Finding a job is becoming increasingly difficult in this economic climate. The legal industry has always been a competitive one. Just as it is the desired industry for legal practitioners, individuals and businesses continue to seek legal advice. There will always be jobs for people who are motivated and capable.
Whether you’re a fresh graduate looking for your first job or an experienced attorney seeking work at a different firm, you’ll be facing tough competition. There is one thing you can do to set yourself apart from others, and that is – write a compelling cover letter.
An exceptional cover letter with compensate for your lack of experience and make you stand out in a sea of equally experienced and educated competitors. But don’t give everything away! The cover letter is just a teaser that should convince the hiring manager to read your resume. The final goal, of course, is the job.
Use your cover letter to tell the employer about yourself and why you would be a great fit for the job. It sounds easier than it is! When writing a cover letter for a law firm, there is a specific format you should follow. You can play with it, but stick to the outline and tell them what they want to hear. Here is everything you need to know about writing a great cover letter for law firms.
A cover letter is something like an elevator pitch you would give about yourself. You only have one page to convince the employer to move forward in the hiring process, so make every word count. Be brief and follow the structure presented below.
Your cover letter should tell the employer everything they need to know about you. That includes who you are in the industry and what experience you can present. Talk about what you know about the firm and why you’re a good fit for the job. The letter should show your attention to detail and impeccable writing skills. Finally, it should give the employer a way to contact you.
This is, quite literally, your introduction. You’ve never met this person before; what do you say to them to convince them to read on? Simply put, this is where you introduce yourself and explain why you would be a good fit for the job. Talk about what you’re doing at the moment; maybe you’re getting your degree or working in the legal field already.
The introduction is a great place to namedrop. Perhaps you were referred by an associate or you know someone who could make a difference in the application process. Mention them!
Finally, don’t forget to talk about why you’re good for the job. This is not the place to get into details, but you won’t get the chance to explain yourself further if you don’t catch their attention in the very beginning. Be brief, but don’t miss an opportunity to show yourself from your best side.
This is the main course of the meal. In the body paragraphs, you can really show the hiring manager what you’re made of. Talk briefly about any relevant education and experience in the legal field you might have.
Speak about the firm and why you’d like to be a part of it. Perhaps, their message really resonates with you or it has a really strong reputation. It could be as simple as the firm’s area of expertise. Make it clear that you’ve done your research and are not just sending out a generic cover letter to all law firms in your city.
Ask yourself, why should they hire you? What can you bring to the table? Read the job description very carefully and show that you possess all the skills that are required. You can bring up any relevant experience, community service, academic research, awards, and even personal events from your life. Make sure to be specific, but don’t just say you are good for the job. If the job description asks for a highly motivated and hard-working individual, don’t state that you are hard-working and motivated. Instead, show examples of your motivation and hard work.
Though you probably have a lot to say, this is not your resume, so don’t treat it as such. The hiring manager will move on to your resume if they want to know more. For now, focus on the most relevant experience and be brief. This is your elevator pitch, not an autobiography.
This is where you get to seal the deal. If they’ve gotten this far, you did a great job! Thank your reader for taking the time to review your cover letter. You can make a promise to follow up on the application. If you do so, state when you will do that and don’t forget to actually do it. Many recruiters appreciate it, as they tend to be quite busy and don’t always have the time to respond to everyone.
Then, give the hiring manager a way to contact you. If you didn’t mention your contact information at the top, do so here. Write down your phone number and email.
Address your letter
On the job market, first impressions are made by means of addressing your cover letter. The way you address your reader will make a lasting impression, so make sure it’s perfect. There is nothing wrong with the classic and neutral “To whom it may concern”, but you can do better. Address your recruiter by name.
Find the hiring manager or HR representative that will be looking at your application. You can do so by contacting human resources, visiting the firm’s website, or looking through LinkedIn. When you find the person, it’s not always clear what their gender pronouns are. Be careful with “Mr.” and “Mrs.”, and only use them if you are entirely certain. If not, it’s enough to address the person by first and last name.
There is nothing less endearing than reading your name misspelled. Making a mistake in the hiring manager’s name is a sure way to end up on the wrong side of the resume pile. A silly mistake can ruin your application, so make sure to proofread the letter before you send it out.
Tips and tricks to make your letter extra special
If you follow the format outlined above and address your recipient by name, you’re halfway there. However, you can rely on the fact that the law firm you’re applying to is receiving multiple job applications at any given moment. This is no reason to get down on yourself, but don’t get cocky either. Instead, follow the tips below and make your cover letter extra special.
Leave no questions
Make an effort to foresee any unanswered questions in your cover letter or resume, and answer them. Clear up everything that needs clearing up. For instance, if there are gaps in your resume or anything that could create a misunderstanding, make it clear right away. Don’t leave the hiring manager to wonder when you’re going to graduate or what the title of your degree will be.
Add a personal touch
The legal industry is very competitive. Chances are, most other applicants will have the same educational background and experience as you. There is only so much a talented wordsmith can do. When it comes down to it, what matters is your work experience and education.
One thing you can do to set yourself aside from the competition is to show that special care. Show your recipient that you know who you’re talking to; address them by name. Make it clear that you’ve done your research about the firm and you know everything they would expect you to know, and more. This is not another generic cover letter you downloaded off the internet, so make that abundantly clear.
Outline your skills
Recent graduates usually don’t have much work experience. That’s expected; you’ve got to start somewhere! What you lack in experience you can make up for in skills. One advantage you have over people that have been working for a while is that you just finished studying. All your knowledge is fresh and you can teach your colleagues a thing or two about modern law.
If you are tech-savvy, don’t hold back. Mention any law firm software you’re familiar with. If you know of new ways to automate the work of a lawyer, talk about them too. The law firm you’re applying to will appreciate a fresh pair of eyes.
Unless you’re writing a romantic novel, being concise is a desirable skill. Your cover letter is not a contract that needs to be exhaustive and cover everything; don’t drag it out. Keep it short and sweet, and cover only the most important things. Your hiring manager doesn’t want to spend a whole hour reading your cover letter. Make sure every sentence provides value and tells the reader something about you. If you’re not confident in your writing, follow the formatting tips above. The rule of thumb is – keep it all on one page.
Speak their language
While we’re all speaking the same language, we do so differently. The way you talk to a family member or close friend is different from the way you talk to your professor or boss. That’s not to say that you treat your parents with less respect than your teachers; there is a slight difference in tone.
A recruiter from a big law firm expects your writing to be formal. Smaller local firms are all different, depending on their company culture. If you want to be sure, visit the firm’s website. That should give you an idea of the tone you should use.
This should really go without saying. As a lawyer, you’ll have lots of writing, proofreading, and editing to do. You’re not expected to be a Pulitzer Prize nominee, but you should have a way with words. If this is your first peek into the legal world, make sure you have an impeccable reputation from the very beginning.
Grammar mistakes make you look unbecoming and silly. By proofreading your cover letter before sending it out, you show great attention to detail.
Your cover letter is your first venture into the firm. It can give you a job offer or a bad reputation. This is the first thing your potential employer will know about you, and it very well could become the only thing. If your cover letter does not catch the hiring manager’s attention, they won’t bother to look for more information about you. They won’t try to justify your spelling mistakes or gaps in your CV. You get one shot, so you owe it to yourself to get it right.
Follow the structure outlined above very closely to get an idea of the contents of your cover letter. Keep it brief and don’t go over one page. No matter how interesting your life story is, it’s not interesting enough. Besides, you will get a chance to tell them all about you if you get invited for an interview.
Add a personal touch to your letter by addressing your recipient by name. That will make your application more memorable. Proofread your text before sending it out to avoid silly mistakes. Do your absolute best to show the hiring manager just how much you want to work with them.
Writing a great cover letter is hard, but it’s not impossible. Keep in mind that other applicants probably have what you have too in terms of experience and education. It’s not about what you’ve done but how you can talk about it.