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Aschenbach

Building Relationships with Professors

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Posted (edited)

This is kind of a weird topic, but I am curious how one would go about building a relationship with a professor. I finished 1L with above average grades yet I have not really built any relationships with my professors that I would feel comfortable asking them for a reference letter.

I participate in class but not excessively and I am by nature a reserved, introverted individual. I would like to have an academic reference for OCIs and job applications. Any advice on what people here have done in the past?

Edited by Aschenbach
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You're asking the real questions! I wonder this myself. 1L was such a weird time and it felt like there was so much going on that trying to build a relationship with a professor outside of class was definitely on the back burner. Sorry I don't have any advice, but would like to tag along on this post. 😁

I don't think it would be too random to just email a prof who taught in an area you're interested in about... something?

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Yeah, I feel like this is something that's probably hard to manufacture and as @thebadwife said, who has the time in 1L? I didn't really. 

If you're looking for a formula, I think it would have to start earlier in the semester. Go to office hours. Demonstrate interest in the material. Go to events the professor is participating in. Write down questions that occur to you when you are reading and be ready to ask them in class or in office hours. 

For professors I liked, I dropped them an email after the last class, thanking them and letting them know I liked the course. They seemed to appreciate it, but who knows? I think Profs are pretty wary of students angling to get letters. 

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Posted (edited)

Yeah, 1L was a whirlwind and I didn't even think about these things. When school starts again I think I'll drop by office hours more often as opposed to asking questions in class or sending an email. I think it may lead to a dialogue instead of simply a question and answer interaction.

Edited by Aschenbach
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Just ask. In my experience, if they know who you are and if you got a good grade in the course, most of them are more than happy to write a letter for you. 

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Posted (edited)
  1. Go to office hours
  2. Chat with them before/after class
  3. Go to school events that profs attend and talk to them
  4. Join topic-specific clubs like Criminal Law, Business Law, Human Rights Law, etc. and invite the profs of those topics to get involved
  5. Become a RA for a prof
  6. Volunteer for a prof's initiatives (in BC we have A2J week and the prof at my school looks for volunteers to help, another prof also sought student volunteers to help with a project related to COVID-19)
  7. Join your law student society/faculty committees to get more face time with faculty and admin in a more level setting. I was on Faculty Council for two years which meant I spent 1.5 hours every month sitting at a conference table with all the tenured profs. By the end my relationship with a lot of them was more familiar than your standard prof/student connection.

Note: I didn't start properly building relationships with profs until 2L. Once I was able to take electives and get more involved in ECs it became easier to build those relationships.

Edited by canuckfanatic
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On 5/17/2020 at 5:51 PM, canuckfanatic said:
  1. Go to office hours
  2. Chat with them before/after class
  3. Go to school events that profs attend and talk to them
  4. Join topic-specific clubs like Criminal Law, Business Law, Human Rights Law, etc. and invite the profs of those topics to get involved
  5. Become a RA for a prof
  6. Volunteer for a prof's initiatives (in BC we have A2J week and the prof at my school looks for volunteers to help, another prof also sought student volunteers to help with a project related to COVID-19)
  7. Join your law student society/faculty committees to get more face time with faculty and admin in a more level setting. I was on Faculty Council for two years which meant I spent 1.5 hours every month sitting at a conference table with all the tenured profs. By the end my relationship with a lot of them was more familiar than your standard prof/student connection.

Note: I didn't start properly building relationships with profs until 2L. Once I was able to take electives and get more involved in ECs it became easier to build those relationships.

This. 

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But also, I did none of those things and still have close relationships with profs. So if you’re not the kind of person that goes to office hours or joins clubs, know that you aren’t screwed. 

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From my 1L experience, I think it depends on the professor. 

I asked and received a recommendation letter from one of my professors. I went to every class, sat directly in the front of the classroom, participated frequently, corresponded with the professor via email, and attended office hours regularly. I also got a very good mark in the class. However, this professor made clear to me that he was still highly reluctant to write me a recommendation letter because I was only a first year law student who had not previously taken courses or worked with him (think RA position) in any other capacity. For this particular professor, a recommendation letter/reference letter was something that one needed to 'build up to' by really developing a relationship with a professor over the course of (I assume) the first two years of law school. 

I guess what I'm saying is, don't be surprised if a professor gives you an odd look when you ask for a letter in 1L. 

 

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6 minutes ago, TheRealKingKong said:

From my 1L experience, I think it depends on the professor. 

I asked and received a recommendation letter from one of my professors. I went to every class, sat directly in the front of the classroom, participated frequently, corresponded with the professor via email, and attended office hours regularly. I also got a very good mark in the class. However, this professor made clear to me that he was still highly reluctant to write me a recommendation letter because I was only a first year law student who had not previously taken courses or worked with him (think RA position) in any other capacity. For this particular professor, a recommendation letter/reference letter was something that one needed to 'build up to' by really developing a relationship with a professor over the course of (I assume) the first two years of law school. 

I guess what I'm saying is, don't be surprised if a professor gives you an odd look when you ask for a letter in 1L. 

 

Yeah, look, this is a YMMV situation.

I’m not sure there’s a single class in law school where I attended every class, although I attended class regularly in 1L. I don’t sit in the front of classrooms. I participate with some regularity, but generally only to get past those insufferable “does anybody know the answer to x? Anybody? Anybody at all” moments. I don’t think I’ve ever emailed a professor for any reason except to explain an absence from a seminar or to request a reference. 

In short, our experience couldn’t be more different. The only real similarity is receiving good marks. Despite that, I had no problem scrounging up strong reference letters from three professors during my time in law school, and nobody gave me weird looks. 

As with all relationships, relationships with professors will develop in different ways for different people.

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5 minutes ago, BlockedQuebecois said:

As with all relationships, relationships with professors will develop in different ways for different people.

And to add to this, some professors are really weird with who they write references for and what they see as prereqs for it (experienced this in my undergrad with a prof who wrote me a great one for law school, and denied my friend on a basis I found questionable)

And further, sometimes you don't know which profs actually like you and which profs don't. I've had profs I'm sure hated me turn out to love me, and vice versa.

Human beings are weird.

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3 minutes ago, pzabbythesecond said:

Human beings are weird.

Indeed. 

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I struggled at making connections with profs in 1L. All the students are eager so profs get bombarded with messages after every lecture and it's hard to stand out in a relatively large class. My 2L OCI reference was from a prof for whom I RA'd. It gets easier in 2L when classes are smaller and you can show more interest in specific areas. I have at least three profs now that I could definitely get a decent reference from.

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6 minutes ago, chaboywb said:

I struggled at making connections with profs in 1L. All the students are eager so profs get bombarded with messages after every lecture and it's hard to stand out in a relatively large class. My 2L OCI reference was from a prof for whom I RA'd. It gets easier in 2L when classes are smaller and you can show more interest in specific areas. I have at least three profs now that I could definitely get a decent reference from.

Its good to hear that letters are easier to come by in 2L. I went into LS thinking that letters would be easy to attain if I got decent midterm grades and attended office hours regularly. 

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There's no precise formula for building relationships with professors, but showing initiative and interest helps. I've had professors reach out to me about possibly RA'ing simply because I always came to class prepared, showed interest, and came with a notepad to any meeting (seriously, I can't believe how many students ask for help and show up empty handed, without anything to write on and without prepared questions). Obviously good grades really helps with this. 

One thing I would suggest is to apply to TA/RA for any class that you have done well in after first year. Reach out to your professors and directly show interest by inquiring about the possibility. The worst thing that can happen is they say no and think you're a keener (which isn't a bad thing when seeking a reference). I think the opportunity for this differs depending on the school, but it is incredibly helpful and results in a solid reference letter. 

I'd say the experience of BlockedQ is more the exception than the rule. Showing initiative and interest is important unless you're sure you'll get amazing grades, which you won't really know until it's too late. 

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3 hours ago, WindsorHopeful said:

There's no precise formula for building relationships with professors, but showing initiative and interest helps. I've had professors reach out to me about possibly RA'ing simply because I always came to class prepared, showed interest, and came with a notepad to any meeting (seriously, I can't believe how many students ask for help and show up empty handed, without anything to write on and without prepared questions). Obviously good grades really helps with this. 

One thing I would suggest is to apply to TA/RA for any class that you have done well in after first year. Reach out to your professors and directly show interest by inquiring about the possibility. The worst thing that can happen is they say no and think you're a keener (which isn't a bad thing when seeking a reference). I think the opportunity for this differs depending on the school, but it is incredibly helpful and results in a solid reference letter. 

I'd say the experience of BlockedQ is more the exception than the rule. Showing initiative and interest is important unless you're sure you'll get amazing grades, which you won't really know until it's too late. 

Well said. 

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On 7/3/2020 at 11:59 AM, WindsorHopeful said:

There's no precise formula for building relationships with professors, but showing initiative and interest helps. I've had professors reach out to me about possibly RA'ing simply because I always came to class prepared, showed interest, and came with a notepad to any meeting (seriously, I can't believe how many students ask for help and show up empty handed, without anything to write on and without prepared questions). Obviously good grades really helps with this. 

One thing I would suggest is to apply to TA/RA for any class that you have done well in after first year. Reach out to your professors and directly show interest by inquiring about the possibility. The worst thing that can happen is they say no and think you're a keener (which isn't a bad thing when seeking a reference). I think the opportunity for this differs depending on the school, but it is incredibly helpful and results in a solid reference letter. 

I'd say the experience of BlockedQ is more the exception than the rule. Showing initiative and interest is important unless you're sure you'll get amazing grades, which you won't really know until it's too late. 

1. Do well in his or her class and participate in lecture;

2. Ask if there is an extra-curricular project you could work with him or her with (research, etc.);

3. Ask for a reference; and

4. Repeat 1-3 as necessary. 

The best references are usually practitioners as opposed to academics. One of my references put in 11/10 effort to get me my first articling position during his summer break post-retirement, so a good reference can make a big difference. 

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On 7/3/2020 at 12:59 PM, WindsorHopeful said:

There's no precise formula for building relationships with professors, but showing initiative and interest helps. I've had professors reach out to me about possibly RA'ing simply because I always came to class prepared, showed interest, and came with a notepad to any meeting (seriously, I can't believe how many students ask for help and show up empty handed, without anything to write on and without prepared questions). Obviously good grades really helps with this. 

One thing I would suggest is to apply to TA/RA for any class that you have done well in after first year. Reach out to your professors and directly show interest by inquiring about the possibility. The worst thing that can happen is they say no and think you're a keener (which isn't a bad thing when seeking a reference). I think the opportunity for this differs depending on the school, but it is incredibly helpful and results in a solid reference letter. 

I'd say the experience of BlockedQ is more the exception than the rule. Showing initiative and interest is important unless you're sure you'll get amazing grades, which you won't really know until it's too late. 

Good advice. This is exactly what I did get get an RA job, and I didn't even do particularly well. (I got a B in the course, maybe a B+, but certainly not an A.)

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On 5/17/2020 at 12:28 AM, Aschenbach said:

This is kind of a weird topic, but I am curious how one would go about building a relationship with a professor. I finished 1L with above average grades yet I have not really built any relationships with my professors that I would feel comfortable asking them for a reference letter.

I participate in class but not excessively and I am by nature a reserved, introverted individual. I would like to have an academic reference for OCIs and job applications. Any advice on what people here have done in the past?

Just ask! Worst case, they say no. If you participate and do reasonably well, they know who you are and wouldn't mind doing something.

 

Note, some profs may end up sending the letter directly to the firm, they can be weird like that so be careful. Good luck.

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