October 8, 2018

How to Ask a Professor for a Law School Application Recommendation Letter

How to ask for law school letters of recommendation. When to ask for law school letters of recommendation. How to ask a professor for a recommendation letter. How to ask for a recommendation letter for law school. Mistakes to avoid when asking for law school recommendaiton letters. When to ask for a law school rec letter as a freshman. When to ask for a law school rec letter as a sophomore. When to ask for a law school rec letter as a junior. When to ask for a law school rec letter as a senior. How to choose a professor to write a rec letter for you. How to ask a professor to write a rec letter for you. What goes in a law school rec letter. Is a recommendation letter required for law school? Do law schools require letters of recommendation? law school advice. law school tips. | brazenandbrunette.com

Hellooooo! To all you 0L's out there, application time is coming up! I have actually had to ask for application rec letters twice since I had to get some for when I originally applied and then again when I transferred and I know they can be a pain, but you have to do them for your application. Today I'm walking you through a step-by-step process of how to get a great rec letter.

Related: Law school admissions timeline

Freshman - Junior year

Ideally you'll start on this sooner rather than later because it just makes it easier on yourself. I wouldn't really worry too much about this your freshman year because you're still adjusting from high school and usually end up taking lots of basics your first year of college, but if the opportunity presents itself definitely take it! If you're like me and like to overthink and have a game plan, here's what I would do. Obviously you want to be aiming for B's and A's in all of your college classes because you're going to want a good GPA when you apply to law school so step one would be the obvious of plan on doing great in all of your classes. 

About once a month, visit your professors office hours so he/she can get to know you. A head's up email to them is always polite but you definitely can just drop by during their office hours. If you have class or our busy during their office hours, you can instead email them and set up a time. This is a great time to make sure you're fully caught up and understanding what's going on in class to help you get those good grades, but it doesn't have to be a full-on study session. A quick 10-minute drop by just to ask a question or get clarification is enough to get a rapport going with your professor. During these office hour times, it is great to casually mention something like how you especially want to do good in their class because you hope to go to law school or somehow find a way to plug in law school.

As the semester progresses, you might notice that some professors are just not a perfect fit for you that probably wouldn't be your best bet to ask for a rec letter, and that's okay. Hopefully you'll find at least one professor who you really click with, are doing great in their class, and you think they would have the time eventually to write you a fabulous rec letter. At the end of the semester you could sign up to take another one of their classes so you can continue on building this relationship (if it works with your schedule) or if you don't think you'll be seeing them in class again then you can go ahead and ask them if in a year or two they'd be willing to write you a letter.

Keep repeating every semester until you graduate! Number 1 this will help you have great grades because you're putting in more-than-average effort into this class. And number 2 it's always great to have a stash of available professors for rec letters! Some may be willing to now but then get busy or move before you need them (or even say no) so it's best to have more than you need. Plus you can always use these recommenders for things like scholarships or program applications too!

Senior year

If you waited until the last minute to ask for rec letters, don't worry you're not totally screwed!  Sit down with a copy of your transcript and look back on what classes you did the best in. Remember that law school is a graduate school so ideally your rec letter will sing your praises as a law student, and someone can't exactly do that if you barely got a C in their class. Then go through this list and think back to your relationship with your professors and pick the top 6 (remember it's always better to have more for backups) that you really got along with and schedule a time to come visit their office hours. Some people to look at our professors from classes where you participated in a lot (for me these tended to be smaller classes) or people who were a faculty advisor for something that you were involved in.

One important thing for finding a recommender no matter what year of college you ask for it— choose the person not the class! I mean obviously if you did well in business law or any college class that was taught by a lawyer then they will really be able to know if you're law school material or not and talk on that. But seriously, if you got along way better with your Anthropology professor than you did with your PoliSci professor, pick the Anthropology one! Law schools won't weight one professor over another just because of what class it was. They're looking for some reassurance that you're a great learner who will be able to survive a studious workload, and they don't really care which professor is saying so. 

Anyways, stop by as soon as possible for a little reunion. Since some professors have literally hundreds of students each semester, you're probably going to have to remind them of who you are. Remind them what class you took with them and in what year, and what grade you got. It would be helpful if you had a graded paper or test by them to bring with you to help jog their memory or at least show how you performed in their class so they don't feel like you want them to make up parts of their letter. Ask them if they'd be okay with writing a letter and then schedule a follow-up meeting to discuss the rec letter if you're running out of time or go in to your request right then and there.

Asking for the rec letter

First off, make an appointment with your professor for when you ask them to write a rec letter for you. I think it's much more polite and professional to ask for a rec in person rather than in email. Do this ideally at least a month before you need the letter because you don't want to be cut-off halfway because they already had plans with another student or professor. Take this time to make sure that they understand 1) that they're writing this rec letter for law school; 2) why you want to go to law school; 3) why you want them in particular to write a letter for you; 4) how they will have to go to LSAC and upload their rec letter; and 5) a due date 2 weeks before you actually want to have the letter in (because they get busy).

On the day you go to ask your professor with a rec letter, make sure you bring a copy of your law school application resumé with you! It'll help your recommender know even more about you and why you would make a great law student so they can mention some of that in their letter. This can be longer than your law school resumé if you have even more involvement, accomplishments, or anything else that you think might be helpful for them to think about as they're writing your rec letter. Oh, and definitely make sure you have your GPA on it because at first I didn't have that but then had a professor ask for it.

If you have good grades and feel comfortable showing these to your professor, it's okay to print off a copy of your transcript. This way you can talk to your professor and point out some of your other strong areas. So if in my example above you're asking your Anthropology professor to write a rec letter but all your work in that class was multiple choice quizzes and tests, you could point out if you've been getting good grades in writing classes so that they know you're also a good writer. They might not end up needing/using this information, but it's nice to have a little packet all ready for them to make it easier on them to write a great and compelling letter for you.

Last tips

One tip I have for all law school applicants is choose quality over status! I know this post has been all about professors, but really you can ask a wider variety of people for rec letters. But I have heard over and over again about how political figures in your community or who you have interned for tend to have a rec letter template that is completely generic and used for you and the 3 people who also asked for a rec letter that same day. And partners at a big law firm that you interned for over the summer are usually just as busy and sometimes have a member of their staff write something about you for them, which again will probably a little generic. If this person did not get to personally know you, don't waste your time. The ideal rec letter would be enough that it could convince the ad com committee that they just have to admit you to their school. Sure, they probably won't based off only this one letter, but it definitely won't help.

Don't procrastinate and stay on top of your due dates! Remember that these people have full-time jobs and most likely a family, too. They're busy and have papers to grade, conferences to attend... you get the point. You want to be able to give them enough time to write the rec letter because it's just really rude to ask them to do you a favor, but then be demanding that they set aside their entire life to do you this favor right now since you waited until the last minute. If you haven't heard back from them for a few weeks after you asked, you might want to send a follow-up email reminding them of your highlight points and due dates. Basically enough information that they could quickly type something out on their phone right then before they go to bed.

Do as much work for them as possible! After you leave their office, go to LSAC and register them as a recommender (here's how to do that). Fill out as much as you can and have it all ready for them just in case they decided to upload your letter that day. You probably still can't navigate around LSAC that easily, so imagine how confusing and frustrating it would be for someone who has maybe never even heard of LSAC. Remember that you're the one asking them for the favor, so try to make to make it as easy as possible for them so they don't end up regretting it. Especially because you never know if you'll need them to write you another rec letter in the future.

let's be friends!


October 1, 2018

How Working Out Helped My Law School Anxiety and Depression

7 ways exercise helped with my law school anxiety and my law school depression during my first year of law school. How to handle law school depression and anxiety. How do you cope with law school depression. How exercise helped with my depression. Ways to handle law school depression. What to do if you feel depressed in law school. My struggle with depression in law school. How to deal with law school stress. How to deal with law school anxiety. Exercise for stress and anxiety | brazenandbrunette.com

Well hi there! Okay so... pretty deep post, I know. I always care about how my fellow law students are doing both academically and emotionally, but around October I always become a bleeding heart for y'all, and especially for the 1L's. This is because for me, October was really when I started to feel like I was sinking more than I was swimming, all the stressors of law school finally caught up to me, and TBH it was hard for me. I've heard between 25%-33% of first year law students feel depressed so today I'm sharing what helped me.

Related: Why I almost dropped out of law school and How to get over a mid-semester burnout

Obviously to each their own and what works for one person might not work for another, but maybe after hearing how working out helped me mentally you'll be able to find your own thing that has the same benefits. I should forewarn you though that I don't get a runner's high nor ever claim that a workout flew by because I was having so much fun. The reality is that while I'm working out I truly don't enjoy myself and instead count down until it's over. I actually stressed out over still being stressed while I was working out and kept worrying that if I wasn't able to "clear my held" during a run or while doing yoga, that there was no hope for me. Here's how I found out it helped me anyways.

For another law student's take, check out this post by Caffeine and Case Briefs

It got me in to a routine

When I was feeling depressed my 1L year, I slowly shut out the world and stopped doing anything. Seriously, my life was just school, come home and read for school, and then just nothing. I'd just lay in bed for an entire weekend and not do anything because I had no motivation to participate in life. 

But once I started working out, I had to add this to my daily to-do's and it started to get me back in to a routine. Instead of just school and then nothing, I had school and working out. It doesn't sound like much, but just having something to take away from how much "nothing" time I had really helped. Instead of thinking okay now that class is over I guess I'll go get in bed and stare at the wall I was thinking okay now that class is over I need to go change for my workout. Just this little thing helped me get back in to my pre-law school, normal routine.

It made me sleep

The absolute worst night of my 1L year was when I went to bed at 10pm when my bedtime alarm went off, and I just laid there listening to my sleep noise app for the entire hour and a half and realized that I was still awake at 11:30 even though my body felt tired. So I sat there and just thought because my mind was wide awake and the next time I checked the clock it was 2am. This continued as I tried every suggestion that Google had to help me fall asleep until I finally passed out sometime after 6am. I had a 9am class the next morning and it was literally hell. Those 2 hours of sleep were the worst I ever got, but it was very common for me at that time to just never get a good night's rest because I was just so unhappy and unconnected from the world.

After I started working out, my body became sore and needed sleep to rest and recover my muscles. This made me exhausted in a different way than how feeling depressed made me exhausted and I finally started to actually fall asleep without hours of effort and would sleep soundly the whole night and actually wake up feeling normal. This started to make such a huge difference in me because I no longer felt like a shell of a person just going through the motions but actually felt like a normal person again.

It gave me an appetite

Usually I'm a stress eater so it was totally foreign to me when I suddenly had no appetite at all and was having to force myself to choke down buttered toast just to make the hungry headaches go away. It was actually scary for me because I've never had an eating problem and was afraid that this was going to spiral into something that I couldn't control like the people you see on Dr. Phil. Plus there was the obvious effect of not fueling my body so I just felt drained all the time and was starting to not be able to even focus in class.

But oh boy, I did a good hour-long workout and for the first time in weeks I was starving! Before the loss of appetite I had been falling back on junk food and it felt revitalizing to eat some real, nutritious food for once. By the end of my first week of working out I was starting to eat like a normal human again and it felt like I was getting back to myself.

It corrected my bad habits

You've probably heard plenty of times that lawyers have a high tendency to be alcoholics, and I can totally see why. It's super common to have some drinks after you bomb a cold-call or a test and that's what all 1L's seem to do together, which is fine in moderation. But when it stops being fine is if you start to drink every single day or start to get drunk constantly instead of just having a drink. 

Working out turned out to be a solution to that. One kinda tipsy workout made me learn to never drink the same day I'm working out and one hungover workout made me learn to limit my drinks the night before I workout. Both times were absolutely terrible and nauseating, but they were good tools to help me remember what are and aren't normal (and healthy) drinking patterns. Now I'm still not a person who has a bad day and wants to go straight to the gym to workout my frustrations, but at least now I'm the person who is like okay I'm stopping because I've already had one drink and I don't want to throw up during tomorrow's workout. I realize how ridiculous this sounds but I'm also grateful that I already learned this lesson and found a solution that worked for me before it ended up ruining my career.

It helped with the everyday tasks

One weird thing about feeling depressed is that the repetitive everyday tasks just really upset me. I would either feel so physically and mentally exhausted that I couldn't even entertain the idea of washing the dishes or I would just cry thinking what's the point of washing and putting up dishes if I'm just going to have to get them down and dirty them up again?? And this didn't just apply to dishes— laundry, washing my hair, shaving, picking up around my apartment all just made me feel like what's the point?? 

But a 3-mile run will make your clothes and body sweaty and my new appetite made me dirty up dishes again, so I had to get back to normal cleaning duties. Like I mentioned above, this helped me get back in to my normal pre-law school routines. It also made me self-conscious about how I was presenting myself and it's amazing how shaving and actually doing your hair can make you feel like your old self again. This is also why now I firmly believe in the saying a cluttered house is a cluttered mind.

It gave me confidence

A nice side-effect of working out frequently is that you start to tone up. Class wasn't so bad when my shorts went from being a little too tight and uncomfortable while I was sitting at my desk to being a little looser and more comfortable. I felt better going to events when I wore a dress that I used to look fine in suddenly made me look damn good. 

I wasn't necessarily body-conscious before, but having baby abs show up definitely made me feel good about myself! And then this confidence started spilling over into how I felt about myself at school and it helped break me out of this negative mindset that I had been in for way too long. 

It helped me live out Legally Blonde

Exercise gives you endorphins, and endorphins make you happy. Happy people just handle law school stress better than truly unhappy people. All jokes aside, it really did help me get out of all the ruts I found myself in when I was having severe anxiety and feeling depressed from law school. If you're starting to feel like you're in a law school rut, I encourage you to try out exercising for everyday for a few weeks and see if it helps! Even if it just helps you feel like a 4 instead of a 3 on a given day, that's still an improvement. 

And if you're reading how I was feeling and realizing that you've been feeling the same way, please try to talk to someone. Whether it's your pet, your bestie at another school, your classmate, or your school counselor, I promise you it really does help to have someone that you don't have to say "fine" when you're asked about law school. In fact, it feels kinda freeing to be able to message/talk to them and be like this is just a really shitty week and talk to them until you forget what you're upset about. If you don't feel like you have someone like this, you can always just anonymously reach out to me by using the Questions and Suggestions box at the bottom right :) 

For all you on the struggle bus rn, hang in there!