Monday, January 25, 2021
Over six years ago, I began writing about the job-seeking cover letter as an important piece of the career development and execution puzzle. My first post focused on the essential elements and formatting of an appropriate cover letter for a job search. My second cover letter post, written a bit more than a year later, honed in on best practices for creating the body of the letter--the part of the letter that does the key substantive work in making a case with the employer that you deserve an interview, principally by showing the employer that y0u have something the employer needs or finds valuable. A key element of that post was the its emphasis on introduction of the "PAR" method, which I maintain is a key to both cover letters and job interviews. About six months after that second post, I wrote a third post on networking letters.
That last post was published in July of 2016. That just does not seem possible. It cannot have been that long ago! But it is. Time flies when you are having fun, as they say.
It may go without saying, but I have continued to give resume, cover letter, and job search communication advice to law students and lawyers on a regular basis. In these interactions, two things have been coming up with some frequency recently. The first is the difference between a CV and a resume. I will leave that to a future post. The second is what the body of a well-drafted cover letter reads like. I illustrate that here by posting a simple form of cover letter that illustrates many points from my posts.
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[Name of Recipient]
Re: Summer Associate - [Your Name]
Dear [Name of Recipient]:
I am a [first/second]-year student at [Law School Name] and I write to apply for a position as a summer associate in your [Specific Geographic Location] office. I am drawn to [Employer] because of its strong practice in corporate transactional law and because of its location in the [Geographic Region]. I am interested in the ways in which the firm’s emphasis on innovation operates in serving clients.
My curriculum at [Law School Name] has already given me experiential training in business law that I desire to leverage in my work next summer. For example, in my Business Associations course, I participated as part of a three-person team of students in an oral examination relating to a failed Tennessee distillery partnership based on facts drawn from a recently published Tennessee state court opinion. We were given a week to assess client facts and then met with the senior partner in our law firm (portrayed by our professor) to discuss possible courses of action to benefit the client. This assignment was instrumental in developing critical problem-solving skills and detail-orientation and allowed me to apply partnership and limited liability company law through oral communication in a real-world setting.
I also gained valuable research and writing experience in my [Name of Course] class in the fall semester. [Describe research in legal context]. I compiled the information obtained through that research into a [length] paper that examined [describe thesis or analysis]. The long-term nature of this assignment allowed me to develop and refine fact-finding, written composition, and time management skills while engaging in the analysis of [generalized description of legal issue resolved].
My resume is attached. I look forward to the opportunity to interview for a summer associate position with your firm. I can be reached at the telephone number or email address set forth above. I appreciate your time and consideration.
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I hope that posting this exemplar is helpful to law students seeking employment and to the law professors and others who advise them. I post it here for that purpose and also in the hopes that it will generate commentary that is similarly useful in career counseling and in revising the form. So, have at it. What do you find worthwhile about the exemplar letter? What do you find less compelling? Post your comments here or send me a private message.