As many of our readers are aware, letters of recommendation are an important part of the application process. We would like to take a look at how to handle the snags that often arise for applicants in unique academic or employment situations.
Professor or TA? For current undergraduate students at larger universities, one common dilemma is deciding whether to ask one’s professor or TA to serve as a recommender. Although it might be tempting to chose professors, since they are the primary instructor of the classes, if the professor does not know you well, you are better off using your TA. Law schools value recommendations from sources who know applicants well, and therefore even if you have a well-known professor, his or her opinion of you will not be as helpful as a TA’s who can speak knowledgeably about your academic work and potential.
Academic or Work Recommender? For applicants who have been out of work for five years or more, it may be a challenge to find academic recommenders who can still accurately describe the applicant’s abilities. In this situation, law school applications should feel free to use a recommender from their current work. Ideally, this recommender would be someone who has seen the applicant use critical thinking skills, can judge his or her writing ability, and describe the applicant’s potential for success in law school and the legal field – essentially someone who can evaluate the applicant using the same criteria an academic recommender would use.
Good Recommender or Good Writer? One situation law school applicants might find themselves in is that their ideal recommender – a college professor who knows them well – is not the best writer. To ensure that this recommender sends in an effective recommendation, applicants should try to supervise the crafting of the recommendation as much as possible without actually writing it themselves. If this doesn’t work, or applicants think the recommender would be adverse to collaboration, applicants should feel free to find a new recommender – while applicants want recommenders who knows you well, if they cannot express their opinions in an persuasive manner, the ensuing recommendation letters will not be an effective component of the overall application.
We hope this advice helps law school applicants in selecting their recommenders and obtaining insightful, enthusiastic recommendations that bolster their entire applications.