Recommendations by Law Professors: Three Scenarios

Imagine you are a law professor at School X. In the course of one day, you are asked to provide an opinion in the following three different situations. (For the record, all three scenarios are just hypotheticals; happily, none are based on any actual events within the last several years.)

1. You are attending admitted students’ day. An admitted student asks you for your advice on whether to enroll at your school or at School Y. School Y happens to be an excellent school, and you think it is probably in the student’s best interest to go to school Y. On the other hand, you know it is in your own school’s best interest for the student to enroll at school X.

2. You receive a call from an acquaintance who is a partner at a large law firm in town. Your acquaintance asks you for your opinion of a particular student of yours who has applied for a job at his law firm. You know the firm has high standards, and you happen to think the student is not strong. On the other hand, you really want your student to get a job.

3. You receive a call from an associate dean at another law school asking you to write a review of another professor’s work for his tenure file. You agree to do so. You happen to know and like the other professor, and so you want him to get tenure. But when you read his work closely to write the letter, you reach the conclusion that his work isn’t strong.

What do you tell the admitted student about where to enroll? What do you tell your acquaintance about whether to hire the student? And what do you say in your letter about the quality of the professor’s work?