How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation

When asking a professor for a letter of recommendation, you should start by asking the potential letter if they would be able to write you a strong letter of recommendation.  Current students should provide each faculty recommender with the following information:

  • Current resume (including class rank)
  • Copy of current transcript
  • Writing sample (not necessarily the one you will use for your applications)
  • Complete list of judges to whom applications will be sent (in Excel), with judges ranked in order of preference;

In addition, some professors also find it useful if you supply them with a brief written explanation of why you want to clerk and at what type of court, a summary of your qualifications, and your future plans. If you fear the professor does not know you well enough, offer to provide him/her with additional information about your background and any special circumstances that could be referenced in the letter. If a professor appears willing to write a letter of recommendation, but is less than enthusiastic, you may wish to reconsider. You do not want the professor to damn you with faint praise! Non-faculty recommenders may not have had the opportunity to write many clerkship recommendation letters. Therefore, when asking a non-faculty member for a letter, you also might want to explain what clerks do and suggest that they emphasize qualities relevant to clerking in their letters, such as your ability to:

  • think, analyze, and reason;
  • deal well with complex facts and legal doctrines;
  • express yourself well, both orally and in writing;
  • articulate and defend your positions;
  • take both initiative and direction, asking questions when appropriate;
  • work well under pressure and complete assignments on time;
  • juggle a variety of projects simultaneously;
  • be a team player and get along well with others; and
  • keep confidences.
If possible, the recommender should try to give specific examples of these qualities.

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