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What a good recommendation says

Law schools are very clear about what they want from a recommendation.

  1. It should explain in what context and for how long the writer has known you: "I taught Ms. Zeigler in three different classes over a four year period; one of these was a writing seminar in which she produced a paper which was later published." Or, "I have been Mr. Davidson's supervisor for eighteen months. I review his work on a daily basis, and periodically receive feedback from other departments for whom he does projects."
  2. It should give the reader a benchmark for evaluating you compared to others with whom the recommender has worked: "John is the best student I've had this year." "In my twenty years as supervisor, I've had only a dozen employees who showed such insight." "Last year I recommended James Abbott and Rachel Schulman to your school; I would say that Kim Everett is of a higher caliber than they.";
  3. It should give details of the work you did for the recommender, with appropriate comments: "John's paper on the effects of poverty on preschool development was thoroughly researched, citing every major source on the subject. His ability to integrate and critically challenge the major theories in this area showed both an understanding of the concepts and the insight and courage to support his own view."
  4. It should give a general evaluation of your skill at writing, organizing, analyzing and integrating information, and understanding abstract concepts. It may also mention other skills helpful to a lawyer, such as the ability to understand and communicate with others, diligence, perseverance, and determination. If the writer has a legal background, (s)he may offer an opinion of your potential for success as a lawyer.                       
  5. It may, but need not, assess your character and personality on a more personal level: "George is one of the kindest, gentlest people in the nation. His presence in the class has been a point of light in a sea of darkness."

 

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