Letters of Recommendation

Russ Castronovo, professor of english, meets with a graduate student in the his office.(Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)

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 letters of recommendation as well as undergraduate GPA, and LSAT score.

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.

1. Who Do Law Schools Prefer?

Professor or TA?

The academic title of the person writing the letter matters less than the substance of what he or she has to say about you. You want to pick the recommender who can speak about you in the most detailed and glowing way. 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, you may be able to get the professor to also sign off on a letter written by a TA.

If you are planning far ahead for admission to extremely competitive law schools, aim to build relationships with professors who have been teaching for a longer period of time.  The more students an academic recommender can compare you to, the more weight will be placed on an assertion that you are an outstanding student.

Academic advisors usually don’t count as an academic recommender for law school admission purposes. Law schools prefer that academic letters come from someone who has seen the quality of your academic work and can comment on it. However, if you are particularly close to an advisor on campus and they can speak to your personality and other positive characteristics, you could choose to have them write a nonacademic letter of recommendation.

Academic or Workplace?

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 generally prefer for those who have recently graduated to provide letters from academic sources. Law schools have different minimum and maximum numbers of recommendations they will accept, but a good rule of thumb is to aim to have 2 academic recommenders and 1-2 workplace or non-academic recommenders if you plan to have less than 4 years of gap time.

Law schools understand that individuals who have been in the workplace for some time (generally 4+ years) may not be able to secure letters of recommendation from former instructors, so letters from current or former employers are sufficient and sometimes preferred from those candidates.

Recent graduates may wish to supplement their academic letters of recommendation with a professional letter or two highlighting intellectual or other characteristics demonstrated during a job or internship. It does not have to be from your current or most recent job.

For each law school you apply to, you will need to check how many letters of recommendation they will accept. If a law school limits you to 2 letters only, then the question of how many of those letters should be academic becomes more complicated.  The Center for Pre-Law Advising reached out to law schools that only accept a maximum of two letters in 2023 and created a spreadsheet detailing which type of letters they indicated a preference for.

You may also decide to hold on to an additional nonacademic letter of recommendation in case you are waitlisted, and submit it along with a letter of continued interest.



2. Can Your Recommender Speak to Your Characteristics?

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/asking great questions, creativity, capacity for abstract thought, etc.

2. Ability to Communicate
Strong writing and/or verbal skills, research skills, presentation skills, teaching or training skills, persuasiveness, articulateness, participation in class discussions, ability to anticipate responses/objections, etc.

3. Other Characteristics
Motivation, diligence, maturity, organization, responsibility, attention to detail, professionalism, self-discipline, character/ integrity, leadership, empathy, kindness, collaboration/being a team player, passion for a particular topic or issue, adaptability, resilience, ability to think on your feet, etc.

3. Choosing a Recommender


  • Choose recommenders with sufficient first-person knowledge of your academic or professional abilities and characteristics. Family friends do not meet this standard unless they are also a former instructor or supervisor of yours.
  • Try your best to identify two academic sources for letters of recommendation since law schools prefer this type of letter. Ideal sources include professors of one or more classes, thesis advisors, professors of independent study courses, seminar professors, or TAs for discussion sections.
  • Choose recommenders who will be enthusiastic about your good qualities and will go to bat for you.
  • Check the law schools’ specific application requirements when choosing a recommender whose letter will need to be translated. Many law schools will accept letters that have been translated but the LSAC is not able to provide a translation service for your documents. You will want to help your recommenders to obtain translations for any letters that are not entirely written in the English language. Translations must be literal, line-by-line, word-for-word. Some law schools will require these to be certified translations.


  • Don’t choose a recommender just because of his or her title. Law schools aren’t impressed by boilerplate letters from senators, judges, CEOs, etc. A detailed letter from the associate attorney you worked most closely with is preferable to a vague letter from a partner at the firm.  The same principle applies to academics. A letter from a TA will carry more weight if the TA knows you better than the professor.
  • Don’t choose someone if you are unsure whether the person will write a strong letter. Don’t be afraid to ask if the person is comfortable writing a strong letter.
  • Don’t feel that you have to choose a professor/TA in your major or from a law-related course. The course subject matter is less important than the writer’s knowledge of you.
  • Don’t write your own letter for a recommender to sign, even if a professor or employer asks you to. Issues of honesty are very important to the Board of Bar Examiners and the practice of law.  Schedule an appointment with a pre-law advisor if you’d like suggestions or help brainstorming how to address a situation like this.

4. Best Ways to Ask a Recommender

Letters of recommendation depend on relationships. To receive a strong letter of recommendation, you need to have devoted time to developing a strong relationship with the recommender. Be respectful of that relationship when you request letters of recommendation, and consider the following advice:

  • Request your letters of recommendation in person if at all possible (face-to-face or by telephone). Don’t use e-mail unless your purpose is to set up a meeting or telephone conversation. A personal conversation gives you an additional opportunity to impress the recommender and helps ensure that the recommender
    has sufficient information about you to include in the letter.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to request your letters. Give your recommenders sufficient time to prepare their letters (ideally 6–8 weeks), and set deadlines at least 2–4 weeks before any application deadline. Recommenders may not write as strong of a letter or may miss their deadline if not given sufficient time to prepare the letter.
  • Provide your recommenders with a packet of information on which they can rely when drafting the letter. Include a résumé and work product from the course or a summary of work from the job/internship.
    If the recommender has not written a letter of recommendation for law school before, include a copy of the handout Writing a Letter of Recommendation.

5. Submitting Your Letters

Most if not all law schools require applicants to have their recommenders submit letters of recommendation directly to the LSAC. In order to do so, you should first add your recommenders in your LSAC account. You may then elect to have your recommenders use one of the following two procedures to submit their letters:

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Electronic Process

After adding your recommenders to your LSAC account, you can initiate the electronic submission process by clicking the E-mail button to the right of the recommenders’ names on the Letters of Recommendation and Evaluations page in your LSAC account.

LSAC will then e-mail your recommenders directly with information concerning the process for submitting a letter electronically. Be sure to personally contact your recommenders first in order to determine their willingness to provide a letter.

U.S. Mail Process

For recommenders who may not be comfortable using the electronic process, there is a paper option.

To initiate this process, print your recommender’s form by clicking the Print button to the right of the recommender’s name on the Letters of Recommendation and Evaluations page in your LSAC account.

Next, provide that form to the recommender for inclusion with the letter of recommendation. Be sure to provide a stamped envelope for the recommender’s convenience.

Questions about the process of requesting letters of recommendation in your Credential Assembly Service (CAS) account? Contact the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) at LSACinfo@LSAC.org or 215.968.1001.