Writing Tip 5: Cover Letter Etiquette

Discussion in 'Public Feedback Forum' started by Hazal, Apr 28, 2019.

  1. Hazal

    Hazal Legendary Member
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    Cover letters can be the bane of your existence or a blessing sent from heaven, depending on your perspective. It is a blank canvas upon which you can dictate how much you share and what you share with the employer which in many ways is brilliant. In others, such as considering how to structure it and what to include, it can be somewhat daunting.

    The following covers some of the main considerations of a legal cover letter, whether you’re applying for paralegal roles or a training contract.

    1. Consider the purpose of the letter

    Like almost all my other tips, I would suggest that you stop and think about what you’re trying to achieve with this kind of writing. Here are a few considerations (taken from https://law.yale.edu/student-life/c...udent-job-seekers/cover-letter-advice-samples) :

    A good cover letter:
    • Demonstrates your writing skills;

    • Tells the employer who you are (e.g., a first-year student at YLS) and what you are seeking (e.g., a summer intern position);

    • Shows that you know about the particular employer and the kind of work the employer does (i.e., civil or criminal work, direct client service, "impact" cases, antitrust litigation);

    • Demonstrates your commitment to the work of that particular employer and conveys that you have something to contribute;

    • Shows that you and that employer are a good "fit"
    At the preliminary stage of a cover letter, it is also a good idea to research who you’ll be addressing it to. A lot of law firms don’t specify the recipient of the letter as it’s likely that different members of the grad rec team will be reading it. However, it would speak well of you if you did find a recipient. For regional/city firms, I would recommend visiting their profile on lawcareers.net where it often specifies “Applications To:” and the appropriate name. Brownie points = scored.

    2. Structuring the letter - first, a brief introduction to yourself

    It is ultimately up to you which order you want to choose for the why you/why us points specified above. However, I find it best to introduce yourself first as that should always be your first sentence.

    In the first few sentences, introduce yourself briefly by stating your name, your academic background and your current status (are you a 2nd year or in employment, 3 years after graduating?). Also, explain what position you’re applying for and you can even mention where you found the position (more important for a non-graduate scheme role).

    3. Dive straight into that specific law firm

    Although it is important to put a story to a name, a recruiter will not want a candidate who isn’t passionate about their firm as well as the profession they are entering. Therefore, this section is ultimately the following two questions: “why commercial law” and “why do you want to work for xyz firm”.

    Then, to take an example from one of my old cover letters, you make that firm relatable to you (please don’t refer to a firm as “you” as I did):


    4. Sell yourself

    Once you’ve got the question of “why this law firm” out of the way, you need to delve into why you’re a suitable fit. Another way in which to think about this part is “what skills, qualities and attributes would you bring to the role” which will enable you to weave in skills you developed from extra-curricular and formal work experience alike. For example:


    With a cover letter, you may have the liberty to go into more detail but always remember to keep things concise. You don’t want to bore the recruiter with endless and unimportant detail so I would suggest selecting three or four qualities. It is also handy to look at the wording of the job posting. If it’s a traditional job then there will most definitely be a list of desirable skills. If it’s a graduate scheme, you still may be able to find a list of strengths the recruiter is looking for. If not, delve into their website/brochure and pick out adjectives and adverbs from their writing that seem important. The recruiter may be checking these qualities off of a list, especially if they’re strengths-based such as Reed Smith.

    5. Conclusion

    Always thank the recruiter for your time in conclusion and specify anything you may want to additionally disclose here.

    If you’re looking for further, in-depth tips on legal cover letters, I found the following post to be extremely useful: https://targetjobs.co.uk/career-sec...-write-winning-covering-letters-for-law-firms
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