Do You Need Online Evaluations for Your Law School Application?

checklistWe all know that you need letters of recommendations (LORs) to apply to law school, but do you really need online evaluations too?

LSAC started online evaluations in 2010 to complement LORs and to try to provide law school admissions committees with more relevant information about each candidate.

Since 2010, I’ve talked to a number of admissions officers about evaluations and the majority have said they would rather have well-written LORs than evaluations.

The reason many admissions officers said this is because many recommenders did not write anything on the evaluation; they just ranked the applicant in response to the questions (i.e., Below Average, Average, Good, Very Good, Excellent, etc.). Thus, many admissions officers find evaluations to be less helpful than a LOR.

If your law school requires an evaluation, ask two of your recommenders to write a LOR and the third to fill out the online evaluation.

If the school wants two evaluations, then you will need to ask a fourth recommender to complete that second evaluation.

No matter how many evaluations you ask for, make sure to ask your recommenders to write about your strengths and attributes in the evaluation.

Have questions or comments about online evaluations? I’m here to help. Post your thoughts below and I’ll respond.

When and How to Ask for Letters of Recommendation

sunflowersBecause fall always seems so busy for everyone, I recommend asking for letters of recommendation (LORs) for your law school application during the summer, September at the latest.

Make an effort to meet with each potential recommender in person to ask if he or she would be willing to write you a good LOR. This person is going to spend two to four hours writing a letter for you. That’s a lot of time! Remember, they are doing this as a favor for YOU. So, treat them with your utmost respect and courtesy.

When you meet with your recommender, pay attention to the person’s reaction. Make sure they really want to write you the letter.

Ask what he or she might write about. If they know you, they should have some idea of what skills and strengths they will write about.

If the person’s reaction is not positive, thank them for their time and leave. Never insist that someone write you a LOR if they aren’t up to the task.

If the person says “yes,” then put together a packet for him or her that includes:

  • A brief cover letter that states your gratitude to the recommender, some background on why you want to go to law school, and your agreed-upon deadline for emailing or mailing your LOR to LSAC
  • Your unofficial transcript (if the person is a professor or TA)
  • Your updated resume
  • Other relevant materials (some professors and TAs want copies of the best essays that you wrote for their class)

Once you fill in your recommender information online, LSAC will email your recommender to upload his/her LOR online.

Some recommenders prefer to mail in a paper LOR. In that case, make sure to give your recommender the signed LSAC LOR form that you can print out from LSAC.org.

Lastly, make sure that the deadline that you and your recommender agree upon is one that is actually 2-4 weeks earlier than when you actually need the LOR, but don’t let your recommender know that you’re asking for it early.

I’ve seen too many cases where recommenders put off writing the LOR for so long that she/he actually made the applicant late in applying. Don’t let that happen! So, for example, if you want your LOR at LSAC by October 30, then ask your recommender to submit it or mail it by October 1.

That’s the lowdown on when to ask, and how to ask, for letters of recommendation. Have questions or comments about LORs? I’m here to help. Post your thoughts below and I’ll respond.

Sunflowers photo by Ben Aveling.

Who to Ask for Letters of Recommendation

Who should you ask for letters of recommendation (LORs) for applying to law school?

I recommend choosing three professors, teaching assistants (TAs), supervisors, or mentors who know you well, know your work, and still like you.

For more details and examples, watch the video posted above. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Finished?

Good. Now, let’s go over some more details about LORs.

Most schools require two LORs but I recommend getting three.

Why?

First, it is possible one of your recommenders may not follow through. It sucks, but it happens.

Second, you may need that third LOR for some law schools. Many schools require two LORs, but some require three. In general, I recommend sending in what they require, not what they will accept. So, if they require two, but will accept four, just send two.

Third, for law schools that only want two LORs (and many do), and then later place you on the wait list, you might be able to send your third LOR as further evidence that you are a great candidate.

Back to who you should ask for LORs.

If you are a current student, focus on securing all your LORs from professors and/or TAs.

If you graduated college two or more years ago, and are no longer in touch with your professors, ask for LORs from your supervisors and/or professional mentors.

In my next post, I’ll go over when to ask for LORs and how to ask for LORs. Stay tuned. Even better, scroll to the very bottom of this post and subscribe. You’ll get my next post delivered right to your inbox.

Have questions or comments about LORs? I’m here to help. Post your thoughts below and I’ll respond.

How to Get Great Letters of Recommendation

Writing_a_letterAlong with a stellar personal statement and resume, great letters of recommendation (LORs) can help tip the scales in your favor when your law school application is “on the bubble”–not quite in but also not quite out.

Never underestimate the power of a great recommendation.


WHO SHOULD YOU ASK FOR LORS?

If you are a current student, focus on securing all your LORs from professors and teaching assistants (TAs).

If you graduated college two or more years ago, and are no longer in touch with your professors and TAs, ask for LORs from your supervisors and/or professional mentors.


HOW MANY LORS SHOULD YOU GET?

Most schools require two LORs but I recommend getting three. First, it is possible one of your recommenders may not follow through. Second, you may need that third LOR for some schools. Third, for schools that place you on the wait list, you might be able to send the last LOR as further evidence that you are a great candidate.


WHEN TO ASK FOR LORS?

Fall always seems so busy for everyone–whether you’re working or in school. Plan ahead. Ask for those LORs during June, July and August. If summer has passed and you’re applying this fall and still haven’t asked for LORs, then set up times to meet with your recommenders now. You haven’t a minute to lose!


HOW TO ASK FOR LORS?

I recommend meeting with each potential recommender in person to ask if he or she would be willing to write you a good LOR. This person is going to spend two to four hours writing a letter for you. That’s a lot of time! They’re doing this as a favor to you. So, treat them with your utmost respect and courtesy.

When you meet with your recommender and ask him or her if they are willing to write you a good LOR, pay attention to the person’s reaction. Make sure they really want to write you the letter. Ask the person what he or she might write about. If they know you, they should have a good idea of what skills and strengths they will write about.

If the person’s reaction is not positive, thank them for their time and leave. Never insist that someone write you a LOR if they aren’t up to the task.


WHAT SHOULD YOU GIVE YOUR RECOMMENDERS?

If the person says “yes,” then put together a packet for him or her that includes:

  • Brief cover letter that states your gratitude, some background on why you want to go to law school, and your agreed-upon deadline for mailing your LOR
  • Unofficial transcript
  • Resume
  • Other relevant materials (some professors and TAs want copies of the best essays that you wrote for their class)
  • Signed LSAC LOR form (only if he/she is sending a paper letter)

If you are asking early enough, I recommend that you set a deadline with your recommender that is actually four weeks earlier than when you actually need the LOR, but don’t let your recommender know that you’re asking for it early.

No offense to recommenders but I’ve seen too many cases where recommenders put off writing the LOR for so long that she/he actually made the applicant late in applying. Don’t let that happen! For example, if you want your LOR at LSAC by October 1, then ask your recommender to mail it by September 1.


JUST IN CASE YOUR RECOMMENDERS ARE NEW AT THIS…

Forward him or her this helpful article on how to write LORs for law school written by the prelaw adviser at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Thank you, Diane Curtis!


REMEMBER TO THANK YOUR RECOMMENDERS

So many people don’t take the time to thank their recommenders when all is said and done. It’s a shameful travesty. When your LORs are safely stored in your online LSAC file, buy some nice thank you cards and hand-write a note of gratitude to each of your recommenders. Though it’s not necessary, you can also add a small gift like flowers, a potted plant, cookies or chocolates. Your recommender will appreciate your thoughtfulness and it’s simply the right thing to do.

Do you have any questions or comments about LORs? I’d love to hear from you! I’m here to help. Post your questions below and I’ll respond.

Letter photo by Petar Milosevic.

FREE ebook! “Getting Into Law School” by AdmissionsDean

Admissions DeanUsually I’m skeptical about free ebooks distributed by private companies.

I always wonder, is it going to be full of marketing B.S. or is it actually going to have some valuable tips?

That’s what I was thinking when I downloaded the new ebook by AdmissionsDean titled, Getting Into Law School: A Guide for Pre-Law Students.

But, you know what?

It’s actually good.

It has 11 articles in it and 10 of them are written by deans, associate deans, and directors of admissions from various law schools across the U.S. (one article is written by Dave Killoran, CEO of PowerScore Test Preparation).

It’s a genius idea–have experts write the articles and then just package them together. Hardly any work on your part but you’re still providing a valuable resource. I tip my hat to you, AdmissionsDean. Wish I had thought of it.

I agree with the advice given in almost all of the articles. It’s good advice.

The only one I had a problem with was “Writing a Winning Personal Statement” by Therese Lambert of University of Miami School of Law. I completely agree with Ms. Lambert’s bulleted tips (proofread very carefully, don’t rehash your resume, get trusted reviewers to read your drafts) but I disagree with her that your personal statement should show why law school is a good choice for you (not all schools want or need to know this), and that a good way to think of what to write about is to pretend you have 10 minutes in the room with the admissions committee. She’s not the first to give this advice but I find that going about it in that way blocks most writers rather than helps them start writing. For easier ways to get started on your draft, read my posts on writing the personal statement.

I found all of the articles helpful and recommend that you read each one. In fact, it would be helpful to reach each one twice.

I want to especially point out the “Including a Resume: Formatting and Content” article by Mathiew Le of University of Washington Law School. Excellent article. One of the most overlooked parts of the law school application is the resume. Don’t just turn in your basic work resume. Follow Mr. Le’s tips and transform your resume into something that is tailored specifically for law school. It will help your application! For more help on writing your resume, check out my No B.S. Guide to the Law School Resume.

Also, pay close attention to “Interpreting the U.S. News Law Rankings” article by Robert Schwartz of UCLA School of Law. Great article. So many law school applicants just choose law schools by their ranking and they have no idea how the schools are actually ranked. More and more I’m recommending that applicants not use U.S. News’ ranking when choosing which law schools to apply to. After reading Mr. Schwartz’s article, I hope you’ll start to see why.

If you’re applying to law school this year or in a few years, download and read Getting Into Law School: A Guide for Pre-Law Students by AdmissionsDean. Each article is only 1-2 pages. You can read it in an hour and emerge much more informed about the law school application process. Don’t wait. Do it today!

ps. In case you’re wondering, I don’t get paid by any company to promote their products or services and I never will. I only write about what I believe to be valuable and helpful to the law school applicant.

pps. After you read the ebook, please let me know what you think of it by posting your thoughts in the comments section below. I’d love to hear from you!