E. common cover letter mistakes.
- Vide o and Slides from the CDO program “ Cover Letters That Do The Job” and handouts: Job Postings & Tips and Sample PIPS Cover Letters .
Your cover letter is as important as your resume because it is often read first and plays a vital role in your quest for an interview. A cover letter is not a transmittal letter, and you may be surprised at how time-consuming it is to craft a good one. A cover letter has a purpose, which is to let an employer know why they should bother reading your resume and why they should meet you. It also serves as an example of your written work product; thus it should be clear, brief, and written in a business letter style, without any typographical errors.
1. Cover letters for unsolicited applications come in three main types:
- Personal Letter. These are the most effective cover letters and are sent to people you have met or with whom you have a mutual acquaintance. These letters should all start with the sentence: “_______ recommended that I contact you.” As this type of letter is most likely to get a response, if you have any possibility of establishing this sort of connection to a prospective employer in advance of sending your letter, you should try your best to do so.
- Targeted Letters. Next best thing. Targeted letters are based on research of the employer, and are individually tailored. Your letter should incorporate the information learned through your research to show the employer that you have skills they will be able to put to use.
- Mass Mailers. Least desirable. These are generic except for the name and address of the employer, and have a very low success rate of getting interviews.
2. When you respond to a job listing, you will usually be requested to submit a cover letter as part of your application. In this case, use the job description and requested qualifications as a guide. While not simply imitating the language of the listing, your letter should demonstrate that you have what the employer is looking for.
3. A few employers at OCI request that students bring a cover letter to the initial interview. This is essentially to require students to think about why they want to work for this employer, but it makes for a letter which deviates from the usual “please consider me for an interview” approach. See below for suggestions on OCI cover letters.
Cover letters should follow standard business letter format, as to spacing, salutation, etc. If you are not sure of the fine points, consult a business correspondence reference source. Avoid abbreviations, contractions and shortcuts (such as a slash instead of “or”), although if there is an accepted short form of the name of the organization you are writing to (e.g., ACLU or Coblentz) it is acceptable to use it in the text of your letter. Your telephone number and email address should appear somewhere in the letter, either at the top with your address, or in the closing paragraph, when you ask them to contact you. Note that your resume is “enclosed,” not “attached” (which means clipped or stapled).
If you are not sure to whom you should send your letter, it is always acceptable to write to the executive director of a nonprofit, or the hiring partner or head of recruiting at a firm; they can forward your application to the appropriate person within the organization. If at all possible, write to an individual by name, not to “Director” or “Recruiting Coordinator.” Firm and organization web sites are very useful in finding this information (and for confirming correct spellings and the like); it may be more difficult to find the name of an individual addressee for government job opportunities. If you do not have the name of an individual, the salutation should be “Dear Sir or Madam” (not “To Whom It May Concern”). Of course if you are responding to a job posting, address your letter exactly as instructed.
As for the appropriate salutation, traditionally, it is “Dear [Mr./Ms.] [Last Name]. However, we understand that this prevailing business norm may not be inclusive of individuals who do not use either of those titles (for example, because they identify as gender nonconforming). One alternative, “Dear [First Name] [Last Name]”, avoids presuming how the recipient may identify, but it is not without some risk.
If you use this approach, a recipient less attuned to thinking about gender inclusivity (and accustomed to seeing only “Dear [Mr./Ms] [Last Name]”) may wrongly conclude that you were unfamiliar with professional etiquette or that you used a mail merge template and did not bother to customize it. While awareness around these issues is increasing, we believe that, unfortunately, it is still not a small number of recruiting representatives and attorneys who might draw the wrong conclusion.
One way to navigate this tricky situation might be to see if the recipient has an online presence (e.g., on the firm website or LinkedIn) that might give you a strong clue as to how they would like to be addressed. Otherwise, you will need to make your own judgment as to whether recipients are more likely to recognize your inclusivity or to view the greeting as awkward or erroneous.
In our office, we are also working to help employers become familiar with gender-inclusive approaches like “Dear [First Name] [Last Name],” but like any process of education, this will take time. In the meantime, our primary goal is to make sure that all Berkeley Law students are fully informed as you navigate legal job markets. We are always available to discuss individually what approach would be the best fit for you.
First Paragraph. Begin your letter with a statement of who you are and why you are writing. Introduce yourself as a law student (including the year you are in) or a graduate of Berkeley Law and specify what it is you are seeking: a summer job, an associate position, a clerkship, part-time work during the school year, etc.
The goal of this paragraph is to give the reader a reason to want to finish reading the letter. If you don’t have a personal connection to cite, try to establish a nexus between yourself and the employer, such as knowledge of their practice, an established commitment to or interest in their work, a connection to their city, or something else which conveys that you are not just writing to them as part of a mass mailing for any job in any location. (If that in fact is what you are doing, try not to be too obvious about it. An employer wants to think that you sought him or her out purposely rather than randomly.)
Body Paragraph(s). This is the section in which you “sell” your experience and qualifications to the employer. Your goal here is to answer the question, “Why should the employer meet you?”
Call attention to something which substantiates your interest in this particular employer. It could be coursework in their specialty, the recommendation of a professor in their area of practice, undergraduate residency in their city, or any other indication of your interest. Try also to show how your experiences will translate into skills which will be useful to this particular employer. Highlight relevant qualifications which are not on your resume, such as coursework, research, or a prior connection to the organization or the issues they work on. If you have general legal skills such as negotiation, litigation, client counseling, interviewing, mock trials, etc., you may want to include them. As much as possible, try to convey understanding of, and enthusiasm for, the aims of the organization.
Employers do not expect first-year students to have highly-developed legal skills to offer. Therefore, for first-year students writing to private firms, this section can be a single, short paragraph, unless you have a strong background in a relevant area. However, even inexperienced first-year students writing to public interest/sector organizations should make an effort to describe skills and interests that are relevant to the employer.
It is appropriate and not uncommon for a public interest cover letter to be somewhat more detailed or personal than a private sector cover letter. Of course, it is still very important to be concise, but it is acceptable for the letter to be a full page if your experience dictates. In a public interest cover letter, it is important both to highlight your demonstrated commitment to the mission/work/client base of the organization through your own relevant work or life experience, and to illustrate your relevant skills. Take another look at your resume for items that show your interest, commitment and skills. Even if you do not have experience in the specific area in which an organization works, it is still important to emphasize your demonstrated commitment to the public interest, and to draw connections between that general commitment and the specific work of the organization. As it is important not to merely regurgitate your resume, consider including a story that illustrates you are interested or qualified in the position.
If your application raises questions that are readily answered, such as availability after the Bar exam, judicial clerkship plans, etc., the letter can address those; other issues may be better deferred to the interview stage. Consult a CDO attorney-counselor if you’re not sure whether to include something in your cover letter.
Final Paragraph. In your last paragraph, thank them for their consideration, and say you hope to hear from them soon. For out-of-town employers, indicate when you plan to be in their geographic area and state your availability for an interview. Be sure to include your phone number and email in this paragraph unless you use a letterhead style that includes them at the top of the page. If you state that you will call the employer to follow up on your application, be sure you do so.
If you are bringing a cover letter to an on-campus interview (which you should do only if the employer requests you to), the content will be a bit different. You don’t need to introduce yourself, as you will be there in person, and you won’t request an interview at the closing. But you can thank the employer for interviewing you and say that you welcome the opportunity to learn more about the employer and to discuss the possibility of working for them. The important thing is to show why you are interested in this particular employer, and how you think your background makes you a good match for them.
The mistakes most commonly found in student cover letters are:
- Restating your resume. “ I graduated from the University of Oregon in 2005, with a B.A., cum laude, in Political Science, then worked as a substitute teacher in an urban high school before starting law school in the fall of 2008 .” Don’t waste space with facts that are readily gleaned from your resume! Instead, you could say (briefly) how your work experience led you to pursue a legal career in an area practiced by the employer.
- Focusing on what you stand to gain from the job . “ I am particularly interested in your firm’s excellent training program for summer associates, and in gaining exposure to a variety of different practice areas.” Remember, employers only grant interviews to candidates who offer something of potential use to the employer. Try to say how your skills and enthusiasm will help the employer serve its clients, or otherwise further its aims.
- Being too informal or familiar. “I’m thrilled by the possibility of working with you this summer, and would love to meet with you in person/by phone to chat about what the options might be.” Enthusiasm is good, but it must be presented professionally.
Other cover letter mistakes include: being defensive or apologetic; appearing arrogant or entitled, and being too long and wordy. Unsupported statements of your qualities (“I am highly motivated and a quick study”) do not help your case. Generic reasons for your interest in the employer (e.g., its “excellent reputation”) tend to demonstrate your lack of specific knowledge. Of course typos and inaccuracies, such as misspelled names, or (please!) stating an interest in a practice area that the firm doesn’t have, are automatic application-killers.
Our cover letter template provides suggestions only; please do not feel excessively constrained by its approach. Your letter should, of course, be original work that reflects your unique background and the job you are aiming at.
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Legal Cover Letter Examples
How to write a job-winning legal cover letter.
Writing a compelling legal cover letter is your ticket to landing an interview in the legal field. Whether you're an experienced attorney or an aspiring paralegal, understanding how to build an attention-grabbing cover letter is just as important as your resume .
In this guide, we'll deep-dive into practical tips, share some compelling examples, and teach you the art of creating a standout legal cover letter!
Keep reading and find out more about:
- Formatting your cover letter
- Building an effective legal cover letter header
- Crafting an eye-catching cover letter headline
- Writing a strong legal cover letter introduction
- Highlighting your skills and accomplishments
- Writing a compelling conclusion
- Avoiding common mistakes in a legal cover letter
- Average salary and job outlook for legal professionals
- Job seeking resources for legal professionals
1. How to properly format your legal cover letter
Correct formatting is vital when it comes to leaving a strong first impression. Here's how you can refine your legal cover letter, ensuring it's smooth to read and easy to navigate:
- Choose a clear layout: Stick to traditional cover letter format. Start with your contact information, the date, the employer's contact details, a formal greeting, the body of the letter, closing, and your signature.
- Use professional font: Use simple, professional fonts like Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri. The font size should ideally be 11 or 12 points.
- Margins and spacing matter: Aim for 1" margin on all sides of your document. Single or 1.15 spacing between lines ensures readability.
- Get straight to the point: Legal professionals appreciate conciseness. Immediately introduce the purpose of writing the letter in the first paragraph.
- Organize your content: Use bullet points or short paragraphs to discuss key accomplishments or qualifications. This will help guide the reader's eye to the most important information.
- Close with confidence: Summarize why you're the right candidate and express appreciation for consideration in the concluding paragraph.
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2. how to write a header for your legal cover letter.
The header of your cover letter plays the role of introducing your personal and professional details. It should be crisply formatted, containing accurate, necessary information.
The contents of the header should include:
- Your full name
- Your phone number
- Your professional email address
- The current date
- The hiring manager's name and title
- The law firm's name and address
Understand better with the following examples:
Incorrect legal cover letter header example
Lawyer Tom Phone: 123456789 Email: [email protected]
To: Pearson Specter Litt
Why isn't this correct? This example doesn't reflect the standard professional legal cover letter header. Here's why:
- The name should be the full name without any titles.
- The phone number isn't correctly formatted. It is standard to include area code in brackets followed by the rest of the number.
- The email address isn't professional. Stick to a combination of your name/initials, avoiding nicknames.
- The current date and your personal address are missing, both of which are customary inclusions.
- The hiring manager's name, title, and firm's full address are missing, which are fundamental to a strong, professional header.
Correct legal cover letter header example
Thomas Brennan (123) 456-7890 [email protected] March 3, 2023
To: Mr. Jonathan Adams Hiring Manager Pearson Specter Litt 456 Barrister Blvd, New York, NY 10012
What makes this correct?
- The full name is used and it's professional.
- The phone number is correctly formatted.
- The email address is professional and easily identifiable.
- The date is specific and current.
- The hiring manager is respectfully addressed.
- Law firm's complete address is mentioned.
By following these tips, you ensure your header is professional, making it easier for the hiring manager to contact you.
3. How to craft an eye-catching legal cover letter headline
Your cover letter's headline is essentially your first impression, making it key in capturing the hiring manager's attention . A powerful headline is concise, targeted, and indicates the value you bring to the role.
Incorrect legal cover letter headline examples
- Looking for Legal Position
- Law Graduate Seeking Job
Why are they weak?
- They're vague and generic.
- The headlines don't convey any specific value or differentiate the candidate from others.
Strong legal cover letter headline examples
- Results-Oriented Attorney with 10+ Years in Corporate Law
- Harvard Law Grad Specializing in Environmental Legislation
What makes them strong?
- They're specific and tell the hiring manager immediately what the candidate offers.
- They use targeted language that portrays a strong, professional image.
- They highlight impressive achievements or unique specialization areas.
Remember that your headline works similar to a captivating tagline representing your professional identity. Invest thought into crafting it. Showcase your unique strengths and features boldly.
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4. How to personalize the greeting on your legal cover letter
Addressing your cover letter properly is a crucial step that shouldn't be overlooked. It shows respect, professionalism, and that you've done your homework.
Customizing the greeting specifically for the hiring manager takes your game up a notch. Ideally, you can find their name on the job posting or on the company's website . If not, LinkedIn and the firm’s official website are other good places to look for it.
Personalized cover letter greeting examples
- Dear Mr. Adams,
- Dear Mr. Michael Adams,
- Dear Hiring Manager Micheal Adams,
When the hiring manager's name is unknown , it's best to use a generalized professional greeting. Avoid using "To whom it may concern," as it's overly formal and outdated. Here's how to better address your cover letter:
- “Dear Hiring Manager,” — This is a safe and universally acceptable option. It's appropriate for any circumstances.
- “Hello Legal Team," or "Dear [Lawfirm's Name] Team," — These are great options when you want to address the whole team. It signifies that you see yourself fitting in with the group.
- “Dear [Lawfirm's Name] Recruiter," — Use this option if you know that your cover letter will be read by a recruiter or if the job posting was shared by a recruiter.
Remember, every detail counts. Tailoring your greeting demonstrates initiative and respect, and these small touches could give you a competitive edge over other candidates.
5. How to craft a strong introduction for your legal cover letter
The introduction of your cover letter sets the tone for the rest of the document. It should capture interest, radiate enthusiasm, and briefly highlight professional achievements or academic acumen.
Include why you're applying for the specific position, and if applicable, leverage a mutual connection to further enhance your credibility.
Incorrect legal cover letter introduction
I came across your job posting and thought I should apply, given my background in law.
Why is this not effective?
- It lacks enthusiasm and appears insincere.
- It fails to share any relevant experiences or qualifications.
- It doesn't articulate why you're interested in the role.
Correct introduction for an experienced attorney
As an accomplished attorney with over 12 years of experience in corporate law, and a track record of securing favorable outcomes in over 85% of my cases, I am excited by the opportunity to bring my skills and expertise to ABC Law Firm's legal team.
What makes this good?
- It shows the candidate's experience upfront.
- It reveals a specific achievement that stands out.
- It expresses interest in the job posting.
Just out of law school and ready to conquer the legal world? Now, let's see how a hard-hitting introduction for a recent law graduate should look like:
Correct introduction for a recent law graduate
With a Juris Doctor degree from XYZ University and an internship experience at a reputable law firm, I am keen to apply for the Associate Attorney position at ABC Law Firm. My academic achievements and hands-on experience in handling various legal cases make me a strong candidate for this role.
What sets this apart?
- It highlights relevant academic achievement and professional experience.
- It expresses an eagerness for the specific job role.
- It forwards the prospect's suitability for the role.
In crafting your cover letter's opening, be bold and specific. Highlight the best parts of your career or educational background and make them intrigued to keep reading.
6. How to highlight your skills and accomplishments in a legal cover letter
The body of your cover letter is essentially your stage, it's where you impress the audience with your star qualities. In a neat and structured format, it should showcase your top skills , key achievements , and explain how these align with the requirements of the job role.
To effectively spotlight your legal skills and achievements:
- Use bullet points or short paragraphs for clarity and brevity.
- Quantify your achievements if possible. Legal professionals appreciate hard data.
- Tailor your skills to match those requested in the job description.
Top legal skills that you might highlight in a legal cover letter
- Strong research skills
- Excellent communicator
- High moral integrity
- Proficient in legal software
These are just a few examples of the key skills you might want to highlight when applying for a legal role. Remember, it’s not just about listing your skills, but demonstrating how they have made a tangible impact in your career or studies.
Cover letter body paragraph example for experienced legal professionals
My successes in the legal field have been thanks to my combination of skills and experience. For example:
- I saved my previous firm a substantial $2M through effective negotiation strategies.
- I implemented new legal software, reducing the research time by 30%, increasing productivity within the team.
- My rigorous attention to details was upheld in over 250 cases, where I found critical information that swayed the case in our favor.
If you're just starting your legal career , focus on transferable skills , academic achievements , or relevant internships . Perhaps you led a successful group project in your law course, or you have honed your researching abilities during your internship. Make these the highlight of your letter.
Cover letter body paragraph example for fresh graduates
Despite my lack of professional experience, my training and academia have equipped me with a robust skill set:
- My detail-oriented approach was recognized during my internship at XYZ law firm where I examined a complex 200-page contractual document and unearthed crucial irregularities.
- As a graduate, I managed a successful law project that involved research into data privacy, displaying my ability to handle intricate details and understand complex legal terminologies.
Remember, writing a cover letter is about promoting yourself without sounding boastful. The goal is to show the reader why you're the best fit for the job. So shine a large spotlight on your skills, qualifications, and experiences that align with the requirements of the job.
7. How to write a strong legal cover letter conclusion
The conclusion of your legal cover letter is equally as important as the introduction. This is your closing argument and final chance to emphasize your interest in the position, and how you can be an asset to the company.
Your conclusion should include:
- A reiteration of your interest in the role
- When and how you can best be reached, and an expectation of hearing from them
- A commitment to follow-up within a certain time frame
- A formal sign-off
Here's an example of an effective conclusion for a legal cover letter
I am genuinely excited about the prospect of bringing my unique blend of skills and experience to your esteemed legal team. I am confident that my expertise in corporate law will be beneficial to XYZ Law Firm. I can be reached at any time via phone or email, and I am looking forward to your feedback by the end of this month, at the latest. In case I have not heard from you by then, I will take the initiative to follow up to ensure my application has been received. Thank you for taking time to consider my application.
Remember, a persuasive conclusion leaves a lasting good impression, and that's exactly what you're aiming for. Wrap it up professionally, confidently, and courteously.
8. How to avoid common mistakes in a legal cover letter
Despite your best intentions, easy-to-make mistakes can creep into your legal cover letter, potentially jeopardizing your chances of landing the job. Here are some common pitfalls to avoid :
- Lack of specificity: Saying you're a "hard-working legal professional" is good, but not enough. Highlight specific skills and experiences related to the job.
- Typos and Grammar Errors: These can cast doubt on your attention to detail. Always proofread your cover letter, if possible, have someone else review it too.
- Being too lengthy: Employers don't have time for prolonged narratives. Stick to a single page, highlighting your key skills and experiences. Scrutinize each sentence — if it doesn't clearly add value, consider revising or removing it.
- Repeating your resume: Your cover letter should complement, not duplicate your resume. It's an opportunity to present your skills and experiences in a narrative format that connects them to the needs of the job.
- Addressing it to the wrong person: Failing to address the correct person can send your application straight to the trash. Always double-check the recipient’s name and title. If it isn't mentioned in the job ad, consider calling the company to ask or do an online research.
By circumventing these common errors, you enhance the potential of your application, making it more compelling and professional.
9. Average salary and outlook for lawyers
Choosing a career in law comes with impressive financial prospects. According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics , the average yearly salary for lawyers as of May 2022 was a handsome $135,740 . This salary can of course vary depending on your specialization, location, and level of experience.
But it's not just about the money — the job outlook for lawyers is also promising. Employment of lawyers is set to grow 8 percent from 2022 to 2032 . This growth rate surpasses the average for all other occupations, making the legal field a viable and attractive career path.
Digging deeper, the data reveals an anticipated average of 39,100 openings for lawyers each year over the next decade.
With its attractive salary and robust employment outlook, pursuing a career as a lawyer could lead to a bright and prosperous future.
10. Job seeking resources for legal professionals
Navigating the job market can be challenging, and having the right resources at your disposal can make a significant difference. Whether you're a student considering a career in law or an experienced lawyer seeking a new opportunity, the following resources can be invaluable:
- Legal job boards: Websites like Lawjobs.com or Indeed.com compile countless job listings in the legal field, making it easy to find opportunities that align with your interests and qualifications.
- Networking: Connect with other legal professionals on LinkedIn and other social media platforms. Moreover, consider joining legal associations and attending industry conferences to meet peers and mentors in the legal profession.
- Continued education: To advance in the legal field, consider acquiring additional certifications or attending workshops and seminars. Websites like Coursera or Lawline offer a range of online courses and seminars.
- Legal blogs/news: Keeping up-to-date with the latest industry trends and topics is crucial. Sites like Law.com or the ABA Journal provide updated news, articles, and insights on the legal landscape.
- Mentorship: Reach out to experienced lawyers who can share their experiences and give you insights into the profession.
- Career counseling: Many universities and colleges offer career counseling services for their students and alumni. These can help with resume and cover letter writing, interview practice, and job search strategies.
Stepping into your legal career or seeking the next big opportunity can be a daunting task. However, using these resources can guide you on the right path, equipping you with the tools and knowledge needed to excel in your legal profession. All it takes is a little direction and a hefty dose of determination. Good luck!
1. What should the tone of my legal cover letter be?
Your tone should be professional and confident. Though you're writing a formal legal document, avoid overly complex legal jargon. It's essential to show your personality and passion for the role.
2. Should I explain any employment gaps in my cover letter?
If you have significant employment gaps , it may be wise to address them briefly in your cover letter. Be straightforward, focusing on the positive outcomes like any skills or knowledge learned during the gap.
3. Can I use the same cover letter for every job application?
It's always best to customize your cover letter for each job application. Using the same cover letter for different job applications might come across as lazy and could potentially cost you the job.
4. How should I choose references to include in my cover letter?
Only include references if the job advertisement specifically asks for them. Otherwise, wait until the interview. When choosing, find professional contacts who can attest to your skills and qualifications.
5. What if I'm applying for a job in another city or state?
In your cover letter, make it clear why you're interested in the job and willing to relocate. However, focus primarily on your qualifications and why you're the best choice for the role.
Julia is a professional writer, translator and graphic designer. She holds degrees in translation and interpretation, and has international work experience from a number of different countries in Europe as well as China and Panama. Julia formerly taught academic writing and as a graphic designer contributed to outlets such as The Business of Business . She has a passion for lifelong learning and good coffee.
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How To Write A Legal Job Cover Letter (With Examples)
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Find a Job You Really Want In
While your application shows hiring managers that you check their boxes, your cover letter shows them why they should hire you over any other highly qualified candidate. For this reason, it’s important to write a solid cover letter when you’re applying for a legal job.
To help you with this, we’ve put together some instructions and tips on how to write an excellent legal job cover letter. We’ve also included an example letter to give you an idea of what yours should look like.
Use your cover letter to show why you’re the best candidate for this particular job at this particular law firm.
Your cover letter should highlight and expand upon your most impressive and relevant qualifications — don’t try to fit everything on your resume into your letter.
Match your cover letter to the position by focusing on how you meet the qualifications listed in the job description and the firm’s cultural values.
How to Write a Legal Job Cover Letter
Cover letter example, tips for writing a legal job cover letter.
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Use correct legal cover letter format. Like all legal documents, legal cover letters need to be precisely formatted . Your legal job cover letter isn’t the place to show off unique and creative layouts, as it is quite a formal and traditional industry. A cover letter with sloppy formatting isn’t likely to be taken very seriously.
Use a simple, professional font such as Helvetica with 1.15-inch line spacing and one-inch margins on all sides.
Match the header to your resume. For a professional cover letter, you’re going to want to make sure that all the details — both visually and in content — match your resume. Your resume and cover letter should look like two halves of the same whole.
Aside from ensuring that all your information matches that listed on your resume , a legal cover letter has all of the following in this order:
Your full name (You generally want to make this the largest piece of text on your cover letter)
Your current occupation (Optional)
Your address, city, state, and zip code
Your phone number
Any other relevant contact information or social media (Optional)
The full name of the person who will be reading your cover letter. If you don’t know who to address your letter to , try looking online for the hiring manager ’s name at the law firm you’re applying to.
The title of the person reading your cover letter. E.g. “hiring manager” or “ partner ”
The name of the law firm or organization
The address, city, state, and zip code of the law firm or organization
Start with a personal greeting. Addressing your cover letter is pretty straightforward, given you know the name of the person you will be speaking to. Use the format “Dear Ms./Mr./Mx. [full name or last name of partner or hiring manager],” for an always appropriate yet personal greeting.
If you have a prior relationship with this person, you can consider addressing it “Dear [first name],” but tread very carefully with this one. As discussed, the legal profession tends to be more formal, and thus traditional greetings are often more appropriate.
Introduce yourself and specify the position you’re applying for. In the first sentence of the first paragraph, you’ll want to introduce yourself in a basic way and clearly identify the position you’re applying to. You don’t need to re-state your name, but just give a small piece of info about who you are.
It’s important to state clearly and upfront the specific position you’re applying to, as that’s the reason you’re writing this letter and a point you really want to land.
Explain why this position and law firm matter to you. Talk about the job and the company as you understand them. The person reading your cover letter will want to know why you applied to this specific job at this particular organization. So let them know why you would value this job and be a great fit.
Company’s not only want to find someone who is a dedicated, experienced worker, but they want someone who will be a good “ culture fit .” This means that they want someone whose values and goals align with that of the company.
Highlight your best, relevant skills and experience. At the heart of your cover letter is the chance to detail and explain your skills and experience. The way you choose to describe what you’ve done and the knowledge you possess can significantly impact how others view your experience.
Try to re-state the requirements and qualifications listed in the job posting, and explain how you align with these. You’re going to want to use the exact language they used in their posting to ensure that your application doesn’t get passed over by any kind of software they may be using to screen applicants .
Focus on them and how you can serve them. Psychologically, humans tend to be most focused on and interested in themselves and their own lives. With this principle, you can get a hiring manager to read on in your cover letter by simply focusing on the organization, why they’re great, and how you can help them be even better.
A little bit of flattery goes a long way. Try mentioning successes or achievements in the company’s history or the company philosophy. This shows that you are not only aware of what this company does, but you value it.
Include a call to action at the end. A good ending for a cover letter is crucial. You’ve already gotten past the hard part, which is getting them to read the contents of your letter. You know they are at least partially interested in hiring you, so now’s the time to put a little pressure on them.
End with a professional closing. After you’ve written the body of your letter , include an appropriate professional closing to tie it all together. Something like “respectfully,” “kind regards,” or “sincerely.” Anything that you think is appropriately formal.
Proofread for perfect spelling and grammar. Your final step is to proofread, proofread, proofread. Make sure all the spelling, grammar, and details are correct and accurate. It’s imperative to make sure that your cover letter looks polished and professional.
To be sure you’re including everything you need to and doing it all right, review the example below. This cover letter demonstrates proper formatting and makes good use of the above tips.
Begin with this sample, which you’re free to take inspiration from, then use the above steps and other cover letter tips to create a perfect cover letter all your own.
Leah Kim Lewis Clark Law School Student 618 Seneca Drive Portland, OR 97205 503-998-0286 [email protected] 10/29/20 Wilma Corwin Partner The Immigration Law Office of Jacobson, Nicolas, and Corwin 919 Hope Street Portland, OR 97204 Dear Ms. Corwin, I’m a second-year honors student at Lewis Clark Law School, and I’m writing to apply for your 2021 summer internship position. I first learned about the incredible work of Jacobson, Nicolas, and Corwin during Janet Leech’s lecture for the Lewis Clark Law Society last year. After noting my continued interest, Ms. Leech recently informed me that your office has begun accepting admissions for the summer internship program. I’m eager to use my passion for immigration and public interest law, research and writing skills, and case preparation experience to assist your office in smoothly and efficiently serving its clients. Since attending Ms. Leech’s lecture, I have been intensely fascinated with Jacobson, Nicolas, and Corwin’s creative solutions motto. In my work, both on-campus and off, I’ve demonstrated the innovative thinking, leadership drive, and excellent communication skills you require for your interns. During my time as a student, I optimized the LC Law Society legal journal and won three legal writing competitions at the state level. As an intern for Stoltenberg-Gibson, I participated in drafting legal research and helped prepare and assign around 50 cases. I bring not only academic and professional experience but real-life experience as well. As a second-generation immigrant, I am passionate about serving local immigrant communities. In my volunteer work, I’ve utilized my fluent Korean language skills and my written and verbal communication skills to advocate for five immigrant families. I am eager to take on any translation, intake, research, organization, or case preparation work. I am excited to be applying to such a well-known and well-regarded law office. Thank you so much for your consideration of this application. My resume and enclosed references will further demonstrate why I would be a great fit for your summer internship position. I would love to schedule a call or meeting to discuss how my writing and advocacy skills can assist the Immigration Law Office of Jacobson, Nicolas, and Corwin to offer creative strategies to their clients. Respectfully, Leah Kim Lewis Clark Law School Student 503-998-0286 [email protected]
Customize your letter. If your cover letter is too generic, hiring managers will wonder if you actually care about the position you’re applying for or if you just want a paycheck.
Research the law firm you’re applying to to find out what they value in their culture and what they’re looking for in an employee, and then talk about how you’d fulfill those.
Keep it short. Your cover letter should only be one page long, so there is no room to beat around the bush. Be personable but brief in your writing so that you can make the most of the space you have.
Match your tone to the law firm. Every law firm has its own voice and culture, which you’ll probably notice when you read through a few different firms’ websites. Pay attention to the tone the firm you’re applying to uses, and then try to match that in your letter.
Highlight your skills. This may sound obvious, but it’s important to remember. Use your cover letter to talk about what makes you special as a candidate and what you’d add to the organization.
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Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.
Matt Warzel a President of a resume writing firm (MJW Careers, LLC) with 15+ years of recruitment, outplacement, career coaching and resume writing experience. Matt is also a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Certified Internet Recruiter (CIR) with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (Marketing Focus) from John Carroll University.
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How To Write A Cover Letter With No Experience
How To Write An Entry-Level Cover Letter (With Examples)
How To Write A Cover Letter Body (With Examples)
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Legal Resume Basics
Your legal resume is a living document – you will find yourself revising it throughout your legal career and especially during your time in law school. The guidelines below will help you create a basic legal resume, which you and your coach will further revise once you have a chance to meet. Your first legal resume will look vastly different from the resume you submitted in your law school application. By creating your legal resume now, you will be better prepared for your first appointment with a career coach and better prepared to begin applying for summer positions.
No More Than One Page
- You have professional publications.
- You have more than 10 years of relevant legal-related experience, for example as a paralegal or a business professional.
- You have 10 years of public service experience including volunteer work and are interested in pursuing a career in public service law.
- Eliminate all use of bullets
- Create a header that takes no more than two lines
- For each school and/or job, use no more than two lines to state the name of the company/school, location, and time frame (and title, if a job). This is easier if you use symbols like | or like ▪ to separate out these four components
- Instead of hitting return after a sentence in your job description, place a period and start the next sentence.
- Instead of using an "Achievements" section, include descriptions of your achievements under the relevant experience (either under the school you attended when you received the award or under the job where you worked when you received the acknowledgement).
- Use lines to separate sections, rather than spaces.
Use Legible Fonts
The body of the resume should be no smaller than 11 point size font. Preferred fonts include Times New Roman or Garamond
Use a consistent format throughout your resume, being mindful of your use of whitespace. For example, if you use small caps for your Education section, then you must use small caps for your Work Experience section.
Your resume must contain an education section, an experience section (can be separated into legal experience and other experience), and an interests section (which could be combined with other sections, such as community involvement, skills, and/or languages). If you are interested in public service, you must also include a separate section for volunteer experience or public service.
DO NOT include sections for references or publications on your one-page resume. Publications should be listed on a second page. References are typically submitted on a separate document, as they are not always required at the time of application.
- The name of the school.
- The location (city, state).
- What degree you received and what major/emphasis.
- When the degree was conferred (so "June 2010", not "Sept. 2006 – June 2010").
- Any honors or awards you received, and any leadership positions which you held.
- Any study abroad programs
Work & Volunteer Experience
- Include the organization name, location, month and year for start and stop dates, and your job title.
- Be brief (no more than three lines per experience, unless you have a lot of white space).
- Be relevant (to the potential employer).
- Be specific ("Managed a staff of 15 people." is better than "Responsible for managing the staff.") Include any awards or recognition that you received.
- Be objective. Do not use the "first person" form. No "I" statements.
- Be descriptive. Use active verbs to describe what you did. Do not use the same verb more than three times. Do not use "worked on" to describe your position.
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How to Write Cover Letter for Law Firms: Samples & Writing Tips
Table of Contents
As you might already know, law firms’ application process is quite different from other types of jobs. While most employers send out CVs, cover letters are treated differently here and the rules are stricter. The cover letter plays a key role in a person’s resume or CV – it attracts the eye first and gives plenty of information to the person who will read it. However, if you’re looking for writing tips on how to write a cover letter for law firms (and even better – how to write an amazing cover letter), then keep reading!
1 . Portray Excellent Communication Skills
In order to be considered for a position as an attorney, you must demonstrate your ability to interact with individuals from different backgrounds. You’ll frequently communicate with your clients, the opposing legal team, expert witnesses, and your staff. Therefore, it’s crucial that you demonstrate to the hiring manager in the cover letter your great communication skills.
Describe your abilities in both written and spoken communication to accomplish this. The more written and spoken samples of each sort of communication you
2. Name your motivation & Curiosity Factors
Legal counselors are continuously searching for up-and-comers who have serious areas of strength for a record of progress, however, they likewise need to ensure they’re recruiting people with the drive to continue to learn. To show that you have the stuff to find true success as a lawyer, feature your scholarly interest and inspiration in your cover letter. For instance, make sense of how you arranged for tests by perusing ongoing case points of reference or how you routinely go to systems administration occasions facilitated at nearby law offices
3. Customize your Cover Letter
Law offices are accustomed to getting cover letters — so many of them as a matter of fact, that they’re much of the time just skimmed over and not offered the consideration they merit. To get seen, you want a stellar opening line and modified content framing why you need to work for their firm. To compose a compelling opening line for a law office introductory letter:
Contact individuals working at the office through LinkedIn and request guidance or help in creating your resume/ cover letter. Utilize explicit models from past work encounters that feature how you can add to this specific organization’s objectives. Request somebody who works there what perspective from the gig they saw as generally fascinating/testing. Utilize this data as motivation while expounding on why you need this position.
4. Proofread your Cover Letter
While going after a job as a lawyer, it is essential to have areas of strength for language and legitimate sentence structure. In your cover letter, you’ll need to keep away from any slip-ups in spelling or grammar. Recall that businesses will take a gander at your composing style and check whether you have the fundamental abilities required for the gig prior to welcoming you for an interview.
Samples to get an overview on how you can curate the perfect newsletters 1. Sample cover letter of Harvard Law School 2. Sample cover letter provided by Columbia Law School 3. 11 samples of cover letter BU education 4. Samples by KU Law
Summing up There are a lot of things that will improve your odds of getting a job at a law firm. Among them are top-notch grades, proficient writing skills, and outstanding professional experience. But even if you have all of those assets working for you, you’re still not guaranteed a job in a firm. You still need to impress the firm by submitting an application. For your application to be effective, it needs to be professionally written.
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A Sample Cover Letter for Legal Job Seekers
Follow a format and keep it succinct
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Sally A. Kane, JD. is an attorney, editor, and writer who has two decades of experience in the legal services industry and has published hundreds of career-related articles.
A good cover letter or introductory letter for attorneys is an invitation to the reader—the hiring manager or maybe the senior partner of the law firm—to move on and read your resume. It's your opportunity to convince her that she simply has to meet you and learn more about you. But too much creativity can be a drawback.
You'll want to exude professionalism and temper your enthusiasm just a bit, and you'll want to follow a tried-and-true format.
What to Include in Your Cover Letter
Include your full name, and be sure to use the one under which you've been admitted to the bar if you're a lawyer. Give your street address, not a P.O. box, including your city, state, and zip code. Include your phone number with a notation as to whether it's a cell phone or a landline. Give your email address—many employers prefer to reach out to interesting candidates by email first.
Enter the date below this information, then the name and address of the law firm. Below that, enter an "ATTN:" line with the name of the individual within the firm who will be reading your letter. Alternatively, you can name the individual on the first line and cite her position directly beneath this, above the company name. Both formats are acceptable.
Of course, you'll start out with "Dear [Insert name of hiring manager or partner]:" Now it's time to get down to business.
Your Opening Paragraph
State the position for which you're applying in your opening paragraph, and explain how you learned of the job opening. This is also a good place to mention the name of anyone who referred you, a mutual acquaintance, or perhaps a tidbit of knowledge you have about the firm—maybe a major case they won or legal argument they made. This demonstrates that you took time to do a little research.
Try to craft your opening in a compelling way that will encourage the reader to read on. It's OK to toot your own horn a little. For example, you might say: “As an award-winning paralegal with 20 years of personal injury experience , I am writing in response to the position of litigation paralegal advertised in the Main Street Legal Journal .”
Explain Your Skills
Use the next paragraph to detail your education and your experience. Keep in mind that this is all mentioned in your resume as well, so you're not going to go into every finer detail here.
Your letter should offer a brief summary of what the reader will learn if he looks at your resume next: what law school you graduated from, where you're admitted to the bar, where you've worked, and what you did for those law firms. Try to confine all this to no more than four sentences if possible.
Next, match your skills to the requirements of the position and highlight any relevant awards you've received, as well as other accomplishments. Support your statements with evidence whenever possible. Don't merely assert that you're a skilled writer. Back it up with some sort of proof. Mention that you won two legal writing competitions and have published over 100 articles.
Don't just say that you contributed to your previous company's bottom line. Note that you implemented new software that saved the legal department over a million dollars.
Make Sure Your Reader Reads On
Use your closing paragraph to thank the firm for considering your application and tell your reader why you would make a good addition to his team. Explain how your background, skills, experience, and past achievements make you the perfect candidate for the job.
Then request a meeting or an interview. Indicate how and when you'll follow up on your cover letter and be sure to mention the best way to reach you. This would be a good place to direct the reader to your P.O. box if your physical address isn't your mailing address but you want to receive notification of a potential interview by snail mail.
The Finishing Touch
Sign off with "Respectfully yours" or something equally formal, place your signature above your name, then add the all-important "Enclosure(s)" line. List and bring attention to everything you're including with the letter, in order.
Proofread...Then Proofread Again
All this effort is for naught if your reader doesn't go on to look at your resume and any other documents you've included. Minor, avoidable errors can cause him to put your letter—and your resume—aside after one glance.
You're looking for a job in the legal profession, and this means you should possess good attention to detail and some superior writing skills. Check for typos—they'll jump out at you more readily if you go back to it cold, perhaps the next day, not right after you wrote it. Check for grammatical mistakes and proper punctuation. Now you're ready to send it off.
Review an Example
Below is an example of a cover letter for a legal position. You can also download our free template.
Cover Letter Sample for a Legal Position (Text Version)
Jennifer Elliot 1890 Grant Street, Cleveland, OH 44109 555-555-5555 (C) email: firstname.lastname@example.org
March 23, 2019
The Law Firm of Goode, Justiss, and Fine 1234 Simpson Avenue Cleveland, OH 44109 ATTN: Ms. Leslie Fine
Dear Ms. Fine:
It is with much enthusiasm that I am submitting to you my application for the position of Junior Associate Attorney that has recently opened at Goode, Justiss, and Fine. I am currently serving as a Law Clerk for Henry Mason, Chief Judge of the US District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. When he heard through the grapevine that this position at your immigration law firm would be opening, Judge Mason alerted me to the opportunity and has offered to serve as a professional reference on my behalf.
During my recent JD studies at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, I discovered a passion for immigration law, focusing my program of studies in this area; I will be graduating with a 3.89 GPA next week, and am scheduled to take the Ohio State bar exam in April. Prior to my legal studies, I was a paralegal for the commercial litigation firm of Hatchett, Garner, and Winn Attorneys for six years, where I managed a caseload of ~70 cases, earned my certification form ACEDS as a Certified E-Discovery Specialist, and trained the firm’s attorneys in the use of the Symantec e-Discovery Platform.
I can thus bring to you “real world” experience in legal research and drafting, e-discovery, client interviewing and trial preparation, and case management. My transition from commercial litigation work to my goal of becoming an immigration law attorney will also be supported by my advanced fluency in written and spoken Spanish; during my time as Judge Mason’s law clerk, my duties have included serving as a court translator when needed.
Thank you for your consideration of this application; I would be grateful for the chance to meet with you to discuss my qualifications for this position in greater detail.
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Cover letters and e-mail correspondence.
Drafting Effective Cover Letters and E-mail Correspondence
A cover letter informs an employer why you are interested in working for their organization and why they should hire you . It should highlight your credentials and background as tailored to that employer. An informative, error-free cover letter sets a positive tone for the person reviewing your resume and credentials.
Be specific, but concise.
A cover letter should never sound like a form letter. Always take the time to write a cover letter tailored to the individual employer. If you are responding to a job announcement or posting, make sure that your letter details how your background or experience fits with the specific hiring criteria mentioned in the posting. Do not just reiterate issues already listed on the resume. If you are writing to the hiring partner or the head of a specific group, make sure to explain how you believe you fit with that group.
A well-written cover letter should :
- Detail your specific background and strengths that match the needs of the employer;
- Add relevant information that is not on your resume; and
- When appropriate, indicate your reasons for geographical preference, if not apparent from your resume.
Post-interview correspondence–which may include thank-you notes and letters accepting or declining offers of employment–should be similarly tailored, specific, and error-free. Any post-interview correspondence should provide enough information to evoke the relationship you have established with the recipient and to fulfill the purpose of the correspondence (generally, either getting or giving information or thanks), and then should conclude gracefully, respecting the reader’s time.
In additional to our high-level overview below, please refer to the Career Manual for a detailed discussion of cover letters and e-mail correspondence. It provides additional information on drafting cover letters and e-mails and examples of different types of correspondence. It is highly recommended that LL.M. students consult the relevant chapter of the Career Manual when writing, editing, and formatting their written correspondence. For additional guidance in drafting your cover letters and e-mails, we recommend you review our samples of different kinds of correspondence.
Cover Letter Format
Cover letters should be written in general business letter style and printed on high-quality bond paper that matches your resume paper and envelopes. A one-page cover letter is sufficient for any job. See information below regarding content of individual paragraphs.
Also, please bear in mind that some non-profit organizations have started to ask for longer personal statements (or statements of interest). In this case, the one-page letter may take a different form, as some of the information set out below will need to be included in the personal statement rather than in the cover letter.
If you are sending your application materials in by e-mail, save your cover letter as a PDF file and attach it to your e-mail. This will allow you to retain your formatting when the employer prints out the document.
Cover Letter Content
A cover letter should include the following sections:
- Addresses (yours, then the employer’s)
- Concluding paragraph
Post-interview correspondence should follow the same general format, but may not need a separate introduction, body, and concluding paragraph. If the subject of the correspondence is limited–a brief thank you, for example, or a quick question or response to a request–then a single paragraph might include both the introduction and the body, and perhaps even the conclusion.
Address and Employer Salutation
Your address should contain the following lines:
- A two-line address
- Your current phone number
- Your e-mail address
Your Name 207 P Street, NW Washington, DC 20008 (202) 555-0000 [email protected]
You may also choose to format your header in the same style as your resume.
You should then leave a couple of lines and add the current date in this format: October 14, 20XX.
In the employer address area, you should include the name and the title of the person to receive the letter, followed by the employer’s name and address (please do not forget to include the zip code). Whenever possible, your cover letter should be addressed to a specific individual, such as the hiring attorney, recruitment administrator or intern coordinator. If you do not know the name of the particular individual, call the firm or organization and ask to whom you should address your cover letter.
Ms. Nan Hunter Hiring Partner Hunter, Collins & Associates Suite 10 600 New Jersey Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20000
Body of Cover Letters
A cover letter normally should contain three or four short paragraphs—an opening paragraph, followed by the “heart” of the letter (one or two paragraphs) and a closing paragraph. Each paragraph should be no more than seven sentences, preferably less than five.
These middle paragraphs of the cover letter should collectively reflect your unique abilities and qualifications in a manner that sets you apart from other applicants. Tailor the discussion of your skills and career interests as much as possible to the employer—its work, location, size, reputation, etc. Many employers, particularly public interest organizations, prefer cover letters that discuss your background and commitment to the constituencies and/or issues the employer represents.
General Guidance on E-mails
Employers often request that students communicate with them by e-mail. Always treat e-mail correspondence as you would treat a hard copy of a cover letter or resume. Many employers view an e-mail as a writing sample, so pay attention to grammar rules, spelling and punctuation. Remember that e-mails are meant to be brief, yet professional, and should provide the reader with an immediate sense of what you are trying to communicate.
Write clear, short paragraphs and be direct and to the point. Always choose a professional typeface. We suggest that you keep your formatting simple so that it does not detract from the actual message you have written.
When using e-mail to assist you in the job search, always keep the reader in mind. Your first thought should be “who will be reading my e-mail?” Consider the reader’s position, organization and potential needs and objectives. You should use e-mail as a method of first contact to employers only when an employer specifically invites or suggests doing so in the instructions on the employer’s website, in a job announcement or in verbal advice after an informational interview.
The tone of a job search or business-related e-mail should always be professional. Never use the casual language that you would typically use in e-mails to family and friends. Be friendly and cordial, but do not try to joke around. This may be inappropriate or may not come off in the right way in an e-mail. You can never go wrong by letting professionalism be your guide. When in doubt, err on the side of formality.
Include your name, address, phone number and email address at the top of the letter. Consider using the same format as your resume. Your name and contact information can be placed at the left margin, the center or the right margin. A NOTE ABOUT YOUR ADDRESS: If you are applying in St. Louis, use your school address. If you are applying in your hometown, include both your school and home address to show the connection.
The address block should be left justified and include a contact name, if possible.
Do not use first names. Do not use Miss or Mrs. The salutation should be followed by a colon, not a comma.
In this paragraph: \(1\) identify your class year and school; \(2\) mention any geographic ties to the area; and \(3\) include information about why you are interested in the specific employer. If you are applying to multiple offices, indicate that here. For example: "In addition to your Washington, D.C. office, I am also applying to your Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York offices."
The second paragraph \(and if applicable, the third\) is an opportunity for you to market yourself. Do not regurgitate your resume. Talk about the skills and abilities you possess and back it up with examples from your prior work experience and academic studies. If you do not have prior work experience, look to your extracurricular activities to convey your skills. The skills you reference can be legal in nature and/or general \(e.g., research and writing, attention to detail, communication, diligence, work ethic\). If you are a 2L, you should lead with your legal experience - both your 1L summer position and your law school performance.
The last paragraph should thank the employer and provide for future contact. For example, if you are direct applying in a city where you are not located for the summer, if possible, offer a date you will be in town for a potential meeting. Alternatively, simply state "Please feel free to contact me at the phone number listed above." If you are direct applying and applying through OCI, state that here or in the first paragraph.
Use standard business closings, such as Sincerely, Truly, Regards, and Respectfully. The signature block can be centered, left justified or closer to the right margin.
If you are enclosing only your resume, use "Encl." If you are enclosing more than one other document \(e.g., resume and transcript\), use "Encls."
The date can be centered or left justified and should be placed above the employer's address block.