Law schools frequently stress the importance of having quality letters of recommendation. A letter of recommendation can influence whether a prospective student receives an acceptance letter. For that reason, you must carefully select a professor or supervisor (if choosing an employer).* If a student chooses a recommender who does not know them well, the letter will fail to impress admissions officers. In fact, such a “general” letter of recommendation can negatively influence an application. Prospective law students should begin acquainting themselves with their professors early to avoid this unenviable situation.
In order to achieve a personal connection with your professors, visit them during office hours. Professors have office hours so they can get to know their students and help them better understand the subject matter of the course. Stop by early in the semester and explain to your professor that you would like to get to know them better. Bring questions about material that was covered in a recent class or try to focus the conversation on a professor’s area of expertise. Often times, professors focus their time on a specific area of interest within their field. Employ your research skills and try to determine the professor’s area of interest. Then, inquire about that topic.
Additionally, speak with your professors about your personal and professional goals. Let them know that you are considering law school. Ask for feedback and advice regarding your suggested path. Let them get to know the real you. A strong personal connection will come through in a letter of recommendation. A professor who knows you better will write a more impressive and meaningful letter on your behalf.
Stay for ten or fifteen minutes and thank your professor for his or her time. Now, your professor will recognize you and will know you personally each time you contribute in class. Go back to office hours as needed. Provided you do well in the course, you have established the necessary groundwork for requesting a letter of recommendation at a later date.
For students who have waited to ask for letters of recommendation and would like to apply during this admission cycle, the process will be similar but more condensed. Do not wait to approach your professors until the week before you plan on submitting your applications. Make an appointment to see either your former professors or your current ones as soon as possible. At the meeting, ask whether the professor would be willing to write a letter of recommendation, and if so, offer to provide them with any information they desire. Such information may include: the grade you received in class, extracurricular activities and interests, a résumé, etc. Be sure to provide the requested information to your professor as soon as possible and stay in contact with your recommender throughout the process. The sooner you have your letters of recommendation finished, the closer you are to submitting your applications – so get to it!
*Typically, prospective students should choose professors to write their letters of recommendation unless they have been out of school for a while. For more information, see the University of Chicago’s thoughts on the topic.