recommendation question

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Anonymous User
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Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

recommendation question

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jan 26, 2013 2:06 pm

I am a transfer student and did well the first semester at my new school. Assuming I do equally well in the spring semester I will be applying to federal clerkships with a focus on COA and the more competitive Districts.

One of the professors that I asked to give me a recommendations replied and said that she doesn't feel comfortable making phone calls on my behalf which is understandable I think because she doesn't know me all that well. However, she will write me a letter and likes to make it really strong. She wants to me to write the first draft and then she will make changes where appropriate.

1. Should I go with this professor? I already have three other recommenders who know me better. However, she is a big name professor if that makes a difference.

2. I have no clue how to draft a letter of recommendation that would be strong enough for federal clerkship applications....advice on this if you answered affirmatively to question 1?

3. If professors do not make phone calls, is that a kiss of death for an application or not that big of a deal? The reason I ask is because the responses i've gotten are: first professor, doesn't like making calls for a couple reasons but is willing to discuss that possibility, second professor, doesn't feel like he knows me well enough yet but considers me his best student so is willing to discuss the possibility if he gets to know me better through the process, and third professor, didn't give me an individual reply to each of my questions when i asked about letter and calls but just said of course and we can talk later in the process.

4. Gauge the effectiveness of my recommendations?

5. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

clerker
Posts: 47
Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2013 1:58 pm

Re: recommendation question

Postby clerker » Sun Jan 27, 2013 1:30 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I am a transfer student and did well the first semester at my new school. Assuming I do equally well in the spring semester I will be applying to federal clerkships with a focus on COA and the more competitive Districts.

One of the professors that I asked to give me a recommendations replied and said that she doesn't feel comfortable making phone calls on my behalf which is understandable I think because she doesn't know me all that well. However, she will write me a letter and likes to make it really strong. She wants to me to write the first draft and then she will make changes where appropriate.

1. Should I go with this professor? I already have three other recommenders who know me better. However, she is a big name professor if that makes a difference.

2. I have no clue how to draft a letter of recommendation that would be strong enough for federal clerkship applications....advice on this if you answered affirmatively to question 1?

3. If professors do not make phone calls, is that a kiss of death for an application or not that big of a deal? The reason I ask is because the responses i've gotten are: first professor, doesn't like making calls for a couple reasons but is willing to discuss that possibility, second professor, doesn't feel like he knows me well enough yet but considers me his best student so is willing to discuss the possibility if he gets to know me better through the process, and third professor, didn't give me an individual reply to each of my questions when i asked about letter and calls but just said of course and we can talk later in the process.

4. Gauge the effectiveness of my recommendations?

5. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


Not sure if I can answer all of these questions, but I will say that the recommendations that make the biggest impact are those that include superlatives. As clerks sifting through applications, we always see stuff like:

"John is a phenomenal writer;"
"Jane is an outstanding student;"
"Jennifer is a pleasure to be around."

That's not going to get you noticed. What you want is something like:

"John has the strongest writing skills of any student that I've had in the 5 years I've been teaching."
"I have had only one or two students who have the legal ability Jane possesses."
"Jennifer is of the same caliber as the top student I've had in the past three years, all of whom have gone on to clerk for federal judges."

Of course, I don't know the mechanics of how you would get a recommender to write that for you without coming across as arrogant. But if you can pull it off, these types of statements make judges look through your application more than they otherwise would.

Anonymous User
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Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: recommendation question

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jan 27, 2013 2:02 pm

OP here. Thanks! I think that is going to be the vein of the three other three recommenders. What do you think about the fourth one who wants me to draft my own letter?As I said, I already have three that will be stronger. However, she is the bigger name. I don't even know if I need a fourth... Plus, I have no clue how I would write a really strong letter of recommendation and not come across as laughably silly or needlessly arrogant... your advice on that front?

Anonymous User
Posts: 273498
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: recommendation question

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jan 27, 2013 8:29 pm

Anyone? I probably have to respond to this professor relatively soon to let her know whether I am going to go with another professor but thanks anyways or not. (Tactful way to say this? This is also the answer I am leaning towards)

ClerkAdvisor
Posts: 177
Joined: Sat Jan 19, 2013 2:38 pm

Re: recommendation question

Postby ClerkAdvisor » Sun Jan 27, 2013 10:41 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP here. Thanks! I think that is going to be the vein of the three other three recommenders. What do you think about the fourth one who wants me to draft my own letter?As I said, I already have three that will be stronger. However, she is the bigger name. I don't even know if I need a fourth... Plus, I have no clue how I would write a really strong letter of recommendation and not come across as laughably silly or needlessly arrogant... your advice on that front?


Three recommenders are the minimum. Four recommenders is fine as well. If the other three are strong, then I'm not sure you need the fourth. If you don't feel comfortable writing your own letter (which I'm sure you would do a good job on), then leave out the fourth recommender.

More important point - I would always take a strong recommendation over a big name. And, I would take a recommender who knows a judge over a big name any day of the week. It's often difficult for law students to gauge which professors are well-known by judges. For many judges, once you get away from the huge names, they often have no clue unless: they know the professor or they have a particular interest in that professor's research area.

clerker
Posts: 47
Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2013 1:58 pm

Re: recommendation question

Postby clerker » Sun Jan 27, 2013 10:42 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP here. Thanks! I think that is going to be the vein of the three other three recommenders. What do you think about the fourth one who wants me to draft my own letter?As I said, I already have three that will be stronger. However, she is the bigger name. I don't even know if I need a fourth... Plus, I have no clue how I would write a really strong letter of recommendation and not come across as laughably silly or needlessly arrogant... your advice on that front?


Use all of them. Is the big name prof going to send you the changes that she's thinking of making? If so, definitely jump at that opportunity. If the changes make it a weak letter, just don't use hers. (You can choose which recommenders to use in OSCAR and the prof will never know) And if you can't see what changes she makes, don't use her. However, if she does show you the changes you make and she keeps most of your changes, use her rec. Otherwise, I think the professor who thinks you're the best student would be the best choice.

For the custom letter: If you're okay with taking big risks, you should draft up a ridiculous superlative letter (this student is the same caliber as other students who have gone on to clerk at the supreme court). If you want to play it safe, draft the letter in a way to address your flaws. For example, as a transfer student, the judge will assume that although you're very smart and are probably just as good as the average student at your new school, you may not be as strong as the top students there. Have you recommender assure the reader you are, and fill it in with very specific stories.

As for phone calls, I wouldn't worry about it. I don't know how students usually play this game, but I would feel a bit awkward asking a prof to make a phone call for me. It would be better for them to volunteer to do it. (I wrote a detailed discussion on my experience with others going to bat for me here: viewtopic.php?f=34&t=202799&p=6347376#p6347376) When I was clerking, we'd call the references, so in the end, your prof might end up talking to someone from the judge's staff anyways.




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