Recommendations for Law School
Choosing Your Recommenders
Most law schools strongly prefer that you have at least one (preferably two) academic reference. A good choice for an academic recommender would be a professor who taught you in a class where you utilized skills you will need in law school: reading, scholarly writing, logical reasoning, analytical thinking, and research. As an applicant from St. Olaf, you have the advantage of having professors who know your name and can talk about your strengths in depth. If you still have time, work on cultivating these relationships by going in to office hours and taking multiple classes with the same professor. Ask your professors if they have the time to put together a great recommendation for you, and give them an easy way to refuse. You don’t want your professor to write a luke-warm recommendation. Choose professors who are willing to collaborate with you and really get to know why you are applying to law school. Some professors are known for taking months to grade assignments--if you ask one of these professors to write your recommendation, you must ask early and remind her often because your entire application can be held up by one late recommendation. Your goal is to find a professor who wants to write a well written, specific, detailed recommendation in a timely manner that presents you as the exemplary student that you are.
In addition to your academic reference, you can also ask a supervisor or boss who can speak to your contributions in a work environment or an extra-curricular advisor who can speak to your work ethic and leadership ability.
Who not to ask: Family, friends, famous people, public officials, anyone who can’t address a first-hand, professional knowledge of your academic ability, work ethic, or extra-curricular commitments.
Collaborating with Your Recommenders
Before your recommender can complete your recommendation, both your recommender and the St. Olaf Registrar’s Office must receive FERPA forms from you. You can find this information on the registrar’s website.
To help your recommenders write in detail about you, provide them with some information. You should offer to come in and talk during their office hours in addition to giving them the information below.
- Unofficial transcript
- Why you want to go to law school and where you’re applying
- Which qualities and work you would like them to highlight (include the qualities the law school wants to see in the recommendation)
- Personal statement so the recommender can know how you’re presenting yourself in the rest of your application
- The courses you took with the professor and grades received
- Exceptional work you did for the professor (you can include copies of your work)
- Due date of the letter (remember it may take up to two weeks for LSDAS to distribute your letter to schools)
Submitting the Letters
Most law schools ask that you send letters of recommendation through the LSDAS system. LSDAS will distribute your letters to the schools you designate. Submitting letters through this service takes away some of the stress associated with the process because you will be able to track your recommendations online. If you do choose to submit letters through paper mail, give your recommenders addressed and stamped envelopes.
Once your letters have been submitted, make sure to thank your recommenders. Hopefully they have spent a lot of time on your recommendation, so you should let them know how much you appreciate their time and effort. If you are accepted, notify your recommenders.
A Note about Dean’s Certifications
Dean’s Certifications are not recommendation letters. They will be filled out by the Dean’s office using the form that your law school provides. You only need to submit a Dean’s Certification if the law school specifically asks for it.