Why You Should Build Relationships with Professors: What Your Professors Want You to Know Part III

Many students wonder how they can improve their relationships and interactions with their professors and when it’s okay to ask for help. We asked BYU Law professors what they want their students to know about these concerns. This is the third post in a three-part series.

cookbenjamin-j-212Professor Ben Cook:

One significant benefit that comes from building relationships with your professors is it helps them write stronger letters of recommendation. Many law students will need letters for clerkships or other employment opportunities, and I’ve found I can write a stronger letter if I know you better. If you have a genuine interest in your professor’s research or teaching area, getting to know her or him better helps you demonstrate your interest and shows a certain level of commitment to pursuing that area of law.

A few specific benefits of getting to know me better include the chance to see the “Michelangelo Baseball” print on my office wall, hear about how I came to own the world’s largest private collection of lawyer biographies, get a behind-the-scenes history of my “In Defense of Utah” presentation, and gaze at my awesome bike (especially diligent students are occasionally allowed to touch the bike).

origerictalbotjensen1312485872Professor Eric Jensen:

Getting to know a professor on a more personal level is a really important aspect of law school. This is particularly true in an area where the student is interested in working.  It allows a professor to get to know the student better which allows him or her to write a better letter of recommendation for that student. It may also present an opportunity for that student to work on research or assist the professor in writing.  That would also provide the student with the chance to delve into the specific subject matter much more deeply and to do it under the direction of the professor who is the expert in the area.  Most importantly, it creates a mentor-mentee relationship which provides another level of assistance to the student in law school. This relationship will also last beyond law school and build a lasting friendship.

curtisanderson1450300016Professor Curtis Anderson:

Sometimes who you know is as important as what you know. BYU Law is a fantastic place to develop relationships with faculty, law school staff, and fellow students. In the future, these relationships can be valuable in many ways.


origaaronnielson1358196191Professor Aaron Nielson:

I graduated from law school nine years ago. I recently sent an email to one of my favorite professors.  As careers unfold, it is nice to be able to check in with a professor.  But that only works if relationships are built during law school.  Likewise, students never know when they will need a letter of recommendation – life is funny that way.


origlynnwardle1248882894Professor Lynn Wardle:

It is rewarding for a professor to see a student grow, improve, and accomplish. I enjoyed such relationships with a couple of my Duke Law School professors.  And, I greatly enjoy seeing some of the students I have taught and mentored develop and succeed in their legal careers. It is not just the “superstar” law students that I remember and value, but the ones who allowed me to help, encourage, and cheer them on.


Tips to Remember

  1. The quality of the letters of recommendation professors will write for you will be directly impacted by your relationships with them.
  2. Getting to know a professor who specializes in something you are interested in can help you to better understand the opportunities and challenges within that field of law.
  3. Developing relationships with professors is not only a good thing to do, it is an enjoyable endeavor!

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