How to Write a Great Recommendation Letter

At some point in your legal career, you may be asked to write a letter of recommendation for a colleague. The letter may be part of an application for a credential, membership in a professional society, a certain job or even an academic degree.

If you’re unfamiliar with writing recommendation letters, producing one can seem daunting. Here’s how to write an outstanding letter of recommendation for a colleague or friend.

Ask for Details

Before you begin, talk to your colleague or friend. Ask why they need this letter of recommendation, as well as what the audience is looking for.

Questions that can help you clarify the task before you decide what to write include:

  • What should I know about the (position, company, organization, credential, etc.) you’re applying for?
  • To whom should I address this letter? What can you tell me about this person?
  • Are there any specific time frames, projects, skills or traits you’d like me to talk about?
  • Why did you think of me to write this letter?

If you’re being asked for a letter of recommendation, chances are you have a warm relationship with the person asking you to write the letter, and you want to present them in their best light possible. These questions will help you do that.

Stick to the Genre

Those who review letters of recommendation read a lot of them. They’re expecting a certain format, and following that format makes it easier for the reader to retain the information in your letter. Structure your letter in the following way:

  • Explain your relationship to the candidate. How do you know this person? How long have you worked with them? Often, this step can be addressed in one to two sentences.
  • Evaluate the candidate’s work. The single largest portion of the letter, your evaluation should focus answering the reader’s question, “Why should we consider this person?” Give concrete examples of results and achievements.
  • Compare the candidate to others you’ve worked with. The most important part is to be honest. In one or two sentences, compare the candidate to others you’ve worked with to help them stand out.

Once you’ve finished the heart of the letter, it’s time to prepare it for viewing.

Attend to the Details

Edit your letter so it’s no more than one page. Use white space and other features to keep the letter organized, so the reader can absorb its contents quickly. Use official letterhead, if appropriate, and include your name and contact information beneath your signature.

At Kent Legal, our recruiters help legal support professionals connect with some of the best job opportunities and employers in the greater Toronto area. To learn more about our legal career opportunities in Vaughan and beyond, contact us today.

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