January 21, 2019

How to Make a Cover Letter That Will Land a Law Job

Tips for your legal cover letter. What to put on a cover letter for a summer associate, law clerk, or first-year associate position. Law clerk cover letter tips. Summer associate cover letter example. First year associate cover letter sample. Legal field cover letter. Law school cover letter advice and samples. 1L cover letter. 2L cover letter. 3L cover letter. Law grad cover letter. law school advice. law school blog. law student blogger | brazenandbrunette.com

Hi hi hi everyone! Today's post is part 2 of my "get you a legal job" series. Whether you're in college trying to find some experience before law school, or already in law school but looking for a summer associate position, or a 3L/law school grad looking for a lawyer job, I'm here to share what advice I was given that I think really helped. In case you missed it, part 1 of this series was resumé advice and stay tuned for the last part, the follow-up contact. I know it's been almost a month since my last post and I'm sorry about that, but now I think I'm getting down my new daily schedule better so I'm going to try to be better about blogging every week now. Okay so here's what you came for...

Intro & dropping names

I'm sure you've had the importance of networking in the legal field shoved down your throat enough already, so I'm just going to skip over that part. So you've came across a job opportunity and you have the chance to drop a name. It doesn't matter how you found that job opportunity, you need to drop the name. If someone recommended the job for you, that's easy. But what if someone hasn't? First go to LinkedIn and see if you can find anyone you know who works there. If you can, send them a message saying something like this: 

Hey [name]! I was looking into applying to [position] with [firm] and saw you work there so I was hoping you could tell me a little bit more about it before I apply. Basically just do you like it and what's it like working there. Thanks!


Hey [name]! So I came across an opening for [position] for [firm] and thought I'd apply since [reason why you want this job]. Since you work there I was wondering if I could name drop you as a connection and also see if you had any insight for me about the company culture or anything else that might be helpful. I saw that [HR person] is who I'll send my resume too and I know it's a big office but I didn't know if maybe you've met her. I'd appreciate any help you could give me!


Hey [name]! I'm not sure if you remember me, but [how you met]. I'm about to send over a resumé and cover letter to [HR person] over at [firm] here in [location] and I saw on LinkedIn that you have a connection with someone who works here. Would you mind if I name dropped you in my cover letter to help make it a little personal?

It's definitely a good idea to send them a message first because you don't want an HR person or hiring attorney to come up to them asking about you and your connection is completely caught off guard and like oh Nikki Boyd? I haven't talked to her in years!! Don't worry they'll most likely be cool with it, this is just a heads up. Then say something like this in your cover letter:

Dear [hiring person], 

[name drop], [their position] at [firm] in [town], suggested I contact you regarding the [position] with your firm. [name drop] thought this position would be a great fit for me as [reason why they should hire you].  

You want to start by name dropping because it instantly makes your cover letter more personal. Remember that people remember the first and last thing they read, so you have to start out on a strong foot to get them to remember you. After this, you can go into the body of your cover letter, which I'll get to in a moment. 

Intro to a random job you found

Most likely you'll be applying to a lot of jobs, so realistically you won't always know someone at a firm (or whatever) that you're applying to. That's okay!! Don't let this discourage you from applying. For what it's worth, I ended up accepting a job at a firm where I knew no one and no one knew me before my interview. So definitely still apply!

Still start strong and basically say the same thing as above, just get straight to the point faster:

Dear [hiring person]: 

I am reaching out to you regarding the [position] with your firm. I thought this would be a great fit for me as [reason why they should hire you].

Okay so now we have the basics down. But what should you put as a reason why they should hire you?? Answer- take the job duties that they are looking to be fulfilled by this new employee and relate it back to your experiences! Here's what I actually put in my cover letter that got me hired (I do workers' comp law):

I am reaching out to you regarding the Associate Attorney position with your firm. I thought this would be a great fit for me as I recently interned with the General Counsel at Interstate and my experiences included reviewing and editing employment agreements and providing counseling regarding workers compensation, wrongful termination, and employment disability issues.

If we're being honest, I dabbled in workers comp and wrongful termination issues during my externship. But I did have some experience! So I took whatever I could think of from my old job that would be relevant to this job and highlighted it. The trick here is to really read the job listing carefully or think hard about the position that's to be filled and figure out what they're looking for. Then you explain how you are exactly what they're looking for! This brings me too...

The body

A mistake that a lot of people accidentally make is that they use the body of their cover letter to just reiterate their resumé. Wrong! The advice I received is use this as an opportunity to tell a story that bridges the gap between what you've done in the past and what you'll do for them. So for example, my resumé and intro statement explained that I have experience with employment law, which is relevant because workers' comp is kind of like an intersection between employment and insurance law. So then my next two paragraphs were me giving anecdotes of my experience. Just pick apart each bullet that you listed on your resumé and try to explain how you gained that experience. What problems were you faced with? What did you do? What did you learn from the outcome? How can you use this experience to help their firm? 

I know what your'e thinking, because I thought it too... how do I explain all this? Easy! Cheat! Look up [x type of law] lawyer resumé or cover letter. As you read these, get some wording ideas. Maybe the same cover letter includes something similar to yours that you can copy a little, or maybe it will remind you of something else that you did and can talk about. This is why I think it's super helpful to keep a conflicts log all throughout law school. Not only is this something that your future employer will need to have, but it will serve as a little diary of all of the different tasks you've had. Remember, you're telling stories here. 

As a warning, though, the sample cover letters that you see on your school's career services website and Google will be all full of how graduating in the top 10% of their class taught them the discipline they'll need for being a lawyer or how winning a national moot court competition prepared them for litigation. That's great, but maybe you're like me and you were just an average law student who graduated more like Warner [without honors, without a girlfriend, and without a job offer] than Elle [with an invitation to join a prestigious law firm and class-elected speaker]. That's great, too. Just take whatever experience you have and tell a story connecting that with how it makes you a perfect lawyer/law clerk at this firm.

Other tips

I don't have much tips for a conclusion of the cover letter because basically they're all the same... thanks for your consideration and blah blah blah. So, other tips that I think are a better use of your reading time today.

Save your cover letter as [name] [position] [firm]. The first two are to help whoever is hiring be able to quickly know whose cover letter they're looking at and what position you're applying for. The last one is just to help make sure you send the right cover letter to the right place.

One time saver is to keep track of your cover letters so that you can plagiarize yourself. On my computer I color-coordinated my cover letters by what types of law I was applying to (here's how). I had a color for Contracts, Employment, In House, Insurance, IT, Litigation, Oil & Gas, and Real Estate. And I would tag a cover letter with everything that applies (so for my workers' comp cover it was tagged with litigation, insurance, and employment). This way, I could steal bits and pieces of my experience with each relevant category to make myself sound the most well-rounded and qualified that I could. 

To save time, after doing my initial research on what I wanted to say for each type of law, I would make a basic template cover letter. I would put in red anything that would need to be updated with each cover letter and would have a shell that I could use to plug in these certain paragraphs into the relevant cover letter. But that brings me to another point, be very very careful with copying and pasting parts of your letter. 

Little things like sending a company a letter talking about how you want to join their firm or accidentally using the wrong name are easy to overlook when you're proofreading because all letters start to look the same. But these things are huge to someone because it shows you're lazy and disinterested, and they'll probably just chunk your application right then and there. Tips for this to make sure you're extra careful is to write all your cover letters one day, and then in a day or two come back and re-read them with a fresh mind to make sure you don't overlook anything. Another great help is to find your mom or friend to go over your cover letter and resumé together with the job listing as if they were the hiring partner and make sure that your resumé reflects the job listing and your cover letter reflects your resumé and the job listing too. 

It sounds like a lot of work, but it'll be worth it once you have a job. I was lucky (I guess depending on your own experience) and only wrote 25 cover letters before I was hired. It sucks, I know. It's so tedious and as you're writing it you're sure that no one will ever even read these, but don't give up! I would take a glass of wine and go sit on our balcony in the evenings and work on these a little at a time. Even if it's just one hour a day, make yourself get these done until you are hired. 

let's be friends!

January 14, 2019

How I'm Paying Off My Law School Debt

How to pay off your law school loans. How to get out of law school debt. How to minimize your law school loans. How to get a law school loan. Private vs public law school loan. How much debt to expect after law school. How much does law school really cost. Law school debt repayment plan. How to reduce law school loans interest rates. How to refinance your law school loans. Should you refinance your law school loans. Law school debt help for free. Law school grad debt for 2019. How to pay off your law school loans fast. Law school loan refinance. How to budget for law school. Save on law school loans by working during law school. How much does your 1L year of law school cost. How to find law school scholarships. law school blog. law student blogger. law school tips. law school advice | brazenandbrunette.com

Happy 2019 everyone!! I wanted this post to be my first post of the year because my New Years resolution is to get on top of my financial situation and take on my debt head on. 

If we're being honest, my debt really annoys me sometimes. I look at how much I owe and think about the cute little house I could buy with it instead, or the crazy nice car I could get myself, or the trip of a lifetime flying first class around the world and staying in some nice ass hotels with the money that I've spent on a law degree. I look at my friends who graduated without debt and see all the fun things they get to do because they can afford to go to brunch every weekend and fly home to surprise their parents or buy that thing that they really want, because every though I make more than them, they have more money to blow each month. So, that's hard. BUT, I do think that it was worth it to go to law school and although my debt is a huge thing in my life, I'm still very glad I went to law school.

So let's talk about my debt. How much it actually cost me to go to law school, how I helped my debt while I'm in law school, and my plan to not die still owing money!

My law school debt

First off, how much I owe...

How to pay off your law school loans. How to get out of law school debt. How to minimize your law school loans. How to get a law school loan. Private vs public law school loan. How much debt to expect after law school. How much does law school really cost. Law school debt repayment plan. How to reduce law school loans interest rates. How to refinance your law school loans. Should you refinance your law school loans. Law school debt help for free. Law school grad debt for 2019. How to pay off your law school loans fast. Law school loan refinance. How to budget for law school. Save on law school loans by working during law school. How much does your 1L year of law school cost. How to find law school scholarships. law school blog. law student blogger. law school tips. law school advice | brazenandbrunette.com
I keep track of my debt using this app

Yep. It's a pretty big number. But I am grateful that my parents were able to support me through college so my debt is only law school and doesn't also include college debt too. Also shoutout to my dad for helping cover my MPRE fee and my Barbri fee. My loans are made up of the maximum amount that I could get from FASFA (government loan) and whatever FASFA didn't cover was paid for by Sallie May (private loan). My government loan definitely gave me much better interest rates than my private loan, but sadly my 1L year my FASFA wasn't even enough to cover my tuition.

Related: How to get a student loan for law school

A big part of why that number is so high is because my 1L year I went to a private school which cost almost double than the school that I went to my 2L/3L year. This is kind of a bummer because it means that my biggest loan has been accruing interest the longest, but it is what it is. 

Another reason why that number is so high is because I used student loans to pay for everything— tuition, books, housing, groceries, gas, everything that I had to spend money on for 3 years came from loans.

Related: A breakdown of my 0L, 1L, and 2L expenses

How I minimized my law school debt

The easiest way to minimize your law school debt is to look for scholarships!! Try to get as many scholarships as you can before law school, and then after every semester 1) go in to the financial aid office and try to negotiate a better scholarship [assuming you have decent grades, if you need help with your grades go here], and 2) see if you qualify for any external scholarships. 

One thing I started doing after my 1L year was to take out my scholarships after each semester instead of one big loan at the beginning of every year. The idea is that if you take out say $15k in August and another $15k in January, then the spring semester $15k isn't sitting there accruing interest while it's not being used during the fall semester. I haven't done the math to see how much it actually saves, but I do feel like it helps. One downside though is that doing this means more "hard credit checks" on your credit score so it might lower your credit score a little (idk by how much) which might make your new interest rate higher for your private loans. Ask your parents or someone who's good with math help you calculate it and find the best option for you. 

Probably the thing that felt like helped me the most with my debt was working during the summer between my 2L and 3L year and for the whole fall semester of my 3L year. This helped make the money that I was taking out stretch so much further. In fact, I was very excited that I was able to save enough both semesters of my 3L year that I had enough leftover money to pay for 2 months' rent and groceries during the Bar so I actually didn't have to take out a Bar prep loan!

The last thing that I did to help my debt while I was still in school was that I signed up for automatic payments on my loans each month. It wasn't much-- I think I paid like $200 a month of my private loans and like $75 a month of my government loan. I realize it sounds absolutely counter-intuitive to use loan money to pay off your loans but hear me out. First off, I was able to choose a better interest rate from the start by agreeing to opt-in to pay I think it was $25 a month on each private loan (I chose to pay extra each month). Secondly, this helped keep my interest rate down by juuuust a teensy bit. Yeah it's not much but hey if it helps, I was all for it. Third, it boosted my credit score to be consistently paying on my debt so with each new loan that I took out (remember I took out 5 private loans [1 1L, 2 2L, and 2 3L]) I qualified for a better interest rate. I ended up having an interest rate on my last loan be about 1 full percentage lower than on my first loan! 

My law school debt repayment plan

So here's my focus for 2019! The first thing that I've already done in 2019, even though we're only like 2 weeks in, is refinance my loans through SoFi. What this means is that basically I have them pay off all of my private loans and then now I owe SoFi for my loans but instead of having 5 loans to pay off that all have different interest rates, I have 1 loan to pay off at 1 interest rate. And because as I just mentioned my credit score went up from when I was a 0L to now, I qualified for a new interest rate that's 2% lower than my highest old interest rate and 1% lower than my lowest old interest rate (I realize this gets confusing because of math but bear with me). This will end up saving me thousands over the course of my repayment plan. If you want to learn more about refinancing with SoFi, use this link and you can get $100 if you sign up.

The second thing that I'm doing this year is that I'm paying every other week on my loans. I received a 0.25% lower interest by signing up for automatic payment on my loan, but I'll actually be paying extra each month. The idea is that if you pay every other week you end up paying a little extra each year because some months have 5 weeks in them, but to you it doesn't feel like you're paying extra. I just set up a reminder in my phone for every other Saturday to pay a little extra on my loan.

And as for my repayment plan, what I've decided to do is the Dave Ramsey approach to debt where I'm going to make the minimum payments on my government loan each month and use any extra money that I have to pay off my private loan first (called the debt avalanche). Using this method, I'll completely put all of my attention on my private loan first because it has a higher interest rate, and then after that's completely paid off I'll turn my focus to my government loan with the lower interest rate. The idea behind this is that if you focus your attention to the higher interest loan first, you'll end up saving money on interest in the long run. 

Let's talk numbers. What does this look like for me. I'm in the 20-year repayment plan for my private loan, which costs me somewhere around $650 a month. I'm in the 15-year repayment plan for my government loan, which costs me somewhere around $750 a month. Ideally, which my debt avalanche approach to debt I wish the year payoff plans were swapped but I'm working with what I was given. Anyways, my plan is to spend about $1000 from each paycheck on my debt— $1k from my first paycheck of the month to my private loan, and then $750 from my second paycheck to my government loan and $300 from my second paycheck to my private loan. To do this, Ryan and I are really focused on our budget  (we each use this app to budget) and we actually live a pretty frugal lifestyle most of the time.

Lastly, my plan is for any raise I get in the future to go directly to my debt. I've read from so many people to just act like you never got a raise (I mean you're already making your salary work for your budget). The problem is that if you use your raise to treat yo self, then it's really hard for you to scale back to being #poor after you've gotten used to the good life (it's called the golden handcuffs problem). Another thing that I'm planning to do is use any tax refunds that I get to go to my loans, for the same reason. When I first started my job and was filing out the paperwork, I actually elected to have less money taken out of my paycheck each month/less or no tax refund just so that I could have more money each paycheck to work on spending at least $2k a month on my loans.

Okay congratulations you've made it to the end! Sorry it's such a long post but also I haven't posted in a while so I guess this makes up for it lol. I'm very much brand new to this whole student debt situation, so we'll see what I end up changing, what works out really well for me, and what else I find out about. Right now, my plan is to do a law school debt update at the beginning of every year because I know these posts can be boring/scary so I think once a year will help y'all see how it's going without being too much. Okay so I guess we'll see where this goes in 2019!!

let's be friends!