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Whether it’s applying to law school or a legal job, we in the legal profession are often called upon to provide references and letters of recommendation from individuals, preferably prominent individuals, who will vouch for us. Schools and employers will then rely upon these (hopefully) good words in making their decision to accept or reject. While usually only part of the process, impressive recommendations and references can help compensate for shortcomings in other areas. Providing schools and employers with impressive recommendations is really no problem. It’s no problem if you just finished your clerkship at the U.S. Supreme Court and Sandra Day O’Connor thinks you are the most talented individual she’s ever worked with — and is willing to put that in writing. But what about the rest of us? If you’re like me and don’t have any Supreme Court justices handy, you will be forced to select references from the following cast of characters in your life: 1.A college professor who has no recollection of you or your work. Your goal has always been to stay away from professors, not be their friend. That approach worked just fine for you — and for your professors. Now, however, you need these people and wish you had been more like those groupies who followed professors around campus and asked a lot of questions during class. Desperate, you go down the list of your professors and find one who you once visited during office hours. Sure, the visit I’m talking about was to complain about a C the TA gave you on an exam. Still, you did have a conversation with this professor. You can use that conversation to get in the door and beg your former professor for a letter of recommendation. 2.Former employers. Another possible recommender is a former boss. The fact that you once worked together, however, does not guarantee that a stellar recommendation is coming your way from a former supervisor. You knew that job was not leading anywhere important — and you treated it accordingly. The only reason you didn’t get fired is because they knew you were on your way to law school. Now, the most your former supervisor can say about you are things like “she seemed well-adjusted” and “he was often punctual.” 3.Your friends’ parents. These people might not be prominent in the legal profession but may nonetheless have some standing in the community. By that, I mean they have real letterhead that can be used to write a letter of recommendation and a phone number that can be dialed when references are checked. Still, they are your friends’ parents and it’s likely there’s still some ill feelings about something you made their son or daughter do years earlier. Or it may be that you will have a problem getting them to say something good about you because, let’s face it, they never really liked you. Same problem with your own parents. 4.LettersofRec.com. The Internet is a great resource. Be it prefabricated term papers or bogus letters of recommendation, you can find it there. Do some searching to find just the right language describing you and have it electronically inserted into a letter. On second thought, find language that describes how you would like to present yourself. They will even ship letters of recommendation directly to your potential law schools or employers. There is perhaps a better way than relying on other people to sing your praises. That is to pick people who cannot say anything bad about you. They also can’t say anything good about you because they are too difficult to reach. In other words, carefully select bogus references that will be impossible for your potential law school or employer to verify. Just the appearance of the following names on a list of references could be your ticket to the Ivy League or a high profits-per-partner law firm: Salman Rushdie Roman Polanski Jimmy Hoffa Michael Rockefeller Queen Elizabeth II Michael Jackson Amelia Earhart The Rodent If you’re still in need of one more recommendation, write about yourself. Now is your chance. Lie to yourself as much as you want. Others won’t necessarily know the truth. And if all that fails, you can rely on your other credentials to get you through. That, however, is not recommended. The Rodent is a syndicated columnist and author of “Explaining the Inexplicable: The Rodent’s Guide to Lawyers.” His e-mail address is [email protected]

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