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!


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