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.

4 thoughts on “When and How to Ask for Letters of Recommendation

  1. This is very helpful, thank you! Do you have any advice on asking for letters of recommendation from managers at the company where you are currently employed? I graduated from undergrad in 2012 and plan on having two recommendations from past professors, but would also like one from my experience in the workforce without alienating my employer. Thanks!

    • You’re very welcome, Caroline! Glad you found my post helpful.

      I think your idea of having two letters of recommendation from past professors and one from your manager or supervisor is a great combo. In fact, most applicants I meet who have been out of school for three years tend to focus just on work LORS, so the fact that you can get two LORs from your past professors is really great.

      I don’t have a different strategy for asking for a LOR from a manager. It’s the same advice I give for asking professors and TAs. Meet with him or her in person and in private (close the door). Explain why you want to go to law school. Ask him or her if they’re comfortable writing the LOR. If they support you, they will understand why you’re making this move and will write you a good LOR. If they don’t support your career change or career choice, then they probably won’t write you a very good LOR. Good luck!

  2. I followed these instructions and got very positive responses from my professors. Thank you so much. I’ve read other blogs that have recommended that after I’ve received confirmation from LSAC that they’ve received the LOR, it is appropriate to send a small gift to my professor. Do you recommend the same?

    • That’s great to hear, Natalie! I’m glad you received very positive responses from your recommenders. You’re very welcome for the tips.

      Yes, once you receive confirmation that your LORs are in LSAC’s system, it’s totally appropriate to send a handwritten thank you note and small gift to your professors. It’s a great way to show your gratitude. I wish more people would do it.

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