How to Get Strong Letters of Recommendation from Professors
- Paul Corrigan offers great advice on how to ensure that your recommendation letters do you the most good. Please read and follow this advice.
Graduate School: What to Consider Before Applying
- “Want to Go to Grad School in English?” by Paul T. Corrigan. (Read this at least 6 times).
- “Should I Get a Ph.D.?” by Jay Lemke. (You should read this and heed his advice on deciding whether, and where, to pursue the doctorate. I’d add this reminder to Lemke’s advice: he emphasizes faculty over curriculum, which is worth considering, but never go to grad school just to study under one particular professor, no matter how important they seem. Many of the “big names” move around as much as pro ballplayers do–always looking for a better deal. You don’t want to put all your eggs in one prof’s basket and watch them leave for another university halfway through your program. That’s why Lemke emphasizes finding departments with more than one prominent person in X area.)
- “Just Look at the Data, if You Can Find Any” by William Pannapacker (Be sure to click the link and read his earlier writings on graduate school in the humanities and the tough academic job market. Also, be advised that “humanities” does not necessarily mean “rhetoric and composition,” or “digital humanities,” areas in which the job market is stronger, though still highly competitive).
- “On Graduate School and Love,” also by Pannapacker. (“So the rhetoric of “love” has an ambiguous meaning when it’s applied to graduate school. It can be impossibly idealistic, and deeply rooted in powerful experiences that override economic self-interest. It also can be deeply cynical, a means of devaluing the work of some for the benefit of others.”)
- “Moving the Goalposts in Graduate Education” by Marc Bosquet (“As responsible analysts have understood since the mid-1990s, this [lack of tenure-track jobs] isn’t because of an oversupply of Ph.D.s but an intentionally created undersupply of tenure-stream positions. Beginning in 1970, administrators began systematically turning teaching-intensive jobs into part-time or nontenurable positions that — they claim — don’t require a Ph.D.“)
- “Alt-ac Careers and the Purposes of Humanities Doctoral Programs” (by Alex Reid, on his blog Digital Digs:
- “Spending 8 years getting a PhD in the humanities probably doesn’t make good financial sense. So don’t do it for that reason. (I know, that’s a shocker.)
- If you want to get a PhD for other, non-financial reasons, then, as they say, “it’s a free country.” However, it’s important to have both a national and program-level understanding of the career prospects of your degree, because at some point you will be looking for a job and you should at least make an informed decision.
- For different reasons, we should make an effort to create better careers for college teachers, though even if we did, point #1 would still apply.
- Part of creating such college positions should be thinking about the alternative-academic careers PhDs pursue on our campuses and ensuring as well as we can that those are well-paid and secure positions.”
- Finding Fit (Cheryl Ball’s advice on understanding the various kinds of academic jobs. Useful for planning where to attend grad school and what you might do after you complete grad school.)
Statements of Purpose and Personal Statements
In addition to the #1 bit of advice to “write the statement only you could write” (i.e., don’t be generic, predictable, or a walking cliche), read and consider this advice. These statements will require 10-20 drafts to be truly effective.
Graduate or Law School
- “Hiding it from the Kids” (A statement of purpose is a painful, awkward, and difficult genre for most, but Graff can help you succeed.) This is a must-read. It is geared toward graduate school, but it is also applicable to law school.
- If the link is broken (PDFs that professors put online sometimes aren’t there later), you can retrieve the article from JSTOR. It’s in College English 62.2 (1999), 242-54.
- “How to Write a Great Statement of Purpose” (Vince Gotera offers some more useful advice.)
- Law School Personal Statement Dos and Don’ts (Georgetown University’s Cawley Career Education Center)
- Wheaton College provides examples of law school personal statements
Start Here: “Should I Go to Law School?” Answer each of these questions in order. Discuss them with me.
- PreLaw, an online resource from the National Jurist
- Law School Transparency‘s reports by school, which can be filtered by state, etc.
- Miles LeBlanc’s review of Glass Half Full: the Decline and Rebirth of the Legal Profession by Benjamin Barton (read this review, then consider buying and reading the book itself).
- Charles Lipson’s “Law School Advice: A Few Thoughts about about Applying to Law School”
- Tax Prof Blog: “Government Cuts Projection Of 2014-2024 Lawyer Jobs By 41%: 16K Jobs For 37k Law Grads Each Year“
- Preparing for Law School by the American Bar Association (This resource offers advice about which courses might make a difference in an admissions officer’s eyes and which might prepare you best for the rigors of law school.)
- Fields of Law (Law School Admission Council) (Generally, what kinds of work do lawyers do?)
- Some Friendly Advice to New Law Students by Ken “Popehat” White. (If you don’t know who he is, start following his “Popehat” blog, especially the “lawsplainers”)
- Advice for Students Considering Law School from the Career Services office at the University of Pennsylvania. (“Most students, upon entering law school and beginning a legal career, have had little exposure to the practice of law beyond what they know from television shows and feature films. Yet despite this relative lack of knowledge, many may embark on a costly and demanding course of study without exploring its professional and personal suitability. Before you begin the process of applying to law school, it is often a wise idea to evaluate your skills, abilities, interests, and goals.”)
- ABA/LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools (This annual guide contains a wealth of information about preparing for law school, the course of study in law school, and about particular law schools).
- Advice on Law School Personal Statements from the University of Chicago (Read and follow the instructions for each school, because they vary. This page offers good general advice.)
- “Is Law School a Good Deal After All?” by Jordan Weissmann (Read and consider carefully.)
- To keep abreast of the latest developments in law school admissions and curricula, get a Google account and set a news alert for “law school.” You can set the alerts for a manageable volume, e.g., once a week, and then skim them at your leisure to find the items you wish to read further.
Materials That Every Law Student (and Lawyer) Should Own
If you do decide to go to law school, you should buy, read, and annotate the following:
- Orin Kerr’s “How to Read a Legal Opinion” (Great practical advice.)
- Lon Fuller’s classic “The Case of the Speluncean Explorers” (See also the extensive commentary by scholars and follow-up opinions, which a Google search will reveal. This is a performance of particular legal philosophies and very useful to see how particular approaches to the law play out in deciding a case).
- Bryan Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage, 3d. ed., Redbook: A Manual of Legal Style, 3d ed., and Modern English Usage (also sign up for his Law Prose Lessons)
- Wilson Huhn’s The 5 Types of Legal Argument, 2d ed.
- Richard Farnsworth’s The Legal Analyst: A Toolkit for Thinking about the Law
- Ross Guberman’s Point Made: How to Write Like the Nation’s Top Advocates, 2d ed.
- David S. Romantz and Kathleen Elliott Vinson’s Legal Analysis
- Philip Bobbitt’s Constitutional Interpretation
- Richard A. Posner’s How Judges Think, ch. 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, and Conclusion