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Attorney Cover Letter Guide: the Art of Getting Noticed

9 min
read

Updated

Feb 15, 2023

The job search pool is highly competitive, which is why an excellent cover letter is an important step in the process. Writing cover letters is no easy task, and unfortunately, many attorney cover letters are poorly written and fail to stand out from the crowd. As a result, they are often quickly passed over in favor of more compelling ones. There's no telling how many high-paying, prestigious jobs you may be missing out on because of your poor cover letter.

The key to a good letter is to highlight the experiences and qualifications that make you stand out as a candidate to the hiring manager. Cover letters should be personalized to the job, enthusiastic, and professional.

This guide will give you tips to craft the perfect cover letter for attorneys to get you noticed. You will find out the following: 

  • The dos and don'ts of legal cover letters
  • The structure of an attorney cover letter
  • The ethics to think of when writing a law firm cover letter
  • Examples of an attorney cover letter 
  • How to market yourself with a compelling cover letter

Legal Cover Letter: Dos and Don'ts

Following these simple dos and don'ts will give you the best chance at landing an interview for a legal job.

The DOs 

1. Always ensure your cover letter is tailored to the specific position you are applying for. Make sure to research the company and demonstrate an understanding of its mission and goals. 

2. Include relevant experiences, such as internships, demonstrating your knowledge and ability to work in the legal field. Furthermore, take the time to provide details on how your skills have been applied in prior positions. But remember, they have your resume, so only pick out the most relevant and enticing details.

3. Make sure that your letter is professional and formatted correctly. Pay attention to the font size, margins, and overall presentation.

4. Be sure to sell yourself. Explain why you are qualified for the position and how your experience makes you a great candidate. It's also essential to provide relevant details about yourself and your work history.

The Don'ts

1. Your cover letter shouldn't begin with 'To Whom It May Concern.' It's an impersonal greeting. Instead, you can start the letter with 'Hello' or use other formal greetings like: 

  • Dear [First Name]
  • Dear [titles, e.g., Mr., Mrs., Dr., Prof.] + [Last Name]
  • Dear [Job Title], such as a hiring manager

2. Avoid grammatical errors and typos, as they can be costly. Make sure to proofread and review your legal cover letter before submitting it, double-checking for any typos or errors. 

3. Do not use too much technical jargon or excessive legal terms. Being concise and clear with your language will make you stand out from other applicants. 

4. Don't go beyond one page. Even though you need to detail your experiences, you must ensure the details are not too long or unnecessary.

Attorney Cover Letter Structure

What must be included in cover letter?

An effective cover letter serves as a way to introduce yourself to potential employers and explain why you are the best candidate for the position. The letter should include the following details: 

1. Your contact information: Ensure that your name, address, phone number, and email address are displayed at the top of the page.

2. Date: The letter needs to have a date, which should appear in the address block after your name and contact information, typically on the left or center of the page.

3. Employer Address: Format this address block for the individual you are writing to as follows:

- Name 

- Title (If you know it)

- Name of the law firm 

- Address (City, State, Zip Code)

4. The greeting: Cover letters should always be addressed to a specific person. As previously stated, don’t use the phrase ‘To Whom It May Concern’; instead, use the other phrases listed above.

5. Your concluding phrases: Add formal closing statements like ‘Sincerely’ and ‘Respectfully.’

6. Signature: When mailing a cover letter, sign it in blue or black ink and type your name beneath it. Enter your name in the relevant signature space if you are submitting a cover letter electronically.

7. Enclosures: In addition to your resume, you may send a transcript, writing sample, or any materials requested by the employer in your personalized cover letter. If you are enclosing only one more item, use ‘Enclosure,’ ‘Enc.’ or ‘Encl.’ after your typed signature. If you're attaching two or more files, use ‘Enclosures,’ ‘Encs,’ or ‘Encls.’

Since a well-structured lawyer cover letter will demonstrate your qualifications, skills, and experience professionally, it should include an introduction, body, and conclusion that highlights them.

Introduction

A well-crafted cover letter should introduce you to the hiring manager and provide insight into why you are the right fit for the position. Start with a professional salutation, then briefly summarize your qualifications and experience. Go on to introduce yourself and the position you are applying for. The cover letter's opening paragraph should explain why you are interested in the position and what makes you uniquely qualified to fill it.

Main Body

How attorney cover letter looks like

The main body of your cover letter is where you can detail how you meet or exceed the requirements of the position. Review successful lawyer cover letter examples. You will see how this part of the letter responds to the job description. One or two paragraphs should reflect the key details the future employer will be looking for.

Let the reader know what makes you interested in this position. Is it the reputation or culture of the law firm? Will you have the opportunity to practice an area of law that excites you? A cover letter for law firms will start by answering why.
  • Relevant work experience and roles
  • Details on academic work
  • Any professional or academic awards you've received
  • Your personal history
  • Community organization and service
  • Articles and other publications

First Paragraph

Your goal for your first paragraph is to be both concise and impactful. You want to quickly cover who you are, why you are writing, and why the recipient should keep reading. A simple formula on:

Sentence 1: 'I have recently passed the bar and am interested in working as a junior associate with [law firm].'

Sentence 2: 'I learned about this opening from [job listing or referral]... (Alternative - I am pursuing this because of my [interest/passion/experience] for [area of law]).'

Sentence 3: Here, you want to build a connection. Mention an internship in this area of law, an event you attended where the senior attorney was featured, or legal aid work you have done in this practice area.

You will alter this formula in your cover letter. This alteration might include adding a bit of extra detail. However, this should help you remember the ground you must cover in your first paragraph.

What about name-dropping? It's perfectly fine to mention a connection you have. However, you should limit this to people you have had meaningful contact with, not simply met in passing.

Conclusion

You will use your closing paragraph to leave a great impression on the prospective employer, emphasize your interest, and be upbeat. Make sure to include the following elements in the concluding paragraph of your cover letter for attorney:

  • Thank the reader for taking the time to review your letter and the rest of your application
  • Detail how you plan to follow up with the law firm
  • Reiterate relevant contact details, including your best times of availability

Make sure to stick with whatever you say you will do to follow up. If you state that you will email within a week and fail to do so, the firm may simply assume you are no longer interested. Be proactive to show you want to move to the interview stage.

Ethics to Think of When Writing a Law Firm Cover Letter

Even though each cover letter you write will have different details, there are rules of writing etiquette that you must always follow. These aren't always easy to determine at first. For example, what should your cover letter include?

It helps to remember that a persuasive cover letter can make a difference. Such is the case with very experienced lawyers and law students. The following points will guide you on the etiquette of writing a proper cover letter.

Your cover letter is not optional. This rule is the most important point of cover letter etiquette. You must include one with every application. Even if you are on a career page that says it is optional, you must write a cover letter to introduce yourself.

Brevity is key. Be respectful of the hiring manager's time. Get right to the point. Don't drag things out. If you can't be concise in your cover letter, can you be brief in front of a judge?

Match their manner of speaking. Use language and phrasing that is very similar to that used in the law firm's own culture. This tactic is a personal touch that employers will notice positively.

Center, the employer. Everything you write should remember that you are there to meet their needs. Avoid sharing details about yourself that don't showcase how you will be able to do your job well.

Don't forget the rule about triple checking your cover letter. That is also a matter of business writing etiquette.

Tempted to change names and other information, then send the same cover letter to everybody? That saves time, but it will be obvious that you haven't bothered to personalize your cover letters, and that's a problem.

Attorney Cover Letter Examples

The process can be intimidating when you write a cover letter for a job you want. Don't get stuck. Instead, get some inspiration from a sample lawyer cover letter. Reading another letter can give you some great ideas for points to include and will boost your confidence.

We can even help you get started. Here are some attorney cover letter samples links. They show cover letters from people with varying experience levels and different objectives:

You don't necessarily want to rewrite these. Instead, consider using these as examples of insights to include. Also, they serve as excellent examples of how you should structure a cover letter.

Market Yourself With a Compelling Legal Cover Letter

Your legal cover letter should be direct, focused, and informative to increase your chances of landing an interview. It is your chance to showcase your best qualities, skills, and experience to stand out from other applicants vying for the same position. It should highlight relevant experience, including any internships or volunteer work, academic or research specializations, and other relevant qualifications.  

Since it provides insight into the reasons why you think you are the ideal candidate for the position and demonstrates your enthusiasm for the job, be sure to explain why you are passionate about this particular job opportunity.

There are plenty of great sample cover letters to use as inspiration, like the ones in this guide. You can also connect with a professional lawyer SEO agency like Grow Law Firm for additional insights on marketing your professional brand and growing within the legal field.

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