Letters of Recommendation

How Many Letters and From Whom

Most law schools will require two letters of recommendation. Many show a strong preference for academic references for applicants, unless you are more than five years out of college. Many schools may accept up to four letters of recommendation, but more letters is not always better. Since the preferred number and type of letters of recommendation to submit will vary from applicant to applicant, if you are unsure, please feel free to discuss this with your pre-law advisor.

In requesting a letter of recommendation, your goal should be to contact someone who knows you over a period of time and thinks well of your work. Try to reach out to professors and supervisors who have seen you in either academic or professional contexts and can readily compare your work with that of other students, including previous and current Penn applicants. Settings in which your writing, communication, research, and analytical skills are being utilized and observed are usually best. This person should be both willing and able to take the time to write a thoughtful and thorough evaluation. If the recommender is well-known in his or her field, this can be an added plus, but only if the other factors are there. In other words, it is preferable to have a strong, detailed letter of recommendation from someone who knows you well than a few lines from a famous professor who can say very little about you specifically.

Requesting Letters

When asking for letters of recommendation, it is important to get a genuine sense whether the letter writer is indeed willing to write for you. Your request should be phrased in such a way that, if the potential recommender does not feel comfortable writing for you, he or she can gracefully decline. A tactful question, for example, might be, "Do you feel you know me well enough to write a strong letter of recommendation supporting my applications to law school?" With that in mind, you should aim to make this request in person if possible; if not, then a phone call or email is appropriate.

Once the person agrees to write a letter of recommendation on your behalf, it can be helpful to discuss your academic interests and your career plans with your recommender. Letters are most effective when the writer can describe you as being well-suited to a particular goal. Remember that career goals are a work in progress and that you can easily discuss your general interests, as well as specific plans, depending on your situation. Your recommender will also be curious about your background. To that end, providing an updated resume, current transcript, and any other relevant information is usually helpful.

Once your recommender agrees to write on your behalf, it is always useful to mention your timeframe and, if necessary, a general deadline by which you would like this letter submitted. Giving a recommender at least 3-4 weeks to write a letter on your behalf is a good rule of thumb. Be as flexible as possible, while still maintaining a realistic sense of when this task must be completed. After the initial request has been made, you should feel free to follow up appropriately, but not excessively.

Sending Letters of Recommendation

Since most law schools give more credibility to confidential recommendations, we strongly suggest that you waive your right to view your letters of recommendation.

All law schools will accept letters of recommendation from the LSAC's Letter of Recommendation (LOR) Service. Through this service, your letter writers only needs to send their letters to LSAC, rather than sending them to every individual law school. It is your responsibility to keep track of the status of your letters of recommendation.

Once your letters of recommendation arrive at LSAC, you will be asked to direct your letters on file to individual law schools through the LOR Service.  You will make that determination based on each law school's required number of letters, or the applicant's desire to target certain letters to certain law schools. It is not necessary to have targeted letters of recommendation for specific law schools. Although if it's appropriate in your situation, then it is certainly an option.