How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation

To secure a letter, you must ask whether the professor, judge, or attorney is willing to write a letter of recommendation on your behalf.  Even if you expect that the person will agree to do so, the professionalism you display in requesting a letter of recommendation will itself communicate your ability to exercise professional judgment.   You should never denote on OSCAR or elsewhere that someone is writing on your behalf unless they have agreed to write a letter for you.   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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