Letters of Recommendation
Most law schools ask for letters commenting on an applicant's background and preparation. Letters of recommendation can play an important role in the admissions process. Information about each law school's requirements or preferences can be found at the law school's admissions web site and also at the Law School Admission Council's (LSAC) website: www.lsac.org (see LSAC Applicant References: Letter of Recommendation and Evaluation Services).
As a general guideline, look for two letters from faculty and a third letter from another relevant experience (job, internship, extracurricular activity). The guiding principle should be "who knows you best?" Law schools are interested in letters of recommendation from faculty who can assess your work, ability, character, and other attributes relevant to law school and a legal career. Two strong academic letters from people who recognize your strengths and understand your goals are the most effective. Law schools expect faculty letters of recommendation from all applicants, wherever possible. If you have been out of school for a number of years and have difficulty obtaining faculty letters, letters from employers or others who can address your background and preparation are usually acceptable.
Virtually all accredited law schools in the US require applicants to register with LSAC's Credential Assembly Service (CAS). A Letter of Recommendation (LOR) service is included in the CAS registration fee. CAS accepts letters sent directly by the recommender, or from third-party credentialing services. Each letter sent to LSAC for the inclusion in the applicant's CAS file must be accompanied by the CAS Letter of Recommendation (LOR) form, found in the applicant's online LSAC account at www.lsac.org (see Apply/Credentials/Letters of Recommendation and Evaluations).
It is possible to direct letters only to certain law schools through the LSAC online account. When you click on a law school to direct a letter of recommendation, a box will appear describing the law school's letter of recommendation requirements (i.e. how many letters are accepted). For detailed instructions on using the CAS Letter of Recommendation Service, review the LSAC web site at www.lsac.org.
For students who plan to apply to law school after graduation, it is important to request faculty letters of recommendation before you graduate, to be sent to your CAS file at LSAC, or to a third-party credentialing service that will allow you to forward your letters to LSAC at a later date. Your CAS registration is valid for five years from your CAS registration date, and will be extended for five years from your latest LSAT registration.
Some law schools provide letter of recommendation forms in their application materials. Check the law school's web site to determine whether these forms are required; in most cases, the school-specific forms are not needed if applicants use LSAC's CAS Letter of Recommendation service.
HOW TO ASK FOR A LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION
Make an appointment with your recommender. It is a good idea to bring the following materials with you and have them available:
• a copy of your transcript
• a copy of your resumé
• a copy of your personal statement for law school, if available
• a list of courses you have taken with the recommender, if a faculty member
• a list of positions you have held, if recommender is an employer
• LSAC's CAS Letter of Recommendation forms
Tell your recommender why you are asking for the letter, and review the points you would like the letter to cover. Give the recommender the option to decline by asking the question, "I will be applying to competitive schools; do you feel you could write a strong recommendation?"
Law schools value letters of recommendation that address a student's writing, class participation, research, analytical and other academic abilities. They are especially interested in a professor's assessment of a student, as compared to other students s/he has taught over the years. Recommendations that include information and perspectives not included elsewhere in your application are particularly valuable.
Remember to write a thank you note to your recommenders!