Law School Discussion

Applying to Law School => Personal Statements, Resumes, and Letters of Recommendation => Topic started by: kylot42 on October 04, 2001, 05:02:03 AM

Title: How to ask for a letter of rec?
Post by: kylot42 on October 04, 2001, 05:02:03 AM
Okay so I know which profs I'm going to ask for letters of rec.  The problem is that, even though they know me, I nervous about asking.  Should I send them emails or go to their office hours?  Should I start with a little small talk or just straight up ask?

I'm assuming it's not going to be a big deal.  Has anyone had a professor say no?
Title: Re: How to ask for a letter of rec?
Post by: dreampuffbaby on October 04, 2001, 06:44:09 AM
Hi Kylot
It's always better to ask in person, especially cuz it's so much easier to say no over email. Also, dispense with the small talk. Say hello, however, of course, but get to your point soon or else you'll seem false in the end. Basically I don't see why the prof would say no unless he/she is already overwhelmed with recommendation requests, which at this point may be true, or unless he/she really doesn't think he/she can write a proper recommendation (doesn't know your work well enough, etc). So just get up the courage and just ask (yes go to office hours) and do it soon or else they'll be booked and you'll run out of options.
Title: Re: How to ask for a letter of rec?
Post by: Harvard 1L on October 08, 2001, 08:58:56 PM
Whatever you do, make sure you're clear and specific.  Just say something like, "I'm working on my law school applications and would like you to write a letter of recommendation for me.  Would you be willing to do that?"

If they say yes, cut to the details.  Tell them how soon you need them, who they need to be sent to (i.e., returned to you in sealed envelopes or mailed directly to schools?), and what information needs to be included in the letter itself (usually your name and social security number).  

Unless the professor knows you really well (and sometimes even in that case), he/she will probably want to briefly discuss your academic career.  I decided to make it easy on everyone; I typed out the directions about procedure (see above) as well as a list of the courses (and dates, and grades) I took with that professor.  I also gave them a list of my extracurricular activities.  Most of my recommenders said that my list made their job easier.  It also made their letters more "personal."  (Trust me... Even if you were her best student ever, if you took her class three semesters ago, she'll appreciate the reminder.)

Just to be polite, I also asked my recommenders if they had time to do this (they did) and if they felt that they could write an unqualified recommendation for me (they said they could).  You wouldn't have to ask either of these things, but I wanted to make sure that they had no hesitations about recommending me.  If they did, I would have asked someone else.

Good luck!
Title: Re: How to ask for a letter of rec?
Post by: ben on November 23, 2002, 08:16:56 AM
Quote
Whatever you do, make sure you're clear and specific.  Just say something like, "I'm working on my law school applications and would like you to write a letter of recommendation for me.  Would you be willing to do that?"


I disagree. This might put them in a position where they might not feel comfortable writing the letter but feel like they have to do it anyway. The result of this would be a letter that is less than enthusistic about you.

The best thing to do is to ask in a manner which gives them an easy out, e.g. if they have time to write you the letter.
Title: Re: How to ask for a letter of rec?
Post by: CoconutX on November 30, 2002, 12:36:40 PM
You should absolutely ask in person.  Asking by email is too cowardly and can make you appear immature.  Be straightforward when you do ask, and give them an out.  Tell them that if they don't feel comfortable writing the letters for you, that you would prefer they be honest about it.  It's much better to be rejected than to have someone write a lukewarm letter about you.  Good luck.
Title: Re: How to ask for a letter of rec?
Post by: Kyle Krater on March 21, 2003, 03:45:53 PM
I would not give them a way out!  You need this letter.  Show up to office hours with a personal statement and a couple research papers from that class, or even another class in order to give the instructor an idea as to how you write.  Thank them for seeing you and cut to the chase.  In my  opinion, professors would much rather have students be frank with them than blow smoke up thier rear-end.  Good luck!
Title: Re: How to ask for a letter of rec?
Post by: Second of Eight on June 16, 2003, 05:47:23 AM
Yes, do not give your professors a "way out" when asking for a recommendation. Tell them they must comply. Resistance is futile. Assimilation of their recommendation is inevitable.  ::)
Title: Re: How to ask for a letter of rec?
Post by: Lia on June 24, 2003, 02:31:33 PM
I was SOOOO nervous about asking one of my professors for a recommendation also.  I didn't have anyone else to ask because this professor I had had the past 3 semesters.  I finally got the nerve to visit him during office hours and I said, "I wanted to ask you a favor.  I am applying to law school and need a letter of recommendation".  Before I even finished my statement, he said "I would have no problem writing you a letter".  I was floored!  I don't know if I was expecting him to say no or what!  I don't remember anything after that -- I was genuinely relieved!

So, the point of the story is... it will probably turn out better than you think, but you won't know until you JUST DO IT!!!!

Good luck. ;D
Title: Re: How to ask for a letter of rec?
Post by: Ivy_Hopeful on August 12, 2003, 10:08:55 AM
Get letters of reccomendations from the profs that you can trust the most to give you the best and most unique reccomendation as humanely possible.  But do not force a prof to do it, or it may end out negatively.
Title: Re: How to ask for a letter of rec?
Post by: 1L2004 on March 18, 2004, 11:44:06 PM
This is what should be done...

1) Find professors who meet the following criteria: (a) knows something (anything) about law school, lawyers, politics, argumentation, philosophy, sociology, etc.; (b) teaches a course you actually liked and did well in. 

2) Approach the professor by scheduling a meeting to "talk about law school." Don't just pop the question...this is sort of like a proposal so take it seriously. 

3) At the meeting, ask them for an honest appraisal of your fitness for law school.  If they say you suck or show any reluctance, go elsewhere.  This question is to make sure that they are actually going to recommend that various schools admit you. 

4) Pop the question; many posters above have given excellent advice on wording. 

5) don't hand over the forms just yet.  Get back to them in a few days with a dossier.  This should include all the school-specific forms and envelopes, the LSDAS forms (so you can apply to all the places you won't mention to the prof because no one would think you're "Harvard material"), draft(s) of your personal statement(s), a resume, copies of significant work you've done in the prof's class (I included two papers, one from each class I took with a recommender - so each prof got to see the work I'd done in the other's class), a brief letter (to the prof) with info about your favorite schools and chances of getting in, the Academic Summary from LSAC, the LSAT score conversion chart for your test, the pages from the LSAT/GPA calculator with schools to which you are applying highlighted and notes on chances of admission...all this stuff allows the prof. to literally write you into the school of your choice if you have borderline numbers and they think you should still get in.  It also shows that you've done your homework and that you are serious about law school.  Remember, a personalized dossier increases the chance of a personalized rec.

That's the deal.

Also, look for diversity in recs. Don't just go to your adviser and your favorite teacher by default.  I didn't ask my adviser to recommend me because I haven't seen him in over a year. Go outside your department to get recs from the perspective of different academic disciplines...the admission folks don't want one-hit wonders (unless you're from MIT and can write a program to predict the outcome of any case...in which case flee, because some judge will lock you up and lose the paperwork).
Title: Re: How to ask for a letter of rec?
Post by: Anti_Ivy on March 19, 2004, 08:58:54 AM
I think that there is a lot of good advice to be found in the above posts.  1L2004 mentioned some items that I hadn't considered offering my recommender's.  I will apply to law school either this fall, or, for sure, the next fall.  I will get at least three LOR's for all of my law school apps.  However, I will apply to Yale and, as I am just 'average,' I will send more recommendations than the two required.  I have some good extracurricular, essays, etc, but the LOR's could give me an extra push.  I can get some okay LOR's from almost every professor I have had.  I don't think it could hurt to have a few extra people say I have potential, am a hard-worker, etc., but I want to make sure. 

With the info I provided above, I would like to ask a question to be answered by anyone who thinks that s/he has some insight to offer.  Would it hurt me to have five (or more) LOR's (sent directly to Yale) from prof's who know only the info I'd provide and the grade they gave me?  I just want to know if Yale would frown upon extra LOR's from prof's who do not have personal relationships with me.  I really don’t think the school’s admissions officers would (frown upon extra LOR's), since most people don’t have a close relationship with every recommender.

Also, my primary recommender's will be people I have interned for (two: one a judge, the other a defense attorney) and a political science/law professor/pre-law advisor at my school whom I have come to pester (in an innocent, friendly manner).
Title: Re: How to ask for a letter of rec?
Post by: Enzyme on March 19, 2004, 09:26:15 AM
Anti_Ivy,

I have read somewhere that you shouldnt send more than is aksed for. You may want to ask around, but think about it, if you have five general recommendations, how much will that show your talents that just doing the required two from good people. Maybe more recs can help, but I am positive that I read in a book like Law School Confidential or something not to send more than is asked (sorry cant remember the book, have read/skimmed too many)

Good luck

I think that there is a lot of good advice to be found in the above posts.  1L2004 mentioned some items that I hadn't considered offering my recommender's.  I will apply to law school either this fall, or, for sure, the next fall.  I will get at least three LOR's for all of my law school apps.  However, I will apply to Yale and, as I am just 'average,' I will send more recommendations than the two required.  I have some good extracurricular, essays, etc, but the LOR's could give me an extra push.  I can get some okay LOR's from almost every professor I have had.  I don't think it could hurt to have a few extra people say I have potential, am a hard-worker, etc., but I want to make sure. 

With the info I provided above, I would like to ask a question to be answered by anyone who thinks that s/he has some insight to offer.  Would it hurt me to have five LOR's (sent directly to Yale) from prof's who know only the info I'd provide and the grade they gave me?  I just want to know if Yale would frown upon extra LOR's from prof's who do not have personal relationships with me.  I really don’t think the school’s admissions officers would (frown upon extra LOR's), since most people don’t have a close relationship with every recommender.

Also, my primary recommender's will be people (two: one a judge, the other a defense attorney) I have interned for and a political science/law professor/pre-law advisor at my school whom I have come to pester (in an innocent, friendly manner).
Title: Re: How to ask for a letter of rec?
Post by: Anti_Ivy on March 19, 2004, 09:43:16 AM
Anti_Ivy,

I have read somewhere that you shouldnt send more than is aksed for. You may want to ask around, but think about it, if you have five general recommendations, how much will that show your talents that just doing the required two from good people. Maybe more recs can help, but I am positive that I read in a book like Law School Confidential or something not to send more than is asked (sorry cant remember the book, have read/skimmed too many)

Good luck

That's what I thought, too.  At least until I read in Yale's J.D. Application Brochure that said:

"Letters of recommendation, when at all possible, should be from professors who know your academic performance and have personally had a chance to evaluate significant aspects of your academic work. A well thought-out, concise, personal, and specific recommendation will be most helpful. Additional recommendations are welcome, but only two are expected and required. Your file will be deemed complete when two letters have arrived. Letters from college deans, chaplains, summer employers and colleagues may be helpful, although we strongly prefer letters from at least two faculty members under whom you have studied. You are welcome to submit your letters through the LSAC letter of recommendation service, which is included as a part of your LSDAS subscription. Please see the LSDAS registration booklet for instructions for using this service. Some recommenders may wish to write specifically about the applicant’s qualifications for study at Yale Law School rather than for the study of law in general. Such letters are quite welcome and should be sent directly to Yale; they should not be sent through the LSAC service. If you have your letters sent directly to Yale, give one of the attached forms to each person you ask to write a recommendation. Duplicate the form if you need more than two. If you do not sign the waiver, you should make it clear to those whom you ask to write recommendations that the letters will be available for your inspection. If you wish, and if your recommenders or credential service agree, you may submit letters of recommendation with your application materials. If you choose this method, please ask your recommenders (or an authorized person at your credential service) to place the letter in an envelope, seal it, sign it across the seal, and return it to you. Please leave the letters sealed."

Is it customary to say, "Additional recommendations are welcome," or does it mean that Yale's law school admissions officers welcome additional recommendations?
Title: Re: How to ask for a letter of rec?
Post by: jgomez on March 19, 2004, 12:15:36 PM
well, in regards to LSAC, i sent in 4 and they only take 3.  so i had to make one inactive, or they will make, anything after the 3rd, inactive. 
Title: Re: How to ask for a letter of rec?
Post by: Anti_Ivy on March 19, 2004, 12:25:38 PM
I plan to send the extra recommendations directly to Yale.  I just want to make sure I won't lose points for sending 7+ LOR's.  I might be able to get an extra five solid recommenders, as well as a few people who can comment only on my potential/classroom success (which is basically what both my transcript and resume prove).

well, in regards to LSAC, i sent in 4 and they only take 3.  so i had to make one inactive, or they will make, anything after the 3rd, inactive.
Title: Re: How to ask for a letter of rec?
Post by: apartment on March 19, 2004, 05:29:46 PM
Anti,

  I think 7 is definitely overkill. In fact, I think greater than 3 is overkill unless every one of them is glowing and fabulous and reveal something about you that the other LORs do not.  LORs are just a supplement to you application.  Yes, at Yale they look pretty hard at these extras but more likely having a killer resume, personal statement, and whatever other x factor is much more important.  Also, if I saw 7+ LORs and a single one of them wasn't terrific, I would question your judgement and faith in your own ability.  You should know your recommenders well enough to be able to decide who will write something worthwhile.  If you don't or you have doubts, than you need to rethink who it is that is writing your recommendation.  Yale doesn't need to take people who would hedge their bets on an application.  Go all out, don't let anything subpar sneak into your app.  That means no mediocre LORs.
Title: Re: How to ask for a letter of rec?
Post by: Anti_Ivy on March 19, 2004, 05:51:55 PM
Actually, I have, at least, four recommenders who can write really good recommendations.  I could get an extra 7+ LOR's if I need a few more solid ones.  None would be simply mediocre, however not all of the extra LOR's would be fantastic.  I have a pretty nice resume, extracurriculars, GPA that's average (for Yale), but I want to stand out, in a good way. 

Does everyone think that sending extra (at least three, and possibly more than five) recommendations will hurt my chances?  I want to send them all with my application.  Would it be more appropriate to wait to send the extra LOR’s until I were waitlisted (if I were)?
Title: Re: How to ask for a letter of rec?
Post by: xrayspec on March 19, 2004, 06:01:15 PM
Follow the instructions. Every LOR past the 2nd one should have something entirely different to say, otherwise at best you're wasting the adcom's time, at worst you're confusing them.

The advice to DEMAND a LOR from a professor is bad. You only get 2-3 LORs most places. If those have been coerced / strongarmed, how good do you think they'll be? "Joey is in my class. He has done the required work and performed adequately. Best regards...."

Respect the fact that your professor may have a good reason for not wanting to recommend you.
Title: Re: How to ask for a letter of rec?
Post by: Anti_Ivy on March 19, 2004, 06:11:58 PM
So, I had 5 LOR's that speak about my abilities, qualifications, work ethic, etc., are okay as long as they all emphasize on a different quality?  What about a few more that talk about my contributions in the class/work place?  How could LOR's claiming that I'm a wonderful student/employee/intern hurt me, or, even, confuse the admissions officers? 

As far as the advice goes, I never said all posts contained ‘words of wisdom.’  After all, why would I even “DEMAND a LOR from a professor?”  I have more than enough recommenders.  I haven't had anyone turn me down.  I even had one professor offer to right me a recommendation after another professor told him I was planning on applying to law school.  So, should I turn down some recommenders, or would it be okay to send extra LOR's to Yale?



Follow the instructions. Every LOR past the 2nd one should have something entirely different to say, otherwise at best you're wasting the adcom's time, at worst you're confusing them.

The advice to DEMAND a LOR from a professor is bad. You only get 2-3 LORs most places. If those have been coerced / strongarmed, how good do you think they'll be? "Joey is in my class. He has done the required work and performed adequately. Best regards...."

Respect the fact that your professor may have a good reason for not wanting to recommend you.
Title: Re: How to ask for a letter of rec?
Post by: apartment on March 19, 2004, 06:52:43 PM
Anti, you are obviously very bright but you seem to be ignoring the advice and trying to defend your right to send multiple LORs.

If you want to send 7+, it is your app, no one is stopping you.  But read carefully:  EVERYONE who applies to Yale is going to have good LORs.  EVERYONE who applies to law school anywhere will have good LORs.  They're letters of RECOMMENDATION.  They're supposed to be good.


Not every letter has to emphasize a different quality but each one should contribute *something* to the big picture.  A good recommender will describe the qualities they see in you that would make you a good law school candidate.  If those qualities are intelligence, character, leadership qualities, etc. then all your letters could mention one, two, or several of those characteristics.  Once you have 3 letters that tell the ad com that you are intellgent, of good character, and a good leader, what will 4 more letters add to that?  That you are also popular?  "Look I have 7 professors that love me!  Take me, the other applicants only had four."

Keeping in mind the part about everyone having great LORs, trying to compete in that regard by sheer number of recommendations is stupid.  You say you have four profs who will write you great recommendations, then send in those four and no more.
Title: Re: How to ask for a letter of rec?
Post by: xrayspec on March 19, 2004, 06:54:28 PM
<sigh>

dude, if sending 5 or 10 or 50 LORs makes you happy, go for it.

But when one sees an instruction like "only two [LORs] are expected and required", it's like when a professor says "there is no required length for your term paper" or a dinner host says "stay as long as you want". It's an invitation to apply good judgment.

 
Title: Re: How to ask for a letter of rec?
Post by: Anti_Ivy on March 19, 2004, 07:00:17 PM
I think I'll just send three or four.  I'll hold off on sending extra LOR's until I'm waitlisted (if I ever am).  I just kept pressing the topic because I wanted to see how many people agreed that five or more LOR's are excessive.  Thanks for all the advice!