendations when you have been out of school for a while, see our page on Taking Time Off.) However, you may want to supplement the required number of recommendations with one from an employer, internship supervisor, or volunteer coordinator, if that person is going to say something significantly different from your academic recommenders. In your account on CAS, you’ll be able to see information on the minimum and maximum number of letters each school will accept—read the directions carefully, and don’t exceed the limit.

The academic rank and title of the recommender is less important than the quality of the recommendation. Admissions committees are not impressed with letters from famous politicians or judges that are overly effusive and have little content. The admissions committee will wonder why you couldn’t get a recommendation from an instructor who knows your academic work. An enthusiastic and detailed letter from a graduate student teaching assistant is often more persuasive than a lukewarm boilerplate letter from a well known professor.

Meet in person with all potential recommenders. Approach them well in advance of any deadlines. Ask them if they feel they know you well enough, and have a high enough opinion of you, to write a positive, detailed letter. Be prepared to tell them why you think they’d be a particularly good recommender for you — remind them of the great work you did in their class, for example, or what they thought of your work (and you) when you were in their class. Offer to provide them with additional information such as your transcript, a draft of your personal statement, a resume, or copies of papers or exams you submitted in their course. If the person is new to writing recommendations for law school, let them know about our Tips for Recommenders page. Make sure you let each recommender know when you hope to complete your applications.

All schools ask that you send your recommendations through CAS. Your recommenders only need to send or upload one letter to LSAC which will forward your letters of recommendation to the schools you apply to. Ask your recommenders whether they prefer to send a hard copy or upload an electronic version, and then follow the appropriate procedures. (Please note that you cannot access the full letter of recommendation service until you have purchased the CAS.)

With all recommendations, you will be asked if you waive the right to see the letter. What you’re waiving is your right to access those letters from the law school (as with all educational records, the default is that you have the right to see your own records). Law school admissions officials tend to believe that letters are more candid when applicants waive this right. This does not meant that you can’t work with your recommender on your letter or see a draft before the recommender sends it—that’s between you and your recommender. That said, most professors will prefer to keep the letter confidential.