Writing Your Own Letter

(Applications Advice, Letters of Recommendation . . . )
sharpnsmooth
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Writing Your Own Letter

Postby sharpnsmooth » Mon Aug 16, 2010 11:52 pm

So one of my professors from UG told me that he wants me to write the letter for him, mail it to him and he'll sign whatever because he trusts my judgment and capabilities. Is this ethical, and is it allowed?

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Adjudicator
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Re: Writing Your Own Letter

Postby Adjudicator » Mon Aug 16, 2010 11:55 pm

I didn't take the time to look for the fine print from the LSAC, but I can't imagine that this is considered ethical or above-board.

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Adjudicator
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Re: Writing Your Own Letter

Postby Adjudicator » Tue Aug 17, 2010 12:02 am

After doing some research, I found a document called "Rules Governing Misconduct and Irregularity in the Admissions Process" from the LSAC. In the section defining "misconduct" it gives as an example, "submission of an altered, non-authentic, or unauthorized letter of recommendation." Also, another example is "impersonation of another in the admission process."

For what it's worth.

sharpnsmooth
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Re: Writing Your Own Letter

Postby sharpnsmooth » Tue Aug 17, 2010 12:16 am

Adjudicator wrote:After doing some research, I found a document called "Rules Governing Misconduct and Irregularity in the Admissions Process" from the LSAC. In the section defining "misconduct" it gives as an example, "submission of an altered, non-authentic, or unauthorized letter of recommendation." Also, another example is "impersonation of another in the admission process."

For what it's worth.


i told this to the professor. he replied he thinks i'm a great individual, and that this is not the time for false modesty. he said he'd adapt it, adding in his opinions. gonna keep university private. just dont wanna violate anything here or be accused of anything, but don't wanna agitate the professor.

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bk1
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Re: Writing Your Own Letter

Postby bk1 » Tue Aug 17, 2010 12:17 am

sharpnsmooth wrote:
Adjudicator wrote:After doing some research, I found a document called "Rules Governing Misconduct and Irregularity in the Admissions Process" from the LSAC. In the section defining "misconduct" it gives as an example, "submission of an altered, non-authentic, or unauthorized letter of recommendation." Also, another example is "impersonation of another in the admission process."

For what it's worth.


i told this to the professor. he replied he thinks i'm a great individual, and that this is not the time for false modesty. he said he'd adapt it, adding in his opinions. gonna keep university private. just dont wanna violate anything here or be accused of anything, but don't wanna agitate the professor.


Tell him it's not about false modesty, it's about not doing something that is specifically prohibited.

If your prof wants you to write something that he can use as "inspiration" then you can't control what your prof does at that point.

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hemm
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Re: Writing Your Own Letter

Postby hemm » Tue Aug 17, 2010 2:23 am

Adjudicator wrote:After doing some research, I found a document called "Rules Governing Misconduct and Irregularity in the Admissions Process" from the LSAC. In the section defining "misconduct" it gives as an example, "submission of an altered, non-authentic, or unauthorized letter of recommendation." Also, another example is "impersonation of another in the admission process."

For what it's worth.


I know there have been some thread on this, but I don't see the problem with writing your own letter and having the recommender sign it. After all, they don't have to sign it if they don't agree with it. This warning sounds more like someone who alters the letter after already getting the signature. Beyond the ethics of it, though, it's probably not a good idea to write one's own letter anyway.

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Adjudicator
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Re: Writing Your Own Letter

Postby Adjudicator » Tue Aug 17, 2010 3:21 am

Well, obviously the LSAC's guidelines are, like the law, subject to interpretation. What constitutes a "non-authentic" letter of recommendation? I can certainly imagine that they could construe it to apply to this situation, if they so wished.

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maroonzoon
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Re: Writing Your Own Letter

Postby maroonzoon » Thu Aug 19, 2010 2:59 am

I've read a couple of admissions books which deal with this issue, so it seems like it's pretty prevalent. And like the previous poster said, they don't have to sign it if they don't agree.

When you do write your own, definitely write in a different voice then your personal statement, or it will be obvious who wrote it.

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straxen
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Re: Writing Your Own Letter

Postby straxen » Thu Aug 19, 2010 3:53 am

This is pretty common actually, though some people will advise against it because they feel like you'd hold back, may write in the wrong voice or something along those lines. I've never heard of anything being ethically wrong with this, and given the prevalence, I'm sure if LSAC intended to prohibit the practice I'm sure it would have come up.

I'd interpret LSAC's prohibitions to apply in situations where, for example, you draft a letter and forge a signature to make it look like it came from a professor (non-authentic), alter it after it's been signed (altered), or submit a draft letter he's signed but didn't intend to mail (unauthorized).

You're merely drafting the letter, the signer takes the ultimate responsibility for the content. How he writes the letter and chooses to delegate the drafting duties is really none of LSAC's concern, whether he has an assistant write it or defers to the student's own judgment. Assuming you don't state anything objectively false hoping he doesn't notice, it should be fine.

bocastudent
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Re: Writing Your Own Letter

Postby bocastudent » Thu Aug 19, 2010 4:50 am

According to LSAC rules, you're not even allowed to read the letter before the recommeder sends it to LSAC. Of course they don't want you to WRITE it!

But how will they know. ;)

Still, I'd never write my own-- too much work and I'd rather just ask someone else.

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straxen
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Re: Writing Your Own Letter

Postby straxen » Thu Aug 19, 2010 5:06 am

bocastudent wrote:According to LSAC rules, you're not even allowed to read the letter before the recommeder sends it to LSAC. Of course they don't want you to WRITE it!

But how will they know. ;)

Still, I'd never write my own-- too much work and I'd rather just ask someone else.


No, you're certainly allowed to read it and I see nothing in the rules to indicate otherwise. Many recommenders will let you read their drafts to make sure everything's ok. The only requirement I know of is that the letter be signed by and sent directly from the recommender. As I understand it, the waiver that you are permitted, but not obliged, to sign says that the schools that receive the letters aren't obliged to show you a copy as they might otherwise be required to do under FERPA. This waiver just adds a bit of comfort to the school that the recommender can express his thoughts without the student being able to demand a copy. I suppose in theory, you can never be sure that the copy you read or write is what's actually going to be sent to the school.

bocastudent
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Re: Writing Your Own Letter

Postby bocastudent » Thu Aug 19, 2010 7:11 am

straxen wrote:
bocastudent wrote:According to LSAC rules, you're not even allowed to read the letter before the recommeder sends it to LSAC. Of course they don't want you to WRITE it!

But how will they know. ;)

Still, I'd never write my own-- too much work and I'd rather just ask someone else.


No, you're certainly allowed to read it and I see nothing in the rules to indicate otherwise. Many recommenders will let you read their drafts to make sure everything's ok. The only requirement I know of is that the letter be signed by and sent directly from the recommender. As I understand it, the waiver that you are permitted, but not obliged, to sign says that the schools that receive the letters aren't obliged to show you a copy as they might otherwise be required to do under FERPA. This waiver just adds a bit of comfort to the school that the recommender can express his thoughts without the student being able to demand a copy. I suppose in theory, you can never be sure that the copy you read or write is what's actually going to be sent to the school.



Oh, my friend just applied last cycle and told me he signed a document saying he didn't read the letter. Maybe he was confused about something-- you definitely sound more reliable than him. Thanks!

Pip
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Re: Writing Your Own Letter

Postby Pip » Thu Aug 19, 2010 10:29 am

If you have an option of allowing someone to write a letter you will never see or writing the letter for them and they just sign it... only a fool would pick the option of allowing someone else to write the letter for you.

Write it yourself and don't hold back anything... better yet have someone else write it about you and then rewrite it to make sure it is as glowing as possible and then let the professor sign it, that way the voice will be of someone talking about you instead of you talking about yourself. BUT you would still control the substance in it.

If you have problems with this supposed ethical situation then you should leave the legal profession completely. You will be doing far more unethical things when you are a lawyer than this and it will be common among everyone in the firm. This pales in comparison to partners that will visit all the associate and clerks, spending 1-5 minutes asking for updates on cases and then billing the clients for 1 hour of work for each one of the conversations, encouraging the copying of cases to ratchet up billing ($2 - $5 dollars a page plus the $125/hr for the clerk doing it), or knowing there are damning documents in your possession so you get boxes of truly pointless documents dump them into boxes like garbage and then deliver to the other side in discovery so there is little chance the other side will actually find the only ones that are meaningful... If you want to quibble about something as trivial as writing your own letter of recommendation that is still going to be signed off on by someone else... well lord you are in for a very rude awakening.

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romothesavior
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Re: Writing Your Own Letter

Postby romothesavior » Thu Aug 19, 2010 10:40 am

Do not do this. Every single thing I have ever read on this says not to do it. I can't believe this thread has made it almost a full page without a TLS veteran telling you not to do this, because I remember when I joined last year, it was common knowledge that you do not write your own LOR. It is against LSAC's rules, it is ethically wrong, and there is always the small chance it could backfire. It is a big no-no.

Go to the prof, tell him you appreciate the opportunity to write it, but you feel you are ethically obligated to decline. Tell him it is against the rules and law schools frown upon it, and you would appreciate him writing it for him. You can give him your resume and give him guidance, but do not write your own LOR.

bocastudent
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Re: Writing Your Own Letter

Postby bocastudent » Thu Aug 19, 2010 10:48 am

romothesavior wrote:Do not do this. Every single thing I have ever read on this says not to do it. I can't believe this thread has made it almost a full page without a TLS veteran telling you not to do this, because I remember when I joined last year, it was common knowledge that you do not write your own LOR. It is against LSAC's rules, it is ethically wrong, and there is always the small chance it could backfire. It is a big no-no.

Go to the prof, tell him you appreciate the opportunity to write it, but you feel you are ethically obligated to decline. Tell him it is against the rules and law schools frown upon it, and you would appreciate him writing it for him. You can give him your resume and give him guidance, but do not write your own LOR.


Finally someone who knows what they're talking about.

Burger in a can
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Re: Writing Your Own Letter

Postby Burger in a can » Thu Aug 19, 2010 12:54 pm

Another point not yet addressed: Your professor wants you to write it because he is too busy/distracted/lazy to write it himself. I recommend finding a professor who is more engaged with your future. (I always viewed the "sure! Just write it up for me and I'll sign whatever" response as a soft "no.")

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Barbie
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Re: Writing Your Own Letter

Postby Barbie » Thu Aug 19, 2010 1:00 pm

Didn't read all the replies, but do NOT submit a letter you had any part in writing. If a professor isn't going to take the time to do it fully, they are not someone you should use a recommendation from anyways. Also, with your having to submit various essays to law schools can give them a clear picture of your writing style that, even if you try not to, will likely show through. Just move on to a different option.

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kazu
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Re: Writing Your Own Letter

Postby kazu » Thu Aug 19, 2010 9:30 pm

romothesavior wrote:Do not do this. Every single thing I have ever read on this says not to do it. I can't believe this thread has made it almost a full page without a TLS veteran telling you not to do this, because I remember when I joined last year, it was common knowledge that you do not write your own LOR. It is against LSAC's rules, it is ethically wrong, and there is always the small chance it could backfire. It is a big no-no.

Go to the prof, tell him you appreciate the opportunity to write it, but you feel you are ethically obligated to decline. Tell him it is against the rules and law schools frown upon it, and you would appreciate him writing it for him. You can give him your resume and give him guidance, but do not write your own LOR.


+10000000000000.

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acrossthelake
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Re: Writing Your Own Letter

Postby acrossthelake » Thu Aug 19, 2010 10:56 pm

The FAQ has been updated with a paraphrased version of romothesavior's response. 8)

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kazu
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Re: Writing Your Own Letter

Postby kazu » Thu Aug 19, 2010 11:51 pm

acrossthelake wrote:The FAQ has been updated with a paraphrased version of romothesavior's response. 8)


!!!!!! <3

WestOfTheRest
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Re: Writing Your Own Letter

Postby WestOfTheRest » Fri Aug 20, 2010 3:12 am

romothesavior wrote:Do not do this. Every single thing I have ever read on this says not to do it. I can't believe this thread has made it almost a full page without a TLS veteran telling you not to do this, because I remember when I joined last year, it was common knowledge that you do not write your own LOR. It is against LSAC's rules, it is ethically wrong, and there is always the small chance it could backfire. It is a big no-no.

Go to the prof, tell him you appreciate the opportunity to write it, but you feel you are ethically obligated to decline. Tell him it is against the rules and law schools frown upon it, and you would appreciate him writing it for him. You can give him your resume and give him guidance, but do not write your own LOR.


Everything I have read says that doing this is perfectly legitimate. Supposedly it happens all the time and there is nothing wrong with it. Nowhere does it say in LSAC's rules that your recommender has to write out the letter. Realistically, what's the difference between someone prepping their recommenders and someone writing a first draft for their recommenders? Both Ivey and Montauk say it is okay to do.

However, what do I recommend? Find a different LOR writer. It will be easier for you and probably make you feel more warm and fuzzy on the inside.

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kazu
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Re: Writing Your Own Letter

Postby kazu » Fri Aug 20, 2010 3:35 am

CastleRock wrote:Everything I have read says that doing this is perfectly legitimate. Supposedly it happens all the time and there is nothing wrong with it. Nowhere does it say in LSAC's rules that your recommender has to write out the letter. Realistically, what's the difference between someone prepping their recommenders and someone writing a first draft for their recommenders? Both Ivey and Montauk say it is okay to do.

However, what do I recommend? Find a different LOR writer. It will be easier for you and probably make you feel more warm and fuzzy on the inside.


I think the general rule of thumb is, if you want a "good" LOR find someone who will write it him/herself. How you compare yourself against your peers probably isn't how professors evaluate you, it's extremely difficult to write in a totally different "voice" (and law schools already have at least 2, probably more samples of your writing), and if you get caught/suspected in any way the admissions office will probably, at the very least, discount it.

If you just want a run-of-the mill LOR that won't hurt you, then I don't think it matters as much.

I'm not touching the ethical debate because, while this is not supposed to happen, it does widely occur in real life and adcomms know this.

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Nulli Secundus
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Re: Writing Your Own Letter

Postby Nulli Secundus » Fri Aug 20, 2010 3:40 am

Well, I am an international applicant and my professors didnt have many people trying to apply to a law school asking them for LoRs. So they asked me for a sample LoR and I sent them something I thought would be appropriate that I got from the Internet, and they (I think) took that sample as a base to construct their own letters, hopefully they were not too similar as to create problems though :P

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romothesavior
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Re: Writing Your Own Letter

Postby romothesavior » Fri Aug 20, 2010 10:46 am

nullisecundus wrote:Well, I am an international applicant and my professors didnt have many people trying to apply to a law school asking them for LoRs. So they asked me for a sample LoR and I sent them something I thought would be appropriate that I got from the Internet, and they (I think) took that sample as a base to construct their own letters, hopefully they were not too similar as to create problems though :P


This is perfectly acceptable.

I pulled this straight from the TLS article on LORs:

DRAFTING YOUR OWN LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION

Law schools do not look fondly upon letters of recommendation that have been drafted by applicants. Admissions officers have stated that they can tell if an applicant has drafted his or her own letter of recommendation because it either mimics too closely the applicant’s own writing style or fails to effectively capture the point of view that a recommender inherently possesses. Professors and employers, by virtue of their position, have a perspective and a point of evaluation that is nearly impossible for an applicant to emulate. An applicant cannot completely evaluate himself objectively in terms of his intellectual ability and most definitely cannot discuss himself in a comparative manner, a quality found in the best letters of recommendation. Drafting your own letter of recommendation is, essentially, consciously choosing to submit a weak letter of recommendation.

If a recommender requests that you draft a letter for their editing, respectfully decline and see if the recommender would consider writing one with help from you. If the recommender agrees, provide him or her with a letter detailing your qualifications with examples. This way, your recommender can see what should be included in your recommendation without you actually drafting it. If the recommender strongly presses for a draft, strongly consider if there is an alternative person who could be your recommender.

In some instances, a recommender may ask for a draft because they are unfamiliar with writing a letter of recommendation for law school. If that is the case, many college career services can provide guidelines and instructions on how to write law school letters of recommendation, and there are many excellent books available that explain how to write a recommendation for law school.

Pip
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Re: Writing Your Own Letter

Postby Pip » Fri Aug 20, 2010 12:37 pm

"Admissions officers have stated that they can tell if an applicant has drafted his or her own letter of recommendation because it either mimics too closely the applicant’s own writing style or fails to effectively capture the point of view that a recommender inherently possesses."

While I can see it might be very easy to see writing styles... I would take that statement with a grain of salt. Sure the admissions folks want people to believe that they can spot these things, but to imply that the "legit" recommender somehow is more effectively captures a point of view is a bit of a stretch. I've seen LOR from a sampling of professors and they ran the spectrum of very well thought out well written letters to quickly done notes that probably did more harm than good simply because the writer was in a hurry.

In the end the LORs probably only matter to students that are close to the bubble and probably are more likely to be used as a reason to knock someone out than to pull them across the line. The difficulty in persuading someone to accept a person on the line is certainly going to be greater than the ability to provide a reason to ding someone simply by the fact that some professor are poor writers and aren't effective at communicating.




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