References for JD Applicants

Online application

While your referees have until 11:59 p.m. MST on February 15 to provide their references, you must provide the names and contact information for your two referees within the online application.

Our system will auto-generate an email to each referee with a unique link to our online reference form within two weeks after you submit your application.

By submitting your application, you are confirming that you have received consent from your referees and informed them that UCalgary Law will be contacting them by email to obtain the reference.

Referee types

We prefer academic referees when assessing applications, because they can answer questions about their experience with you in an academic setting. An academic referee is someone who taught you at a post-secondary institution.

If you are unable to find academic referees, then you may choose to use professional referees. A professional referee is someone who has interacted with you in a professional capacity, such as an employer or an individual with an organization for which you have volunteered.

We understand that applicants who have been out of school for many years may find it hard to obtain academic referees, and so must choose professional referees. There is space within the application to explain the reason why you could not find academic referees, to put your choice into perspective.

If you are currently in an undergrad or graduate program, or recently graduated from post-secondary studies, you should choose academic referees.

How to find good referees

You should choose instructors who know you well. Their job title (e.g. professor vs. sessional instructor) matters less to us than their ability to provide us with insight into your academic abilities.

Some things you may want to consider when selecting academic referees are:

  • Are there any instructors who taught you multiple times?
  • Did you have any smaller classes, where you had more chances to interact with the instructor?
  • How well did you do in your potential referee’s class?
  • Do you have a graduate program supervisor who knows you well?

If you must choose professional referees, you should choose someone in a supervisory role, from either your employment or volunteer work, who can answer the questions asked of them in our online reference form. If you cannot choose a supervisor (e.g. you are self-employed) then you should choose the best person available who has interacted with you in a professional capacity and can answer the questions posed.

Whether you are using academic or professional referees, you should talk to your potential referees in advance, and get their permission to use them as referees. Ask them if they are able to provide a positive reference for you. Let them know they will need to provide their reference through our online reference form, and discuss how important it is for them to provide their reference as early as possible, even though the deadline is March 1.

Unsuitable referees

Personal references – i.e. friends and family – and references from your high school teachers will not be considered under any circumstances.

Contrary to popular belief, using a lawyer, judge, or politician as a referee is not necessarily a competitive choice. Unless that person taught you in a post-secondary setting, or directly supervised you, they will not be able to answer the questions in our online reference form.

The online reference form

We will ask your referees to rank your skills in comparison to others they have taught; about your academic performance, strengths, and weaknesses; and whether they recommend you as a suitable candidate. Your referees will also have space to provide additional comments of up to approximately 500 words.

Professional referees will be asked to answer the questions to the best of their ability, using their knowledge of you in a professional capacity. They will be unable to answer some of the questions regarding your academic performance.

Mailed/emailed/hand-delivered reference letters will not be accepted.

What to do if your referee says they cannot find their email

First, have your referee check their spam folder. When referees have difficulty receiving the email with their unique link, it is usually because their email filters send it to their spam folder, or their institution/company email does not accept auto-generated emails.

Please ensure you obtain an email address from your referee that is capable of accepting auto-generated emails, and that your referee adds to their safe senders list.

It may take up to two weeks after you submit your application before your referees receive their emails.

If your referee still cannot find their email, you may contact us to have the email resent, or update your referee’s email address.

How to request referee changes, update a referee’s contact info, or resend referee emails

You may request a referee change, update your referee’s contact info, or have the email resent to your referee by emailing between December 1 and February 1.

You must include your full name and UCID number with your request.

To change referees, you must also provide the following:

  • The name of the referee you wish to remove. It is your responsibility to let this person know they are no longer a referee and that their link to the online reference form will no longer work.
  • The name, organization name, phone number, and email address for the new referee.

Please exercise patience after submitting your request during peak times of the application cycle, due to a high volume of similar requests.