Elsewhere in the Twitterverse this week, Chris Walker (OSU Moritz College of Law) had some concise and useful advise for law students seeking letters of recommendations from their professors. Reprinted with permission, that advice is:
(1) When reaching out, please include resume, transcript, and talking points.
(2) Talking points should tell me what you want me to cover substantively and bonus points if in a format I could cut and paste into letter.
(3) Talking points are even better if they situate my letter within the context of any other letters, personal statement, etc.
(4) Talking points should include as much detail of our substantive interactions as possible, as that detail really makes the letter.
(5) Don't assume I'll remember the highlights of our interactions. Remind me. Even when I do remember, your framing is often much better.
(6) Make very clear the deadline, and don't hesitate to remind me as the date approaches.
(7) Also, if possible, give me the email and phone number of the Judge/partner/etc., so that it makes it easier for me to put in a good word.
(8) Once app submitted, keep your whole team posted on any developments.
(9) If you get an interview or make it to next round, email me again and include email/phone of employer to make it easy to reach out.
(10) Send thank you note once application is submitted. It means a lot for us old fashioned folks, esp hard copy under door makes my day.
(11) Finally, add your references to your holiday card list and let them know of any big life events or achievements over the years.
I still let my college and grad school mentors know of life events, and they keep helping me advance in my career. /end
To my eye, every law school's Career Development Office should distribute this advice to the student body. If every student who needs a recommendation follows Professor Walker's advice, recommendations will be higher quality and professors will be (even more) enthusiastic about doing them. I'm always glad to help a student who needs a reference, but how much easier it would be if I had in front of me all this information that Professor Walker describes! And, yes, there are some professors who write very canned recommendation letters, but students following Professor Walker's advice have the ability to make it easy for the professor to turn a generic recommendation into a truly meaningful one.
You can follow Chris Walker on Twitter @chris_j_walker. It's worth it.