Letters of Recommendations
Tips for Students and Letter Writers
Christine Nemacheck, Associate Professor of Government & Pre-Law Advisor
The College of William & Mary
Most law schools require two or three letters of recommendation. Applicants can often supply additional
letters, but should only do so if permitted by the school.
Letters of recommendation are organized through the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) run by the Law
School Admission Council (www.lsac.org). Students need to set up an account with the LSAC both to register
for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and to apply to law schools. Once students have a CAS account,
they can send electronic requests for letters to their recommenders or download recommendation forms that
they then submit to their recommenders. The recommender usually writes one general letter of
recommendation and uses the electronic link to send the letter to CAS. Alternatively, the recommender can
send their letter along with the recommendation form the student provides, directly to the CAS. Students are
notified once the letter has been processed and is in their file. They can then direct the letter to any law
school to which they are applying.
Tips for Applicants
Whom to Ask?
o Current students typically should obtain at least two academic references.
o The longer the applicant has been out of college, the more reasonable it is to seek only one
academic reference and one or more from employers or supervisors. But, generally there
should be at least one letter that speaks to the applicant’s academic abilities and potential.
Prior to asking for the letter, get to know a couple of your professors.
o If the professor teaches a subject that is interesting to you, take more than one class with a
o Go to the professor’s office hours with questions from class, to ask them about their
research, or for academic advice.
Asking for a Letter of Recommendation
o In choosing a recommender, think about professors or supervisors with whom you would
feel comfortable chatting during office hours.
o Ask for a recommendation in a way that gives the professor a graceful way to decline if they
are not able to write a strong letter on your behalf.
One way might be to ask if the professor would feel comfortable writing a “strong
letter of recommendation” for you. This gives them the opportunity to say that they
could write a letter, but that there is likely a professor the student knows who could
write a stronger letter.
Since law schools will take letters for which students have waived their right to
access (an option on the form you provide to the recommender), more seriously,
you want to make sure you are asking for letters from professors/supervisors who
will write good letters on your behalf.
o Provide the professor with as much information as possible.
Provide information on your overall GPA and LSAT score(s). You might also let
them know the law schools to which you plan to apply.
You should offer to provide papers written for the professor’s class, information on
which semester(s) you took their course(s), your grade in that/those course(s), and
If you have completed your personal statement prior to requesting letters of
recommendation, you might also provide the professor with a copy of your
statement. This is not absolutely necessary, but it might help the professor know a
little more about you and personalize their letter.
At a minimum, provide your recommenders with information on what you do
outside of the classroom, or outside of work if they are a supervisor.
o Give recommenders at least two weeks to write the letters and provide them with a deadline
by which you want the letter in the mail. In determining this deadline, consider that it will
take up to a week (maybe more during December and January) to reach CAS, get processed
and be available in your account
o Write a thank you note. Close to the deadline you provided, send a thank you note as a
courtesy and as a reminder to complete the recommendation.
You might also want to provide your recommenders with a copy of the tips for recommendation
writers described below.
Tips for Recommenders
Letters of recommendation are an important part of students’ law school applications. The law school
admissions process is very competitive. Particularly for students whose GPAs and LSAT scores do not make
them an automatic shoo-in or an easy rejection at a given school, they are an important factor in the
As with any other type of recommendation letter, you should include specific information about the
student and how the student compares with others you have taught at the same institution or others.
o You should indicate how long and in what capacity you have known the student.
o If you have former students who went on to law schools, particularly very good law schools,
you might comment on how the current student compares to these former students.
o If the student has not provided you with a copy of his or her resume or a list of extra-
curricular activities, ask him or her to do so.
To the extent that you can comment on these activities in your letter, it will help to
personalize your letter and provide the reader more substantive insight into the
This type of information might also allow you to comment on the student’s
character; that can be very helpful to the admissions committee.
Law schools are particularly interested in students' logical reasoning and analytical abilities, so to the
extent you can comment on those, you should do so. You might also comment on the student’s
writing skills and oral communication skills.
In addition to letters of recommendation, the LSAC’s credential’s service has recently begun on-line
If a student requests an evaluation as well as a recommendation, you will get an email that provides a
link to the on-line form.
o At this time (Spring 2011) most law schools are not using these evaluations; they are new
this academic year. However, in the future more schools may request or require them.
o If you get an email with a link, you can go on-line and click on the appropriate options. The
forms are quite short and will take no more than a few minutes to complete.
When students ask for a letter of recommendation, they should provide you with either an electronic
link to which you can send the letter or a recommendation form from the CAS.
o If you receive an electronic link, use it to send your letter (printed on letterhead stationary if
at all possible) directly to CAS.
o If a student gives you a hard copy form, include that form with your letter and mail the
materials directly to the Law School Admission Council address.
o CAS will process the letter and you’ll get an email notifying you that they have received your
letter. The student can then direct CAS to send the letter to the law schools to which they are