Lost touch with your recommender? Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to get a strong letter of recommendation.
Asking for letters of recommendation for your law school application can be intimidating.
They can become a giant obstacle in your head - but as an attorney, you will slay giants.
The good news is that most people will feel honored to write you a letter of recommendation. More people than you know remember your intelligence, passion and potential.
Here are step-by-step instructions on how to get a strong letter of recommendation from a professor or manager with whom you have fallen out of touch.
STEP 1: Brainstorm Potential Recommenders by Assessing your Background
Brainstorm your accomplishments.
Some questions to consider when searching for the right candidate:
When did I excel with a project?
Which professor did I learn the most from?
When did I demonstrate the skills that would make me a good law student?
When did a project show my analytical or research ability?
Which supervisor has seen my enthusiasm, work ethic, or communication skills?
Is there a friend, family member or coworker with whom I could brainstorm who has seen my potential as a law student?
STEP 2: Match your Results with Potential Recommenders
Connect your accomplishments with three potential recommendation writers.
Quality is more important than quantity.
You want to provide law school letters of recommendation that strengthen your application.
Pick a professor or supervisor with whom you had personal interaction. The best recommendations come from people with whom you worked closely.
A recommendation from a professor will not be strong if he or she didn’t know you well, even if you had the highest grade in the class. The same is true for a high-level boss with whom you did not work closely.
STEP 3: Plan What to Say to Recommenders with Whom You’ve Fallen Out of Touch
It’s hard to reach out to people you haven’t seen or talked with for a long time, especially for a favor. It’s okay and completely normal to feel this way.
Reconnecting with old acquaintances will not only secure strong letters of recommendation for your law school application, but could also restart a great relationship. That’s a win-win.
Start with a plan for what to say when you reach out for the first time. Keep this professional unless you had a close personal relationship.
Tips for Reconnecting with an Old Acquaintance for a Letter of Recommendation
1. Reintroduce yourself
Reintroduce yourself by reminding your recommender of your connection. Mention your accomplishments from their class or company.
Even if your recommender knows you well, sharing specifics about your connection will help jog their memory and make it easy for them to remember you.
The more detail, the better.
2. Provide an update on what you’ve been doing
Share what you’ve been doing since you last spoke to your recommender. Think of this as giving an old friend an update since you last saw them. Tell them how their guidance has affected you.
Let your recommender know that you’re planning on applying to law school.
3. Ask if the recommender can provide a strong letter of recommendation
Explain that you now have the education to apply to law school, or that you are looking to enhance your career.
Next, ask if the recommender will write a strong letter of recommendation. Yes, really - just ask. There’s a very high probability that you will receive a yes...and boatloads of good wishes.
People really are nice and they want to help you succeed.
Step 4: Contact Your Recommender
You have your script ready to go. It’s showtime.
Don’t worry about the response. The most important thing is to make sure you take action. Remember, you are very likely to receive a warm reception.
When to Contact a Recommender With Whom You’ve Fallen Out of Touch
Picking the right time to contact your recommender is critical. Professors, lawyers and other supervisors have deadlines for their own work. Be conscious of timing.
Request the letter of recommendation at least two months before the law school application deadline.
A last-minute request does not create a good impression. Further, cramming a letter of recommendation for law school into a two-week timeframe will likely produce worse results than if the recommender had weeks or months to draft a thoughtful letter.
This also provides more time in case you need to find a different recommender.
How to Contact a Recommender With Whom You’ve Fallen Out of Touch
For some recommenders, it’s best to email first and then follow up with a phone call or meeting.
When sending your email, attach all relevant information, including your resume, writing sample and work performed with the potential recommender. Be friendly and edit your writing until it’s flawless.
If it has been more than five years since the last contact, you may want to reconsider including a letter from them. Finding a recommender who’s familiar with your ability today may result in a more effective letter and accurate representation of your work.
Call people who will likely remember you from a smaller setting.
Ask what the prospective recommender has been doing for the last few years. Tell them what you have done.
Prior to picking up the phone, it can be helpful to write an outline of the points you want to make during the call.
If you live in the same city, you can drop by the office. Bring your best work, resume, transcripts, personal statement and a cover letter.
Talk about what the recommender has been doing the last few years. Tell them about how the lessons or guidance you received in their class or job motivated you to apply to law school. Then ask if the person can provide a strong letter of recommendation for your law school application.
At the meeting, decide on a date when you will follow up.
STEP 5: Follow up with your Recommender
Send a follow-up email or call two weeks after you receive confirmation that the person will write a letter of recommendation. This is an opportunity to remind them about your letter of recommendation and thank them for their consideration and help.
Do not check in more often.
STEP 6: Thank Your Recommender after They Provide the Letter of Recommendation
Your recommender did you a favor. They want to know that you did well and that their letter helped you get into law school.
There are many ways to thank your recommender. You may write a handwritten note or email. Some applicants may choose to give a small gift like cookies.
Don’t give gift cards or large objects. The recommender wrote you a nice letter because they like you. There is no need for something extravagant.
STEP 7: Inform Your Recommender of Your Acceptance
Tell your recommender when you get accepted. Include where you are going to law school and how much you appreciate their help.
They’ll be happy for you and feel good knowing their letter made a difference. And, this is not the last time you may need a recommendation…
To recap, take the time to brainstorm about your skills, connect people with past projects, gather your documents, pick a good time and then ask. You will be pleasantly surprised that people are eager to help you with your law school letter of recommendation.
You can do this. Even if you feel unsure, there are people out there who care about you. They would love to give you a great letter of recommendation for law school.
But you haven’t asked yet. Take the plunge and do it. You’ll be glad you did.
Are you still scared?
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