Law School Discussion

wanna open it!

Re: wanna open it!
« Reply #20 on: August 22, 2004, 04:50:14 PM »
No probs Tony!! I never thought you were. Hope it didn't come across that way. I know far less about this process than all of you. I was told to sign it, I signed it. Whatever, quite frankly. I don't particularly care for the morality of it.  I just want to do what's pragmatic.


Re: wanna open it!
« Reply #21 on: August 22, 2004, 07:05:32 PM »
As someone who writes/reads academic LORs fairly regularly (for undergrad though, not law/grad school), I'll say this (I just realized this got to be a little long, but its on topic if you get to the bottom):

On reading them:

1)  I wouldn't care one way or the other if the student had waived the right...just ask Alan Keyes about being "damned with faint praise".

2)  The specific details are all I care about.

3)  I generally think of letters as "Really good", "Indifferent" or "bad".  A file better have at least one "Really Good" letter, and a single "bad", no matter what else is in the file, usually damns the whole thing (if its a really good file otherwise, I may contact the specific recomender...but this is in a much lower volume setting than law school admissions).

4)  If a letter has only glowing positives and no "could improves", I begin to wonder how well the writer actually knows the student.  Unless such a letter has lots of specific details and the student obviously worked closely with the person over an extended period of time, I usually discount the letter as "indifferent".

5)  "Really Good" letters than are essentially used as "proof of other aspects of the application".  The more proof and validation of other aspects of the application, the less risk I feel believing the story.

As someone who also writes lots of LORs, it makes my job infinitely easier to write a personal, believable letter that will mesh with the entirety of the student's application (both the good and the bad) if I can just sit down and write what I honestly think about the student.  The less perceived effort I have in writing an LOR (not having to think "how can I phrase that so its meaningful to the admissions committee but doesn't make John/Jane think I'm evil?".), the more motivated I will be to write it and the better the letter will be.  I will say this:  if I know a student very well, and feel that they are applying to a program that is over their head and will probably chew them up and spit them out, I will usually state that concern in the letter, IN THE STUDENTS BEST INTEREST.  If you have an advisor saying "maybe you oughtta set your sites a little lower" its often more than a simple suggestion. 

My two cents.  But just as there are a wide range of approaches to PS, so too is there a wide range of LOR approaches.


Re: wanna open it!
« Reply #22 on: August 22, 2004, 07:26:12 PM »
Second, why in the hell would I post the names of people who have not given me permission to use their names?

If you don't have enough integrity to understand the sanctity of not reading the LOR yourself, I certainly expected you to have no compunction about divulging the names of the Deans. I still call BS. Your statement is counter to every "how to get into law school" book i've ever read.

Swing by one of the law school forums and ask some folks yourself if you don't believe me.

Been there. Done that. The responses I got are part of the reason I'm calling BS on you.


Re: wanna open it!
« Reply #23 on: August 22, 2004, 07:33:35 PM »
Having been a software development manager for 3 years and in the biz for 7, i've read a lot of LOR's as have many of my colleagues in managerial positions. I'll tell you exactly what I do with an LOR mailed to me via the applicant rather than directly from the recommender - I put it straight into the trash and don't even read it. It's worthless.

That's par for the course in the world of business. The factors that apply in the business world for doing so apply in academia as well.


Re: wanna open it!
« Reply #24 on: August 22, 2004, 07:37:03 PM »
Like I said Shrub, there are many different approaches to LORs...

My statement was mostly to say "why bother with waiving the right?".  If someone were to open a letter without asking me or waiving the right, I would consider them pure evil and turn around and write a second letter to every person I'd ever recomended the student to...


Re: wanna open it!
« Reply #25 on: August 22, 2004, 07:50:53 PM »
The reason for my vehemence on this topic is that so many posters do not seem to understand this fundamental principle of etiquitte:

It is *RUDE* to ask someone to take the time and energy to write you a thoughtful LOR and then make an effort to ensure that you get to read the recommendation.

Think about it - you're asking someone to expend significan time and energy to write this LOR and then by attempting to retain your right to review the recommendation you are saying to the recommender "I want to read whatever you have to say about me!". By doing so, you are not affording the recommender the respect of having his/her communication with the law school be a private one. You are intruding on what etiquitte dictates is a private conversation.


The only way it is ever appropriate to review the LOR yourself is if the recommender, on his/her OWN volition, offers it for you to read with no prior solicitation.

Think about it in the reverse. Suppose someone you know wants a job at the place you're working at. You like the person and are happy to give the person a good word. But then this person requests "Hey, when you talk to the person in charge of hiring I'd like to listen in on exactly everything you say about me. So, when you have this conversation with the hiring manager let me know because I'd like to stand outside the door and listen to everything you say about me."

Even if you planned to say only extremely positive things about the person, this would piss you off. Why? Because it's DAMN RUDE!


Re: wanna open it!
« Reply #26 on: August 22, 2004, 07:59:42 PM »
Typing in all caps is damn rude...that's a joke.

But seriously, I agree, and I think most profs would take it as being rude and in almost every instance, your letter will be poorer for having asked to see it.

So how do you figure out if the prof can write worth a crap?

1)  Check his/her website.  What's it like?
2)  Check his/her publications.
3)  What were his/her lectures like?  Entertaining but slighly Kramer-esque?  Boring but highly organized?  Pointed and insightful while showing a flash of wit?
4)  What were his/her tests like?  Full of typos, or worse, handwritten?

Aside from that, set up an appointment, bring all sorts of material, SPECIFICALLY TELL THE PROF WHAT YOU THINK HE/SHE CAN CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR APPLICATION PACK...


Re: wanna open it!
« Reply #27 on: August 22, 2004, 08:10:16 PM »
So how do you figure out if the prof can write worth a crap?

If you really do have questions about the professor's writing ability, you probably should not be asking for a recommendation in the first place. A common objection is "But my professor is in the enginneering department!". Nonsense - your professor got a Ph.D. He knows how to write. And if the professor is worth a darn he has continued to be published in respectable journals. He knows how to write effectively.

True, the engineering professor's prose may be a bit more dry and have fewer metaphors than the English prof's LOR, but he will get the point across if there are positive things to say about you.

If there is some reason that leads you to doubt the writing ability of your professor, then that's a red flag that you don't want an LOR in the first place.

Also, the following is perfectly acceptable when asking for an LOR: "Hello professor X. I was hoping I might be able to get an LOR from you. If you believe you cannot write a substantially positive LOR on my behalf, I would appreciate you letting me know that so I may seek an LOR elsewhere."

That's perfectly acceptable, it is not rude, and no proff will hold you in disregard for asking this.

Also, everything draino suggested above is perfectly acceptable. And there's a very easy way to figure that out. Put yourself in the other person's shoes and see if the behaviour of the person requesting the LOR from you would piss you off. Nothing draino suggested would piss off a reasonable person.


Re: wanna open it!
« Reply #28 on: August 22, 2004, 08:23:07 PM »
I totally believe that it would piss you off, shrub. But that doesn't mean that it'll piss everyone off. And you're example about "listening at the door" doesn't fit (IMHO). A letter is a letter, not a two way conversation. I am not offended when someone asks me to write them a LOR and wants to see it. If I want to write it then I want them to see it. If I don't want them to see it then that means I shouldn't write it... and don't. We're different, shrub. No biggie. The folks I ask to write my recs I trust incredibly... and they trust me. I'm comfortable asking them things that others might not (including the question you just suggested plus many more).

Yes, but your suggestion was not "*IF* you have developed an unusually close and unique relationship with your professor in which it is CLEAR that asking to see the recommendation would not be rude, then you may hazard to do so.". I would have objections even in this case (if the relationship is truly so close, the professor will offer it to you to read rendering your request unneeded), but that is not what you seem to have suggested from the beginning. You seem to have suggested that it is entirely OK under normal circumstances to request to view the LOR of the recommender. In the majority of cases, your suggestion will result in a rude proposition that offends the recommender and results in a poorer LOR.

I know I got glowing recommendations from my proffs, and I also know they would have been extremely perturbed with me had I asked to review the LOR myself. You see, I also have a very close relationship with all my former philosophy professors (even after 10 years!). So much so that I felt comfortable, on one informal occassion outside of class, enquiring of them with regard to the ettiquitte of LOR's. Though they all had a high opinion of me, they assured me that had I ever asked to review the LOR that high opinion would have plummeted.


Re: wanna open it!
« Reply #29 on: August 22, 2004, 09:01:39 PM »

Couple of assumptions about academia you've made that just aren't correct and this is one of them.  having a Ph.D. and having published articles in respected journals DOES NOT MEAN SOMEONE CAN WRITE!  As long as the data is good, it will get published no matter how poor and ineffective the writing.

Common sense usually doesn't fly when it comes to academia unfortunately (which is why our extensive work experience counts for a lot less than we'd like it to, I'd bet...)

So how do you figure out if the prof can write worth a crap?

Nonsense - your professor got a Ph.D. He knows how to write. And if the professor is worth a darn he has continued to be published in respectable journals. He knows how to write effectively.