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How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are an important part of a law school application. Referees are the only people other than you who get to speak in your application, so a strong letter of recommendation can make a big difference in the strength of your application. Typically you’ll need two letters of recommendation, with one being an academic reference (i.e. a professor). If this is your first time asking for a letter of recommendation, it might feel a bit awkward at first. Here are some tips to help you properly ask for a letter of recommendation.

1. Choose people who know your strengths and abilities well

It’s easy to pick out the generic letters of recommendation. That’s why it’s so important to choose a referee that knows you well and can write a personalized letter of recommendation that genuinely speaks to your strengths and abilities. Whether you’re asking a professor, an employer or a volunteer supervisor, they should be someone you are certain will give you a glowing recommendation. It goes without saying, but don’t ask a friend or family member to write you a letter of recommendation. 

2. Ask in person if you can

Set up a time to ask for a letter of recommendation in person if you’re able to. It helps to show how important it is to you, and overall it’s easier to provide information and answer their questions face-to-face. If you can’t ask in person, don’t worry. It’s not a big deal. You can absolutely ask for a letter of recommendation over the phone or in an email. 

3. Give as much detail as possible

When asking for a law school letter of recommendation, be straightforward and provide as much detail and information as you can off the bat. Here’s the information you should include in your request:

  • Why you’re asking for a letter of recommendation (to apply to law school)
  • The deadline
  • Why you want them in particular to write it 
  • What information you’d like the letter to include (the skills or abilities that you demonstrated to them and would like included in the letter)
  • How to submit the letter of reference (give them the link, email address or mailing address) 

Depending on your relationship with this person, if it’s been a few years since you’ve seen them, you may also want to include an up-to-date resume, and your transcript (if they’re an academic reference). 

4. Ask far in advance

Professors and other academic references often receive a large number of requests for letters of recommendation at certain times of the year. They’re likely being asked by students applying to grad school, medical school, law school, and other jobs. Asking for a letter of recommendation as early as possible is not only important to give them enough time to write your letter of recommendation, but to write a good one. Asking at the last minute is rude and will likely result in a no. As soon as you begin your application to law school, ask for your letters of recommendation.

5. Be polite and helpful

While you already know to ask politely for a letter of recommendation, you should also be as helpful as you can. If it’s been a few years since you’ve been in school or last seen your previous employer, you might want to provide some information to help remind them who you are. For example, tell the professor which class you took, your grade in the course, any assignments you did well on, and any other information that might help jog their memory. 

Your referee may also have questions for you. They may be wondering why you’re applying to law school, which schools you’re applying to, and why you believe you would make a good lawyer. If you ask for a letter of recommendation in person or over the phone, have some answers prepared. If you ask in an email, be prompt with your responses as to not leave them waiting.

6. Send a reminder

Professors and employers are busy people. If the deadline is approaching, send them a kind reminder of the due date. Important note: don’t harass your referee by regularly asking them if they’ve submitted the letter yet. If you haven’t heard whether or not the letter of recommendation has been sent, one reminder a couple of weeks before the deadline should be sufficient. 

7. Say thank you 

You should immediately thank your referee for agreeing to write you a letter of recommendation. But you should also send a heartfelt thank you after they’ve submitted the letter, preferably handwritten. A letter of recommendation can easily take up an hour or two of your referee’s time, so it’s important to show your gratitude. 

8. Let them know if you get accepted

When you get accepted to law school, send an updated thank you to your referee letting them know that you’ve been accepted and where. This is an extra step that allows you to show how grateful you truly are (and most referees genuinely want to hear how your application turned out). 

If you feel intimidated asking for a letter of recommendation, use these tips. If you do end up receiving a no, don’t be discouraged. They may not feel like they know you well enough or simply may not have the time to write a quality letter. Find a new referee and start again from step one as soon as possible. Good luck!

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