OFFICE of CAREER SERVICES
Northeastern University School of Law
When you apply for post-graduate clerkships and/or fellowships, you are generally required to submit letters of recommendation as part of your application packet. These legal employers are interested in your academic and professional skills and they prefer that the letters be from people who can comment on your legal skills and your potential as a lawyer. Generally students ask law school professors and co-op employers, and graduates ask professors, co-op employers and other legal employers, to write the recommendation letter. You should ask people who know your work firsthand and can comment specifically on why you have the relevant skills for a particular position. Again, it is highly preferable to get letters from lawyers and law school professors rather than from people with whom you may have studied or for which you have worked prior to law school. Also, it is helpful to choose references for which you have worked recently.
You should make it as easy as possible for your references to write letters for you. Make sure you give your references as much as notice as you can when requesting a letter of recommendation. Be solicitous when you ask a reference if he/she is willing to write a letter for you. You should give your reference a recent copy of your resume, remind him/her of the work that you have done, and give the reference any other information that may be helpful, such as a copy of your transcript. You also want to assist the reference in producing the letter(s). For example, you may apply to many judges for clerkship positions. In this case, you should ask your reference his/her preference for producing multiple letters. Some recommenders prefer to send you a copy of the letter electronically or on disk and will ask you to assume the responsibility for merging the letter with the names and addresses of the judges. After you have merged the letters, you will need to return the letters to your reference for final signature.
If you anticipate applying for post-graduate positions that require letters of recommendation, you need to plan ahead. Make sure you leave yourself enough time to make your request, and to give your recommenders sufficient time to write your letter so that you receive it well in advance of the employer’s deadline. Sometimes professors or employers ask to see sample recommendation letters to help them draft their own, or alternatively, ask you to write the first draft of the letter. The samples in this handout can be used for either purpose.
Name & Address
RECOMMENDATION FOR S. N. (student's name)
Dear Judge Last Name:
I am writing this letter in enthusiastic support of S.N.'s application for a clerkship in your chambers. I have gotten to know Ms. N. over the past year, both as a student in my first-year Contracts course and as an active participant in law school governance. In both capacities, I have been most impressed with Ms. N.’s talents, and I am confident that she will be an exceptional law clerk and an outstanding attorney.
In the Contracts class, Ms. N. stood out, from early in the course, as an unusually articulate and perceptive participant in class discussion. Repeatedly, she was the student who raised the serious and challenging issues that pushed the dialogue to a more reflective and perceptive level. Her written work in the course, both a research memo and her final examination, simply confirmed what her class participation had already evidenced – that she was a student with exceptional insight and analytic skill – while also demonstrating the clarity and cogence of her prose style. Ms. N. was the strongest student in a strong class, and a review of her academic record reveals that her performance in Contracts was repeated across her first-year courses. Intellectually, she is clearly a star.
Her talents, however, do not end there. Ms. N. is also a person of unusual energy, maturity, and interpersonal skill. In her first-year, she represented her class on the law school’s faculty-student Governing Council, and this year she is serving as her class’s representative on our faculty appointments committee, which I chair. Her election to these posts is some evidence of how her peers perceive her, and her performance in these roles is testament to her character. Ms. N. has tackled these responsibilities with spirit and sophistication, interacting with both students and faculty in an effective, responsible manner. She is evidently a person with substantial experience functioning in the professional world, and it has been a pleasure working with her.
In short, I recommend Ms. N. to you strongly and without reservation. She will be a wonderful addition to your chambers. If I can be of any further assistance in your review of her application, please feel free to contact me.
Professor of Law
Name & Address of Court Administrator
RECOMMENDATION FOR S. N. (Student's Name)
Dear Ms./Mr. Last Name:
I am writing this letter in enthusiastic support of S. N.'s application for a clerkship with the Superior Court. I have known Mr. N. over the past couple of years, initially as a student in my first-year Contracts course and subsequently as a research assistant and independent study student. Through these contacts I have come to know both Mr. N. and his legal work unusually well, and I am confident that he will make a first-rate law clerk and that he is on his way to a distinguished career as an attorney.
In the Contracts course, Mr. N.’s was among the strongest performances in the class. He and his partner researched and wrote an excellent memorandum dealing with complex UCC warranty formation issues. And his final examination was also very strong. From the start of his legal education, Mr. N. demonstrated a facility at legal analysis and a subtle understanding of legal argumentation that made him stand out from his peers.
During each of the ensuing quarters when Mr. N. has been in school, I have been fortunate to have him as part of the team of students providing support for a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of corporate tax incentives used by the state of Ohio to attract business investment into the state. This suit raises a range of novel procedural and constitutional issues, and Mr. N. has played a vital part in researching and analyzing these issues. On several important issues, his research and writing have provided the primary basis for our briefs before the Ohio federal district courts. In addition, Mr. N. has been an active and insightful participant in our weekly strategy sessions concerning the evolution of the case.
Particularly through his participation in the litigation, I have had a chance to work closely with Mr. N. and to see his skills at first hand. He is an exceptionally clear writer and speaker, partly due to the fact that he is also an unusually clear thinker. He has excellent lawyerly instincts and strong research skills. He is also a delightful person to work with, utterly dependable, hard working, welcoming of feedback, and an active and constructive team participant. Any judge who has Mr. N. clerking in her chambers will count herself lucky.
I recommend Mr. N. to you strongly and without reservation. If I can be
of any further assistance in your review of his application, please feel
free to contact me.
Professor of Law
Name & Address
Re: S.N. (Student's Name)
I am writing this letter in support of S.N.’s application to serve as your law clerk. S. was a student in my Appellate Advocacy course at Northeastern during the summer of 200__. Students in Appellate Advocacy were required to write two drafts of an appellate brief and participate in a practice and a final oral argument.
S.’s written brief was excellent. Her analysis of the controlling law was thoughtful and comprehensive. She did a superb job advocating her client's point of view and distinguishing negative authority. Her writing was clear and her point headings were persuasive.
S.’s oral argument was the best in the class. Her answers to the judges' questions were intelligent and responsive. Her demeanor was smooth. After the argument, all of the judges spoke highly of her oral advocacy skills and told me how much they enjoyed questioning her and listening to her responses. Not surprisingly, S. received more penetrating questions from the judges than did the other students in the class because of her superior skills.
I have had the opportunity to instruct many students in my ten years of experience teaching legal writing and oral advocacy. S. ranks among the top few students. She is extremely intelligent, diligent and engaging. She writes beautifully and has exceptional oral advocacy skills. She is reliable, submits her work promptly, and requires little direction. On top of it all, she is a pleasure to be around.
I think S. would be an extremely effective law clerk. She would bring outstanding written, oral and analytic skills, a sound work ethic, and a wonderful personality to the position. I recommend her without reservation and with a great deal of enthusiasm.
Northeastern University School of Law
Re: Student's Name
Dear Judge's Name:
This past summer, S.N. served as a clinical intern, under my supervision, representing welfare mothers in complicated matters requiring advocacy before administrative agencies. She demonstrated sophisticated analytical skill combined with refined personal communication ability. Her advocacy was characterized by disciplined hard work.
We worked together for twenty hours a week over a ten-week period. In the course of the summer, she produced two of the best hearing memoranda that I have gotten in the twenty years that I have directed the clinical program at the law school. I have circulated both of them to our partners in Legal Services. While she basically worked independently, she sought supervision when appropriate and took suggestions willingly. The resulting products were thoroughly researched persuasively written. Her oral presentations were equally dependent on careful preparation and as a result remarkable well executed. She displayed confidence and flexibility and her second hearing was even better that her first as she learned quickly from reflection on her experience.
Her academic record indicates that she has grown into an accomplished student of the law and gives evidence of her ability to do excellent work in highly technical courses. But most impressive and relevant for purposes of determining her fitness as a clerk are the evaluations of Judges ________________ and _________________. The high praise that they lavish on her for her hard work, legal skills and personal attitude are entirely consistent with my experience of her.
While clinical work may not be an exact analogy to clerking, it does depend on many of the same skills and attitudes. I am confident that you will find this remarkable young woman to be as much of an asset to your busy office as she was to ours. Rather than go on at length, I encourage you to call me if you have further questions. I can be reached at __________.
Professor Law and
Director of Clinical Education
I am writing to enthusiastically recommend Student's Name as a clerk for the New Jersey Supreme Court. Ms. N. served as a full-time legal intern in this office's Trial Division during the fall of 2000. During the twelve-week period of her internship Ms. N. worked largely under my supervision, and I therefore had ample opportunity to observe her skills, demeanor and work habits.
During her internship Ms. N. was assigned to a variety of research, writing, trial assistance and organizational projects. For instance, she researched and drafted a motion in limine arguing against the admission of certain evidence in a Title VII race discrimination case. With respect to the same case, she organized all of the exhibits, took comprehensive notes of testimony, assisted in the preparation of requests for jury instructions and researched a number of issues relevant to support trial motions. Ms. N. also researched and drafted, largely on her own, two motions (and supporting memoranda) for judgment on the pleadings in sexual harassment cases filed under the state fair employment practices law.
Ms. N. proved to be a talented, intelligent, highly conscientious, and effective intern. She had no difficulty in grasping relatively complex issues, both legal and factual, and was able to work independently in reviewing documents, culling out important facts, and organizing those facts in a useful and readable way. Her research was done thoroughly and efficiently. I was particularly impressed by her ability to produce a well-written, well-structured and well-reasoned legal memoranda, which required only very minor revision before it was served upon opposing counsel. Ms. N. was also an extremely valuable resource during our week-long federal jury trial, providing some keen insights into the way in which testimony might be perceived, and assisting in innumerable other ways.
Overall, it was a pleasure to work with Ms. N. I can recommend her to you as a clerk with confidence that she would do an excellent job and make the most of the experience.
Assistant Attorney General
I am writing to recommend Student's Name, who worked as a legal intern with me for three months during the summer of 2000.
I sit as a judge on the Massachusetts Superior Court, which is a trial court with general civil and criminal jurisdiction. During her internship with me, S. worked primarily on dispositive motions in civil cases, but also did short research on evidentiary or other trial-related issues and a few bench memos. S. has very good research skills and she writes with a clear style. I was particularly impressed by the thoughtful way she analyzed the legal issues presented in the cases; on a number of occasions she pointed out legal problems affecting one side's argument that the parties to the case had failed to recognize. Also impressive was S.'s commitment to researching a legal question until she arrived at a legally viable and intellectually satisfying answer.
S. had just completed her first year of law school when she worked with me, and therefore she came with little legal experience. However, she was extremely eager to learn all she could about each case on which we worked. She asked excellent questions, followed the parties' arguments, and I found her to be a quick study. She was very capable at working independently, seeking direction at appropriate points in her work. Her interest in and commitment to her work are noteworthy.
I recommend S. highly. She is bright, hard working and capable young woman with very good legal skills, albeit by necessity not fully developed yet. On a personal level, I found her to be a pleasure to work with for the entire length of her internship because of her eagerness, her sense of humor and her spirit. If I can provide any further information to you, please feel free to contact me.
The Honorable (Judge's Name)
U.S. Magistrate Jude
U.S. District Court
Dear Judge (Judge's Last Name):
SN (Student's Name) was one of my law clerks in the Summer 2001. We were so impressed with S and his work that we have asked him to work for us part-time during the school year.
I had the opportunity to work directly with S on a number of complex and diverse legal matters. S brought a high level of intelligence, practicability and integrity to each of the matters assigned to him. I can unequivocally state that S's research and analytical ability are exceptional. S's writing skills are equally impressive, his memoranda were vibrantly clear and a pleasure to read. Moreover, S is extremely detail oriented, his memoranda accurately and consistently identified and incised the relevant case law and statutory mandates in each legal issue he confronted.
Personally, he is gregarious and mature and we did not hesitate to expose him to our clients. I would also note that S's work ethic is extraordinary, S regularly took work home and stayed late to complete assignments. In my opinion, S will make an outstanding law clerk.
It is without hesitation that I recommend him for a clerkship serving in your chambers. Please feel free to contact me directly should you want to discuss S's qualifications or performance in further detail.
Very truly yours,
The National Association for Public Interest Law
Fellowship Recommendation for S.N. (Student's Name)
Dear Selection Committee:
I am writing this letter in enthusiastic support of S. N.'s candidacy for a NAPIL Fellowship. I have known Mr. N. as a law student starting when he was a student in my Contracts course during his first year of law school. On the basis of my own contacts with Mr. N. and a review of his law school file, I am confident that Mr. N. has both the intellectual and the personal skills that will make him an exceptional Fellow, and a lawyer whom Northeastern will be proud to claim as an alumnus.
As Mr. N.’s academic record, and the evaluations from his co-op experiences, indicate, he is one of our strongest students. His performance in my Contracts class placed him among my top students, both in terms of his examination and as reflected in his participation in the class. Mr. N. both writes and speaks with unusual clarity and apparent ease. His ability to grasp and manipulate legal doctrine is very strong. I was particularly impressed with his ability to delve into the analytic details of legal argumentation while preserving a strong sense of the experiential context from which the legal issues arise. This is a talent that most students only develop gradually, often not until after they leave law school. But for Mr. N. it seems to come quite naturally, and it evidently has served him well in his various practice experiences, both before and during law school. He clearly has the tools, both analytic and synthetic, to become an exceptionally skilled lawyer.
Mr. N. also impresses me as an unusually conscientious, committed, and mature person. He comes to Northeastern with a long and impressive record of achievement in civic and voluntary activities, and he has made full use of the numerous opportunities our program affords to extend and develop his commitment to social change and the representation of marginalized people. A NAPIL Fellowship will be a natural continuation of the path he has been blazing since he was in college, and one that he will undoubtedly carry forward with distinction and accomplishment.
In short, I recommend Mr. N. to you enthusiastically and without reservation. If I can be of any further assistance in your review of his candidacy, please feel free to contact me.
Name & Address
Reference for S.N. (Student's Name)
I am the Clinical Director for Northeastern Law School’s Domestic Violence Institute. In this capacity, I supervised S.N. when she enrolled in our intensive Domestic Violence Clinic course, and worked with her again on particular welfare issues when she subsequently enrolled in the Poverty Law Clinic. I enthusiastically support her application for the fellowship position.
S.N. was a wonderful student in our Domestic Violence Clinic. She began the on-site court work with enthusiasm but considerable trepidation, not knowing how she would handle the challenges of battered women’s advocacy. She was, however, an excellent advocate. Her commitment and common sense understanding of her clients was evident from her first visit to Court, and her interviewing, counseling and advocacy skills developed quickly. By mid-quarter, she was one of this Clinic’s most effective and productive students.
In both this Clinic and her subsequent Poverty Law work, S.N. consistently displayed not only great empathy and commitment to assist women whose lives have been far harder than her own, but also great respect and admiration for their accomplishments. She was, and remains, dedicated to a career advocating for vulnerable women and their children, and I am confident she will do so in both a respectful and empowering manner.
On a more personal level, S.N. is a pleasure to teach and supervise. She is skilled, intelligent, highly motivated, and very independent in accomplishing legal tasks. She works exceedingly well with her supervisors and her peers. Although neither naive nor inexperienced, she is both optimistic and energetic in approaching the many challenges of this work. We have enjoyed her repeated enrollment and participation in Clinic work, and will greatly miss her contributions. If you have any particular questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to call me.
BY FAX AND MAIL
E. Barrett Prettyman Fellowship Program
Georgetown University Law Center
111 F Street, NW, Room 130
Washington, D.C. 20001
Dear Professor's Name: Re: S. N. (Student's Name)
As the clinic director, I had the opportunity to work directly and indirectly with S. during her years at Northeastern. She worked under my direct supervision representing welfare mothers in the Poverty Law and Practice clinic. Indirectly, I know of her work in Prisoner’s Rights and the Certiorari Clinics. The sum of these experiences mean that S. took advantage of a broad variety of what we offer by way of experiential learning in the clinical setting. She also participated in four criminal externships as part of her education.
What we saw then in promise, you can now see in reality. While she worked with me in the summer of 1996, I knew S. as a disciplined and dedicated advocate. She was a quick study who mastered the intricacies of the welfare regime and was able to explain it with enough clarity so that her clients could make informed and reasoned choices. S. worked hard and learned from her varied experiences. Two of her cases stand out in my mind. The first was a client only a law professor could invent. Client's Name had applied for SSI, been denied AFDC because of ownership of a car, was about to have her mortgage foreclosed and had a disability discrimination case pending against the state. S. was only responsible for the SSI and AFDC problems but the others had a bearing on the resolution of her benefits claims. S. proved herself able to keep all these cases straight in her head and to arrive at a comprehensive strategy based on her research and analysis. The other case involved a woman terminated because her child was not making reasonable progress toward graduation. This "learnfare" rule was new and untested at the time. S. worked with a group of advocates in and out of the office to arrive first at a research strategy and then at an action plan that resulted in the case being resolved and laid the groundwork for an eventual change in the policy.
To me, S.’s performance in both cases was exemplary. She did all that was asked of her and more. She displayed hard work and creativity aimed at getting the client a semblance of justice. She was respectful and forceful as appropriate. It was a pleasure to get the results of her factual and library research, which arrived, in concise and readable prose. As an oral advocate, her preparation bore fruit. She conducted direct and cross-examinations from the confidence that comes of knowing a case inside out. I can’t imagine that she has lost any of those qualities, which made her such a delight to have in the clinics. She was a team player when she was here and while her role would be different at Georgetown, I would bet that she would be a team player when she joins you.
Northeastern has had the honor of sending a number of students to the Georgetown graduate clinical fellowships. I have been supervising clinical students for twenty years at Duke, Harvard and Northeastern and I would rank S. as strongly as those I know whom you have previously selected. She was a standout here and I would suspect you would find her to be the same there.
Professor of Law and
Director of Clinical Education
Ms. ______________, Director
Skadden Fellowship Foundation
Four Times Square, Room 40-228
New York, NY 10036
Dear Ms. ______________:
I am writing to support S. N. (Students Name) application for a 200__ Skadden Fellowship. As her supervising attorney at South Brooklyn Legal Services this past summer, I can attest to S.’s outstanding research and writing skills as well as her passion for legal services work. Even as an intern, she was a tremendous asset to this office and made a real difference in the lives of the clients on whose cases she worked. As a staff attorney on a Skadden Fellowship, I know she would contribute more of the same top quality work I saw from her this summer and would help numerous Brooklyn residents facing the threat of displacement.
At the end of the summer, I submitted a lengthy evaluation of S.’s work as a summer intern to Northeastern University School of Law; I understand that my evaluation is in S.’s transcript and will be part of this application. While I therefore do not want to repeat those evaluation comments here, I do want to emphasize a few points.
First, in my five years as an attorney in the housing law unit at this office, I can honestly say that I have never had a better experience working with any summer intern. With every assignment I gave her, I could trust that S. would approach the work conscientiously and diligently, and would return with an exceptionally well-researched and well-written work product. In fact, towards the end of the summer, I left S. almost entirely on her own to handle a case involving wrongful termination of a client’s Section 8 subsidy. S. met with the client to identify the problem and collect relevant documents from her, identified the claims involved, and drafted the federal court complaint and the brief in support of an order to show cause. Her understanding of the issues was so accurate, and her writing so clear, that I barely edited the papers before filing them in court.
Second, it is not only S.’s research and writing skills that are superb. I observed her interactions with clients in settings ranging from court appearances to office appointments to tenant association meetings. Without exception, S. was compassionate, patient and professional. Likewise, she was articulate and confident in her interactions with opposing counsel in court.
Finally, I have met very few law students—and indeed, few young attorneys—who are as mature as S. is in their commitment to legal representation for the poor. She truly believes in the importance of the work and knows how to translate that belief into high quality advocacy. The attorneys at South Brooklyn Legal Services, as well as our clients, benefited enormously from S.’s dedication this past summer. We will be thrilled if she returns to this office as a Skadden Fellow.
My direct line is ( ) ____ -_____. Please feel free to call if I can
be of any further assistance.
Senior Staff Attorney
Housing Law Unit
Rhodes Scholarship Committee of Selection
Re: S. N. (Student's Name)
Dear Dr. H:
I write in support of S.N.’s candidacy for a Rhodes scholarship.
I supervised S. while she was a legal intern this past summer at the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, Child Support Enforcement Division (DOR). During her internship, S. performed legal research and writing on a variety of topics concerning the establishment and enforcement of child support obligations.
S. was one of the best interns that we have had at DOR. She took on very complex subject matter, and provided thorough, incisive and well-written analyses for our attorney staff on a consistent basis. She put a great deal of energy into her work, handling numerous assignments simultaneously, and completing them in a timely manner.
One assignment that S. completed under my supervision stands out in particular. In addition to analyzing the legal issues that had been presented to her, she identified several practical issues that had not previously been raised. In going this further step, S. demonstrated impressive analytical ability and initiative.
S. exhibited many personal qualities that will serve her well in life, such as persistence, openness to constructive feedback, and respect for other individuals in the workplace. In addition, K. has a sincere commitment to working on behalf of disadvantaged groups.
I hope that this information is useful to you in your evaluation of S.’s candidacy. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I may be of further assistance.
The National Association for Public Interest Law (NAPIL)
RE: Student Name's Application for a NAPIL Equal Justice Fellowship
The Multicultural Center enthusiastically recommends Student's Name as an exceptional candidate for a 2002 NAPIL Equal Justice Fellowship. S possesses not only a rare passion but also a proven commitment to provide access to justice for Northwest Arkansas' Latino community. These qualities will make her an invaluable asset to our clients.
I came to know S. in the Spring of 2001, while she was working with Southern Migrant Legal Services ("SMLS"). Early in her internship, she reached out to the Multicultural Center to educate our staff about workers rights, and related services available through SMLS. I came to learn that we were one of the many local service providers to the Latino community with which S. established a working relationship. She networked with the Spanish-language media, local attorneys working on a MALDEF racial profiling case, faith-based service providers, local immigration attorneys and other leading Hispanic advocates. She had the practical skills and personal warmth to enter a new community and immediately create links with knowledge and bilingual ability will immensely benefit our Amigas program.
I glimpsed S.'s rare personal commitment to helping the under-represented in March 2001, when our Center referred a non-English speaking undocumented Mexican man who had been injured on a construction job to her for assistance. Mary interviewed him and undertook to help him obtain workers' compensation. She accompanied him to the hospital and subsequent medical appointments to act as a bilingual interpreter; she communicated with his employer on his behalf; she called the workers' compensation insurance agent on his behalf; and eventually, she secured private legal representation for him by a local attorney specializing in workers' compensation. Only later did I learn that S. did not perform this assistance as part of her internship duties at SMLS. SMLS was barred by its funding sources from assisting undocumented workers. Nevertheless, S. took this case on as a personal project, over and above what her required internship obligations were.
I feel very confident in saying that S. would be a wise choice for this fellowship. She has been instrumental in shaping the nature of the fellowship project, and her participation in the Amigas project would make a significant difference to the lives of may of our clients. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need further informatio