Law School Discussion

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« on: June 20, 2006, 06:26:26 AM »
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Re: LOR advice
« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2006, 06:48:20 AM »
id help but i really dont know. i kinda just trust my teachers to write good stuff and what theyre looking for. on the form you give them to accompany your LOR i believe it tells the recommender some things that they could talk about and include in the lor...point that out to youre teachers. thats about all i got

Re: LOR advice
« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2006, 06:52:12 AM »
OK thanks. Just one quick question: the actual letter they write isn't written on a specific form, is it? I just need to give them the form that accompanies the letter, right?
yup

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Re: LOR advice
« Reply #3 on: June 20, 2006, 09:27:44 AM »
Don't just let them use their judgement!!! I wrote up tips for my recommenders taken from the Ivey Guide, which I included below.  I would suggest that you also give them to or discuss them with your recommenders, especially since they're not familiar with US law schools.

1.   Academics First
•   The primary purpose of a recommendation is to give admissions officers a sense of your academic prowess and accomplishments.  Everything else is icing.  Noting extracurricular activities or non-academic skills should not be done at the expense of academic talents.
2.   Anecdotes, Not Adjectives
•   Rather than simply stating their opinions about a candidate, recommenders should present a persuasive argument for their opinions, and this requires evidence in the form of examples, stories, and anecdotes.  The most helpful recommendations are memorable, and to be memorable they need to show, not tell.
3.   Put the Recommender in Context
•   Often recommendation letters don’t explain how the recommender knows the applicant but instead launches right into the writer’s opinion.  Recommenders should introduce themselves in the first paragraph (position, how long they’ve been teaching, etc) so that admissions officers can understand why they should take their opinions seriously.  Recommenders should also state how long they’ve known the applicant and how they’ve gotten to know him or her.
4.   Put the Applicant in Context
•   The recommender should compare the applicant to his peers and qualify that comparison: “Matthew ranks among the top 5 percent of undergraduates I’ve taught in my seventeen years of teaching at Northwestern and Amherst.  He is in the same league as one of my students who is currently a Rhodes Scholar, and another who is doing very well at Stanford Law School.”
5.   Weaknesses
•   Most law school recommendation forms do not ask recommenders to write about applicants’ weaknesses, but it’s a subject that can be interesting when recommenders volunteer to discuss it.  If recommenders do discuss a weakness, they should pick one that can be fixed, and explain the steps that you are taking to fix it successfully.  Examples include budgeting time better so that you don’t wait until the last minute to write papers; learning to deal with project teammates who don’t carry their weight; or developing more confidence as a public speaker. Beware phony weaknesses, though.  Admissions officers will see right through statements like, “He’s too critical of himself,” or, “She works too hard.”
6.   Stick to What They Know
•   It really rubbed me (Anna Ivey) the wrong way when someone who had never gone to law school would write, with utter conviction, that an applicant was “certain to make your law review.” Even people who have gone to law school and can gauge whether you’re suitable for a career in law know that they have no way of predicting whether or not you’ll make law review, not at least because different law reviews have different selection criteria.  In my (AI) experience, people with law degrees know enough not to venture a guess on law review selection in a recommendation – it’s the people who know the least about law school who do.
•   A trickier issue is that some recommendation forms express a preference for an academic recommendation but then also ask recommenders to discuss the applicant’s potential for success in the legal profession.  Professors usually haven’t attended law school or worked as lawyers, so why they should be expected to have an opinion on that is anyone’s guess.  Recommenders should feel free to state the limits of their knowledge – if they’ve spent their entire careers in academia, for example, they shouldn’t feel pressured to make up some kind of opinion about what it takes to be a good lawyer.  On the other hand, if they know something about the legal profession, or can compare the applicant to other students of theirs who have met with success in law school, they should explain how they have that knowledge and offer and opinion about the applicant’s prospects.
7.   No (Unintended) Faint Praise
•   “Damning with faint praise” – that’s a saying we (admissions officers) use to refer to recommendations that on the surface seem to be saying good things but are actually negative because they aren’t enthusiastic enough.  It’s possible that recommenders intend to damn with faint praise, but I’m (AI) convinced that some don’t mean to.  Examples include:
•   Susan is a competent student with substantial potential for law school.
•   Translation: Susan is merely competent, not exceptional, and she’s not a sure bet for success in law school.
•   Martin’s class work was above average.
•   Translation: Martin was not very far above average.
•   Joseph is very punctual and tries hard to do his best.
•   Translation: Joseph always shows up on time and works like a dog, but he doesn’t have much else going for him.
•   Jessica seems to have an interest in the law.
•   Translation: Jessica only seems to have an interest, but she doesn’t really. Or: I don’t know her well enough to gauge whether her interest is genuine.
8.   Length
•   Anything less than five hundred words is too short.  Recommenders shouldn’t worry about the letter being too long – if they really know the applicant and are passionate enough about him or her to write more than a page, that can only work to the applicant’s benefit. An admissions officer might not read to the very end – so recommenders should put the good stuff first – but she will know that the recommender thinks that the applicant is someone special based on the time commitment alone.  I’ve (AI) rarely seen a recommendation that was too long – most of them were too short to be helpful.
9.   Letterhead
•   Ideally, recommenders should submit their letters on their letterhead.  It makes clear that they are writing about the applicant in their professional capacities (and not, say, as a friend of the family), and it makes it easier for admissions officers to track them down if they have follow-up questions.  And that does indeed happen, often because the admissions officer wants to hear more about the applicant.

Re: LOR advice
« Reply #4 on: June 20, 2006, 09:34:29 AM »
Don't just let them use their judgement!!! I wrote up tips for my recommenders taken from the Ivey Guide, which I included below.  I would suggest that you also give them to or discuss them with your recommenders, especially since they're not familiar with US law schools.

1.   Academics First
•   The primary purpose of a recommendation is to give admissions officers a sense of your academic prowess and accomplishments.  Everything else is icing.  Noting extracurricular activities or non-academic skills should not be done at the expense of academic talents.
2.   Anecdotes, Not Adjectives
•   Rather than simply stating their opinions about a candidate, recommenders should present a persuasive argument for their opinions, and this requires evidence in the form of examples, stories, and anecdotes.  The most helpful recommendations are memorable, and to be memorable they need to show, not tell.
3.   Put the Recommender in Context
•   Often recommendation letters don’t explain how the recommender knows the applicant but instead launches right into the writer’s opinion.  Recommenders should introduce themselves in the first paragraph (position, how long they’ve been teaching, etc) so that admissions officers can understand why they should take their opinions seriously.  Recommenders should also state how long they’ve known the applicant and how they’ve gotten to know him or her.
4.   Put the Applicant in Context
•   The recommender should compare the applicant to his peers and qualify that comparison: “Matthew ranks among the top 5 percent of undergraduates I’ve taught in my seventeen years of teaching at Northwestern and Amherst.  He is in the same league as one of my students who is currently a Rhodes Scholar, and another who is doing very well at Stanford Law School.”
5.   Weaknesses
•   Most law school recommendation forms do not ask recommenders to write about applicants’ weaknesses, but it’s a subject that can be interesting when recommenders volunteer to discuss it.  If recommenders do discuss a weakness, they should pick one that can be fixed, and explain the steps that you are taking to fix it successfully.  Examples include budgeting time better so that you don’t wait until the last minute to write papers; learning to deal with project teammates who don’t carry their weight; or developing more confidence as a public speaker. Beware phony weaknesses, though.  Admissions officers will see right through statements like, “He’s too critical of himself,” or, “She works too hard.”
6.   Stick to What They Know
•   It really rubbed me (Anna Ivey) the wrong way when someone who had never gone to law school would write, with utter conviction, that an applicant was “certain to make your law review.” Even people who have gone to law school and can gauge whether you’re suitable for a career in law know that they have no way of predicting whether or not you’ll make law review, not at least because different law reviews have different selection criteria.  In my (AI) experience, people with law degrees know enough not to venture a guess on law review selection in a recommendation – it’s the people who know the least about law school who do.
•   A trickier issue is that some recommendation forms express a preference for an academic recommendation but then also ask recommenders to discuss the applicant’s potential for success in the legal profession.  Professors usually haven’t attended law school or worked as lawyers, so why they should be expected to have an opinion on that is anyone’s guess.  Recommenders should feel free to state the limits of their knowledge – if they’ve spent their entire careers in academia, for example, they shouldn’t feel pressured to make up some kind of opinion about what it takes to be a good lawyer.  On the other hand, if they know something about the legal profession, or can compare the applicant to other students of theirs who have met with success in law school, they should explain how they have that knowledge and offer and opinion about the applicant’s prospects.
7.   No (Unintended) Faint Praise
•   “Damning with faint praise” – that’s a saying we (admissions officers) use to refer to recommendations that on the surface seem to be saying good things but are actually negative because they aren’t enthusiastic enough.  It’s possible that recommenders intend to damn with faint praise, but I’m (AI) convinced that some don’t mean to.  Examples include:
•   Susan is a competent student with substantial potential for law school.
•   Translation: Susan is merely competent, not exceptional, and she’s not a sure bet for success in law school.
•   Martin’s class work was above average.
•   Translation: Martin was not very far above average.
•   Joseph is very punctual and tries hard to do his best.
•   Translation: Joseph always shows up on time and works like a dog, but he doesn’t have much else going for him.
•   Jessica seems to have an interest in the law.
•   Translation: Jessica only seems to have an interest, but she doesn’t really. Or: I don’t know her well enough to gauge whether her interest is genuine.
8.   Length
•   Anything less than five hundred words is too short.  Recommenders shouldn’t worry about the letter being too long – if they really know the applicant and are passionate enough about him or her to write more than a page, that can only work to the applicant’s benefit. An admissions officer might not read to the very end – so recommenders should put the good stuff first – but she will know that the recommender thinks that the applicant is someone special based on the time commitment alone.  I’ve (AI) rarely seen a recommendation that was too long – most of them were too short to be helpful.
9.   Letterhead
•   Ideally, recommenders should submit their letters on their letterhead.  It makes clear that they are writing about the applicant in their professional capacities (and not, say, as a friend of the family), and it makes it easier for admissions officers to track them down if they have follow-up questions.  And that does indeed happen, often because the admissions officer wants to hear more about the applicant.


or that...

Re: LOR advice
« Reply #5 on: June 21, 2006, 06:54:09 PM »
Wow, that's great info.  Good luck.