What is the Goal of a Letter of Recommendation?

One of the aims of the law school admissions process is to identify those individuals who have the intellectual and personal characteristics necessary to succeed in the law school classroom. To determine capacity to succeed, law schools rely on a variety of proxies including undergraduate GPA, LSAT score, and letters of recommendation. In short, law schools want to know how you will perform in the law school classroom, and letters of recommendation from academic sources can inform law schools how you performed in the college classroom.

Because law schools believe that your performance in the college classroom is a potential indicator of your ability to handle the rigors of law school coursework, they prefer letters from academic sources, including professors and TAs. The academic title of the person writing the letter matters less than the substance of what he or she has to say about you. If the TA in a course can better speak to your abilities in the classroom, then you should request a letter from the TA rather than the professor.

In some cases, it may be appropriate to request one or more letters of recommendation from professionals who have supervised you in the workplace. Letters from academic sources are always preferable, but law schools understand that individuals who have been in the workplace for some time may not be able to secure letters of recommendation from former instructors. Similarly, some applicants may wish to supplement their academic letters of recommendation with a professional letter highlighting intellectual or other characteristics demonstrated during a job or internship.

When determining whom to approach for a letter of recommendation, you should identify individuals who have observed and can enthusiastically speak to characteristics that indicate your capacity to succeed in law school, including for example:
1. Intellectual Capacity
Analytical thinking, critical thinking, critical reading, reasoning skills, problem-solving skills, intellectual curiosity, capacity for abstract thought, etc.
2. Ability to Communicate
Strong writing and/or verbal skills, persuasiveness, articulateness, participation in class discussions, etc.
3. Other Characteristics
Motivation, diligence, maturity, organization, responsibility, attention to detail, professionalism, self-discipline, character/ integrity, leadership, team player, etc.