Law School Discussion

Getting my LoRs back

Re: Getting my LoRs back
« Reply #20 on: April 22, 2004, 09:25:20 PM »
Just because I am extremely bored at work - I looked it up on the LSAC site.  They clearly state:

"Letters sent to LSAC remain the property of LSAC and will remain active for the life of your file. Letters will be neither returned to nor copied for the candidate."

Because when you sign up for the LSDAS service, you agree to the terms that come with that service, it would seem to me that you have given up your right to see the letters just because "Letters will be neither returned to nor copied for the candidate."  Of course, thinking about this legally, you could say that you were forced to sign this agreement under duress as almost every school says you must use it and if you don't use it you can't go to law school but that is a different arguement.

Re: Getting my LoRs back
« Reply #21 on: April 22, 2004, 10:48:06 PM »
Just ask your recommenders if you are curious.  If they wrote you glowing letters, they'll most likely let you have copies, unless they have a policy against it.

Just because someone said they wrote a strong letter doesn't mean they did.  Even highly educated people overestimate their writing ablilities.


Re: Getting my LoRs back
« Reply #22 on: April 22, 2004, 11:12:39 PM »
schoomp, thank you very much for clarifying the matter.

as mentioned earlier, i wrote a long, elaborate response attempting to punch various holes in your argument (and believe me, there were some). however, now i am of the opinion that such a response is no longer warranted because i feel your contention is cogent. i think the initial debate stemmed from a misunderstanding, on my part, of the rules and regulations governing the lsac LOR process. i agree wholeheartedly that it would be egregiously unethical for a law school applicant to attempt to obtain copies of LORs if he/she knowingly signed the waiver of rights on the lsac letter of recommendation form. such an action would indeed constitute a violation of the recommender's trust. i turned in my LOR forms to my professors way back in october and totally forgot i signed such a stipulation. there was no "underhandedness" in my initial inquiry because i was misinformed about the rules (hence, i asked "does anyone know about this law)." however, stating that requesting copies of LORs is a "violation of trust" would be assuming that recommenders write their LORs differently if the right for applicants to read LORs was waived than if the right wasn't waived. that is to say recommenders would be more averse to stating certain negative factors of an applicant if the right wasn't waived. since an LOR should be the same regardless of whether the right is waived, isn't that in itself unethical on the recommender's part? (i know the logic in this arguement isn't exactly LSAT solid, but you know in reality its true)

and by the way dta, if a strong recommendation is indicated by the past relationship with the recommender, then i guess i have strong ones. i  took multiple classes with both and received As/A-'s from them. one of the profs supervised my honors thesis and also accepted me into one of his PhD level seminars so i could satisfy an honors requirement. however, my initial inquiry was not whether i recieved a strong LOR but rather, i was curious of the content. nevertheless, i no longer have the desire to read the letters considering i now know full well that i have no right to them.


Re: Getting my LoRs back
« Reply #23 on: April 23, 2004, 01:29:45 AM »
ttwied, you wrote:

"that is to say recommenders would be more averse to stating certain negative factors of an applicant if the right wasn't waived. since an LOR should be the same regardless of whether the right is waived, isn't that in itself unethical on the recommender's part?"

I disagree with your premise. I have been both an LOR writer and an LOR requestor. The LOR's I have written for others have all been private and they would be MUCH MUCH different if i had to share it with the applicant. This is not due to any deception on my part. Here is a hypothetical college professor with various reasons his LOR would change in a private vs. public (viewable by the applicant) LOR:

1. If the LOR were private, the professor was going to say how johny (the applicant) was the most talented student in his class. As long as the LOR were private he knew this would not hurt jerry's feelings who the professor thought was an excellent student but the 2nd most talented student in class. In general, if the professor cannot be assured privacy, he will NEVER compare the applicant's performance with his/her peers, even if such a comparison would be of great benefit to the applicant, because if such knowledge should become public it would reveal unflattering facts about others (poor jerry just isn't as talented).

2. The professor has extremely flattering things to say about the applicant. So flattering, in fact, that the professor would just be uncomfortable if the applicant knew how highly he thought of the applicant. The professor is an honest person and will give an honest opinion of the applicant even if, in doing so, he feels he is describing the applicant to be a much stronger student than the professor himself was at that age. It's a little humbling for the professor to realize that the applicant is besting his own academic performance when he was back in school as an undergrad. These are normal human foibles, but the professor is able to overcome them and give the applicant the stellar LOR she/he deserves because the professor knows the applicant will not see the LOR and the professor would thus be spared any subsequent awkwardness in his further relationship with the student. But were he to know the applicant would see the LOR, he would tone down his praise out of embarrassment.

3. Though the applicant is thought of highly by the professor, there are some legitimate weaknesses. The professor knows, however, that the applicant is especially sensitive about the weaknesses in question. If the professor knew the applicant were going to see the LOR, he would not be as frank in his assessment of these weaknesses.

4. The professor is simply comforted by the privacy. With a private LOR he knows there is no way his evaluation of the applicant could cause a disruption in his relationship with the student. However, if the applicant were to see the LOR there is always the chance the applicant may react in some unusual negative manner to some small detail in the LOR and thus create an irreparable strain in his relationship with the student.

For all these reasons, and more, a private LOR may legitimately be much different in both content and tone than an LOR that is viewable by the applicant.

It sounds like you have very strong LORís in your favor and you earned them through hard work with your professors. That is good. I only hope that, were the legal avenue available to you (which apparently it is not), you would not contact the LSAC without your professorsí permission in an effort to obtain the LOR. If the professor wanted you to see the LOR, he would have offered it to you before sending it to the LSAC (as in schoompís case). That he did not make such an offer may indicate he does not want you to see the glowing recommendation he wrote for you, maybe for some of the reasons above, maybe for others. If you really want to see your LOR the only ethical way to do so would be to ask the professor directly. While it may be rude to do so (perhaps there is a way to do so w/ tact?), at least it would show the kind of honesty and respect your professor deserves for doing you the favor of taking time to write you a strong LOR.


Re: Getting my LoRs back
« Reply #24 on: April 24, 2004, 09:12:23 AM »

i believe you have misinterpreted the last clause of the second paragraph in my last post. the point i was driving at was exactly what you reiterated: that professor's LORs are different when privacy is assured than when privacy isn't assured. my assertion was that this action, on the professor's part, is unethical because the applicant expects just as strong or just as flattering an LOR regardless of whether the waiver was signed. i would hate it if i had to second guess and think, "if i sign the waiver, will the prof give me such a flattering LOR as to judge me as even stronger a student than he when he was in college?" or think, "if i don't sign, will he refrain from mentioning my weaknesses?" the professor's recommendation should be 100% honest and accurate and should not be influenced by outside considerations (such as the waiver).


Re: Getting my LoRs back
« Reply #25 on: April 24, 2004, 06:35:24 PM »
"my assertion was that this action, on the professor's part, is unethical"

What action on the proffessor's part, exactly, are you finding unethical? I'm not seeing anything morally objectionable at all in the behaviour of the hypothetical professor I present above. By "this action" are you merely referring to the fact that the professor would write 2 different recommendations depending on the public vs. private circumstance of the LOR? That the professor would be swayed by the  public vs. private issue in writing the LOR - is that is behaviour on the part of the professor you find to be unethical? If one behaves differently in a public situation than one would otherwise behave in a private situation then one is an unethical person?


Re: Getting my LoRs back
« Reply #26 on: April 24, 2004, 11:33:23 PM »
exactly  :)


Re: Getting my LoRs back
« Reply #27 on: April 24, 2004, 11:39:17 PM »
Then there was no misinterpretation on my part. I understood you perfectly. My previous post outlined a hypothetical situation that demonstrated why a professor would offer different LOR's in a public vs. private situation and no reasonable person could denounce the professor as "unethical" for the stipulated explanation of the difference.


Re: Getting my LoRs back
« Reply #28 on: April 25, 2004, 02:49:18 PM »
this situation, however, leaves much room for unethical behavior.

consider, for instance, i were a recommender and you were an applicant.

if you didn't sign the waiver, i would write:

dta will make a fine addition to your law school. he is a good writer and possesses the ability to formulate arguments well.

if you did sign the wavier, then i could write:

dta is too argumentive and contentious. in my view, he will only proliferate the number of opinionated and overzealous lawyers in our society.

if to be ethical means to be honest, then one of these hypothetical "LORs" is telling a lie. although i may believe that you possess all of the characteristics highlighted in both "LORs," one of them paints a positive picture of you while the other paints a negative one. to simplify the content of these hypothetical "LORs," the first one basically says "accept dta" while the other says "reject him." therefore, one statement must be a lie which is inconsistent with the real opinion (the unethical act). of course i am using an extreme example to illustrate my point, but you get the idea.


Re: Getting my LoRs back
« Reply #29 on: April 25, 2004, 03:44:56 PM »
ttiwed - from my experience in writing LOR's for others, requesting LOR's from others, and working with others who have also written/requested LOR's, the LOR dance is usually played out as follows:

The supplicant (person requesting LOR) asks the benefactor (person writing the LOR) for an LOR. However, this is done in a delicate way that basically says "Are you willing to write me an LOR and if you were to write me an LOR would you be doing me a favor, i.e. would it be a positive LOR?". This, of course, is not asked explicitly - there is a dance to it. One of the most frequent lines I hear is:

"I know you are very busy but I was hoping you might be able to write an LOR for me. I am applying for X and it's a tough assignment so I'm hoping to be able to count on some good LOR's to help me out and I thought I might ask you, given our previous work together."

First, this immediately gives the benefactor the ability to politely opt out - "sorry, i'm too busy". Thus, if the benefactor cannot write an LOR that would be an overall recommendation for X he/she is provided with an easy excuse to opt out of the supplicant's request.

Second, if the benefactor accepts the assignment when properly asked according to this dance then the benefactor is indeed obliged to write an LOR that is overall of benefit to the supplicant in obtaining position X.

During my years in business this delicate dance of diplomacy has always been observed both by myself and anyone I have come in contact with. I have been asked by supplicants who have not observed this dance and about whom I have a low opinion and I have written them scathin LOR's. I have been asked for LOR's by supplicants observing the rules of this dance and about whom I have nothing positive to say, and I have accepted the polite denial provided by the supplicant (sorry, i'm too busy). And whenever I have been asked for an LOR by a supplicant and the rules of this dance were observed and I wrote an LOR for the supplicant, the LOR is always overall of benefit to the applicant. Further, my experience is that these unspoken rules are generally observed in the business world and seem to be adhered to in the academic world as well.

So, ttiwed, I will agree with you in this area. If the supplicant observes protocol for requesting an LOR and the benefactor accepts the assignment and goes on to write an LOR then the benefactor is obliged to write an LOR that is, in tone, of *overall* benefit to the applicant. But in this scenario the benefactor is still ethically permitted to give radically different LOR's depending on whether the LOR is private or public. Thus, the benefactor may in this situation write a public LOR that is luke-warm in its praise and a private LOR that is red-hot in its praise. However, I will go even further and concur with you that even in this case the level of praise heaped upon the supplicant by the benefactor in the private case must be greater than or equal to the level of praise in the public case. But they need not be equal.

But it is, after all, the supplicant who is requesting a favor in this matter and who stands to gain the most out of the LOR. As such, the supplicant has a duty to request LOR's in accord with the "LOR dance" described above. But even if he follows the dance and the benefactor writes an LOR for the supplicant, the supplicant must abide by the wishes of the benefactor that the contents of the LOR remain unknown to the supplicant. Further, if the benefactor does not freely, and of his own volition, offer to LOR to be read by the supplicant before sending it off to X then the supplicant must assume that the benefactor wishes for the LOR to remain private. The benefactor need not explicitly say to the supplicant "I wish this LOR to remain private". It is assumed that the benefactor wishes this unless he explicitly (and without provocation from the supplicant) says otherwise. This luxury must be afforded to the benefactor b/c it is recognized that the benefactor is taking pains upon himself (several hours of LOR writing) to deliver a gift to the supplicant.

Thus, once the LOR is sent to X by the benefactor the supplicant must make no effort to read the contents of the LOR.

Anyway, that is my full and complete understanding of all the unspoken protocol involved in soliciting/writing LOR's and describes the duties and ethical boundaries of both parties. Perhaps you have learned the ethics of LOR writing differently, but I and all others I have met in business and academia generally subscribe to this set of unspoken rules.