TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Advice To Law Students Seeking Letters Of Recommendation

Bridget Crawford (Pace) reprinted the great advice from Chris Walker (Ohio State) to law students seeking letters of recommendation:

1. When reaching out, please include resume, transcript, and talking points.
2. Talking points should tell me what you want me to cover substantively and bonus points if in a format I could cut and paste into letter.
3. Talking points are even better if they situate my letter within the context of any other letters, personal statement, etc.
4. Talking points should include as much detail of our substantive interactions as possible, as that detail really makes the letter.
5. Don't assume I'll remember the highlights of our interactions. Remind me. Even when I do remember, your framing is often much better.

6. Make very clear the deadline, and don't hesitate to remind me as the date approaches.
7. Also, if possible, give me the email and phone number of the Judge/partner/etc., so that it makes it easier for me to put in a good word.
8. Once app submitted, keep your whole team posted on any developments.
9. If you get an interview or make it to next round, email me again and include email/phone of employer to make it easy to reach out.
10. Send thank you note once application is submitted.  It means a lot for us old fashioned folks, esp hard copy under door makes my day.
11. Finally, add your references to your holiday card list and let them know of any big life events or achievements over the years.

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Don't have a silly email address, and don't include "listening to my iPod" as a hobby

Posted by: mike livingston | Oct 11, 2017 4:05:12 AM

In other words, write the recommendation for us, and we'll sign it. We don't really remember who you are, and you probably made a bad choice picking recommending faculty, let alone law schools. In fact, you probably didn't make enough personal connections with any of your faculty to be remembered or to warrant a letter of recommendation. But that's how the game is played.

Posted by: ruralcounsel | Oct 11, 2017 4:05:17 AM

What ruralcounsel said. Virtually all of my law school's faculty were just punching a clock and could have given a **** about what, if anything, happened to their students. I suspect this is not an isolated case (certainly a few pseudonymous law prof commenters in these threads have far more free time than they know what to do with).

Actually, saying they were just punching clocks implies that they worked full-time hours. It was extremely rare to see any faculty in their offices after about 3:00 in the afternoon.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Oct 11, 2017 8:03:52 AM

This advice just proves how pointless academic recommendations are. No wonder big law firms that pay $180,000 starting salaries don't even both with them. Instead of requiring recommendations, applicants should have an option to supplement with any material (within a page limit) that they believe would aid the decisionmaker. This could be a recommendation of a professor, or something alternative, a perhaps much more powerful, like a thank you note, a testimonial, a newspaper article, etc.

Posted by: JM | Oct 11, 2017 10:13:10 AM

I'll disagree with ruralcounsel and Unemployed Northeastern. As a law prof, I often get requests for letters of recommendation from the student that attended class, sat in a nondescript area (i.e., the back or otherwise not really visible or integrated into the class), never participated in class discussion, and never came to me before or after class or during office hours. While I would love to write a letter of recommendation for every student, if you don't make yourself known to me during the semester, you might need to make yourself known to me when you ask for the letter of recommendation. I've written many letters of recommendation for amazing students with whom I had a dialogue. Maybe I should just say no to the others, but there is an attempt to help students out even if they didn't stand out. Of course, the letter should be honest and reflect the level of interaction between the prof and student as well.

Posted by: lawprof | Oct 12, 2017 6:33:05 PM