Requesting Letters of Recommendation
Many undergraduates at UGA seek admission to law school or graduate school, which almost always requires them to obtain letters of recommendation from faculty. Students, though, are often unsure how to go about requesting these letters. Members of the Law and Courts faculty and CJ Program staff have put together the following information to guide you in this effort.
Whom Should I Ask?
Recommendations should only be sought from faculty who know you and your work very well. Do not ask for a letter of recommendation from a faculty member in whose course your grade was below a B. In some instances, it may be advisable only to solicit letters of recommendation from faculty in whose courses you have clearly excelled (i.e., A). Remember, when faculty members write letters of recommendation for you, they are staking their reputation on your success.
When and How Should I Solicit Letters of Recommendation?
Letters of recommendation from faculty should be solicited as early as possible. When requesting a letter, discuss with the professor your career goals and why you are requesting a letter specifically from them. If a professor agrees to write the letter, be prepared to provide them with the following information at least one month before your earliest application deadline: resume, copies of the work you have done for the faculty member in question (e.g. exams and papers), transcript, statement of purpose, and LSAT/GRE scores. If you are applying to graduate school, be prepared to provide recommenders with descriptions of the programs to which you are applying.
Remember, it is not sufficient simply to ask for a letter of recommendation a month before the earliest deadline. Instead, you should solicit the letters well in advance, as some professors may require more time to write a letter of recommendation, and some faculty may be unavailable during the time in which you need the letter written. It takes a great deal of time to write a good letter of recommendation, and faculty write many of these letters each semester. As a result, if you wait until the last minute to ask for letters or if you are not prepared with the necessary information, you should expect faculty to decline your request.
Should I Waive Access to Letters of Recommendation?
You are free to retain access to your letters of recommendation or to waive that access and assure absolute confidentiality. It is our opinion that confidential letters carry more weight in the admissions process than those where students retain access. If you are not sure that a faculty member will endorse your application, you should not ask that person for a letter of recommendation.
Think seriously about applying to either law school or graduate school. Students often make the mistake of pursuing post-graduate education because they haven’t decided on a career. This is unfortunate, because law school and graduate school are both expensive and time consuming. Consider law school if you are seriously interested in a legal career and/or if you are committed to a career in which a legal education is a decided advantage. Consider graduate school if you are seriously interested in working in the exact field in which you will be obtaining your degree. And, do not assume that just because a school offers a degree in your field that the particular program is a good fit for you. Whether you are considering grad school or law school, you should find out where recent graduates have gotten jobs and verify a school’s accreditation status. These simple steps will save you considerable time, money, and effort.