How to write a job-winning legal cover letter
Writing a compelling legal cover letter is your ticket to landing an interview in the legal field. Whether you're an experienced attorney or an aspiring paralegal, understanding how to build an attention-grabbing cover letter is just as important as your resume.
In this guide, we'll deep-dive into practical tips, share some compelling examples, and teach you the art of creating a standout legal cover letter!
Keep reading and find out more about:
- Formatting your cover letter
- Building an effective legal cover letter header
- Crafting an eye-catching cover letter headline
- Writing a strong legal cover letter introduction
- Highlighting your skills and accomplishments
- Writing a compelling conclusion
- Avoiding common mistakes in a legal cover letter
- Average salary and job outlook for legal professionals
- Job seeking resources for legal professionals
1. How to properly format your legal cover letter
Correct formatting is vital when it comes to leaving a strong first impression. Here's how you can refine your legal cover letter, ensuring it's smooth to read and easy to navigate:
- Choose a clear layout: Stick to traditional cover letter format. Start with your contact information, the date, the employer's contact details, a formal greeting, the body of the letter, closing, and your signature.
- Use professional font: Use simple, professional fonts like Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri. The font size should ideally be 11 or 12 points.
- Margins and spacing matter: Aim for 1" margin on all sides of your document. Single or 1.15 spacing between lines ensures readability.
- Get straight to the point: Legal professionals appreciate conciseness. Immediately introduce the purpose of writing the letter in the first paragraph.
- Organize your content: Use bullet points or short paragraphs to discuss key accomplishments or qualifications. This will help guide the reader's eye to the most important information.
- Close with confidence: Summarize why you're the right candidate and express appreciation for consideration in the concluding paragraph.
2. How to write a header for your legal cover letter
The header of your cover letter plays the role of introducing your personal and professional details. It should be crisply formatted, containing accurate, necessary information.
The contents of the header should include:
- Your full name
- Your phone number
- Your professional email address
- The current date
- The hiring manager's name and title
- The law firm's name and address
Understand better with the following examples:
Incorrect legal cover letter header example
To: Pearson Specter Litt
Why isn't this correct? This example doesn't reflect the standard professional legal cover letter header. Here's why:
- The name should be the full name without any titles.
- The phone number isn't correctly formatted. It is standard to include area code in brackets followed by the rest of the number.
- The email address isn't professional. Stick to a combination of your name/initials, avoiding nicknames.
- The current date and your personal address are missing, both of which are customary inclusions.
- The hiring manager's name, title, and firm's full address are missing, which are fundamental to a strong, professional header.
Correct legal cover letter header example
March 3, 2023
To: Mr. Jonathan Adams
Pearson Specter Litt
456 Barrister Blvd, New York, NY 10012
What makes this correct?
- The full name is used and it's professional.
- The phone number is correctly formatted.
- The email address is professional and easily identifiable.
- The date is specific and current.
- The hiring manager is respectfully addressed.
- Law firm's complete address is mentioned.
By following these tips, you ensure your header is professional, making it easier for the hiring manager to contact you.
3. How to craft an eye-catching legal cover letter headline
Your cover letter's headline is essentially your first impression, making it key in capturing the hiring manager's attention. A powerful headline is concise, targeted, and indicates the value you bring to the role.
Incorrect legal cover letter headline examples
- Looking for Legal Position
- Law Graduate Seeking Job
Why are they weak?
- They're vague and generic.
- The headlines don't convey any specific value or differentiate the candidate from others.
Strong legal cover letter headline examples
- Results-Oriented Attorney with 10+ Years in Corporate Law
- Harvard Law Grad Specializing in Environmental Legislation
What makes them strong?
- They're specific and tell the hiring manager immediately what the candidate offers.
- They use targeted language that portrays a strong, professional image.
- They highlight impressive achievements or unique specialization areas.
Remember that your headline works similar to a captivating tagline representing your professional identity. Invest thought into crafting it. Showcase your unique strengths and features boldly.
4. How to personalize the greeting on your legal cover letter
Addressing your cover letter properly is a crucial step that shouldn't be overlooked. It shows respect, professionalism, and that you've done your homework.
Customizing the greeting specifically for the hiring manager takes your game up a notch. Ideally, you can find their name on the job posting or on the company's website. If not, LinkedIn and the firm’s official website are other good places to look for it.
Personalized cover letter greeting examples
- Dear Mr. Adams,
- Dear Mr. Michael Adams,
- Dear Hiring Manager Micheal Adams,
When the hiring manager's name is unknown, it's best to use a generalized professional greeting. Avoid using "To whom it may concern," as it's overly formal and outdated. Here's how to better address your cover letter:
- “Dear Hiring Manager,” — This is a safe and universally acceptable option. It's appropriate for any circumstances.
- “Hello Legal Team," or "Dear [Lawfirm's Name] Team," — These are great options when you want to address the whole team. It signifies that you see yourself fitting in with the group.
- “Dear [Lawfirm's Name] Recruiter," — Use this option if you know that your cover letter will be read by a recruiter or if the job posting was shared by a recruiter.
Remember, every detail counts. Tailoring your greeting demonstrates initiative and respect, and these small touches could give you a competitive edge over other candidates.
5. How to craft a strong introduction for your legal cover letter
The introduction of your cover letter sets the tone for the rest of the document. It should capture interest, radiate enthusiasm, and briefly highlight professional achievements or academic acumen.
Include why you're applying for the specific position, and if applicable, leverage a mutual connection to further enhance your credibility.
Incorrect legal cover letter introduction
I came across your job posting and thought I should apply, given my background in law.
Why is this not effective?
- It lacks enthusiasm and appears insincere.
- It fails to share any relevant experiences or qualifications.
- It doesn't articulate why you're interested in the role.
Correct introduction for an experienced attorney
As an accomplished attorney with over 12 years of experience in corporate law, and a track record of securing favorable outcomes in over 85% of my cases, I am excited by the opportunity to bring my skills and expertise to ABC Law Firm's legal team.
What makes this good?
- It shows the candidate's experience upfront.
- It reveals a specific achievement that stands out.
- It expresses interest in the job posting.
Just out of law school and ready to conquer the legal world? Now, let's see how a hard-hitting introduction for a recent law graduate should look like:
Correct introduction for a recent law graduate
With a Juris Doctor degree from XYZ University and an internship experience at a reputable law firm, I am keen to apply for the Associate Attorney position at ABC Law Firm. My academic achievements and hands-on experience in handling various legal cases make me a strong candidate for this role.
What sets this apart?
- It highlights relevant academic achievement and professional experience.
- It expresses an eagerness for the specific job role.
- It forwards the prospect's suitability for the role.
In crafting your cover letter's opening, be bold and specific. Highlight the best parts of your career or educational background and make them intrigued to keep reading.
6. How to highlight your skills and accomplishments in a legal cover letter
The body of your cover letter is essentially your stage, it's where you impress the audience with your star qualities. In a neat and structured format, it should showcase your top skills, key achievements, and explain how these align with the requirements of the job role.
To effectively spotlight your legal skills and achievements:
- Use bullet points or short paragraphs for clarity and brevity.
- Quantify your achievements if possible. Legal professionals appreciate hard data.
- Tailor your skills to match those requested in the job description.
Top legal skills that you might highlight in a legal cover letter
- Strong research skills
- Excellent communicator
- High moral integrity
- Proficient in legal software
These are just a few examples of the key skills you might want to highlight when applying for a legal role. Remember, it’s not just about listing your skills, but demonstrating how they have made a tangible impact in your career or studies.
Cover letter body paragraph example for experienced legal professionals
My successes in the legal field have been thanks to my combination of skills and experience. For example:
- I saved my previous firm a substantial $2M through effective negotiation strategies.
- I implemented new legal software, reducing the research time by 30%, increasing productivity within the team.
- My rigorous attention to details was upheld in over 250 cases, where I found critical information that swayed the case in our favor.
If you're just starting your legal career, focus on transferable skills, academic achievements, or relevant internships. Perhaps you led a successful group project in your law course, or you have honed your researching abilities during your internship. Make these the highlight of your letter.
Cover letter body paragraph example for fresh graduates
Despite my lack of professional experience, my training and academia have equipped me with a robust skill set:
- My detail-oriented approach was recognized during my internship at XYZ law firm where I examined a complex 200-page contractual document and unearthed crucial irregularities.
- As a graduate, I managed a successful law project that involved research into data privacy, displaying my ability to handle intricate details and understand complex legal terminologies.
Remember, writing a cover letter is about promoting yourself without sounding boastful. The goal is to show the reader why you're the best fit for the job. So shine a large spotlight on your skills, qualifications, and experiences that align with the requirements of the job.
7. How to write a strong legal cover letter conclusion
The conclusion of your legal cover letter is equally as important as the introduction. This is your closing argument and final chance to emphasize your interest in the position, and how you can be an asset to the company.
Your conclusion should include:
- A reiteration of your interest in the role
- When and how you can best be reached, and an expectation of hearing from them
- A commitment to follow-up within a certain time frame
- A formal sign-off
Here's an example of an effective conclusion for a legal cover letter
I am genuinely excited about the prospect of bringing my unique blend of skills and experience to your esteemed legal team. I am confident that my expertise in corporate law will be beneficial to XYZ Law Firm. I can be reached at any time via phone or email, and I am looking forward to your feedback by the end of this month, at the latest. In case I have not heard from you by then, I will take the initiative to follow up to ensure my application has been received. Thank you for taking time to consider my application.
Remember, a persuasive conclusion leaves a lasting good impression, and that's exactly what you're aiming for. Wrap it up professionally, confidently, and courteously.
8. How to avoid common mistakes in a legal cover letter
Despite your best intentions, easy-to-make mistakes can creep into your legal cover letter, potentially jeopardizing your chances of landing the job. Here are some common pitfalls to avoid:
- Lack of specificity: Saying you're a "hard-working legal professional" is good, but not enough. Highlight specific skills and experiences related to the job.
- Typos and Grammar Errors: These can cast doubt on your attention to detail. Always proofread your cover letter, if possible, have someone else review it too.
- Being too lengthy: Employers don't have time for prolonged narratives. Stick to a single page, highlighting your key skills and experiences. Scrutinize each sentence — if it doesn't clearly add value, consider revising or removing it.
- Repeating your resume: Your cover letter should complement, not duplicate your resume. It's an opportunity to present your skills and experiences in a narrative format that connects them to the needs of the job.
- Addressing it to the wrong person: Failing to address the correct person can send your application straight to the trash. Always double-check the recipient’s name and title. If it isn't mentioned in the job ad, consider calling the company to ask or do an online research.
By circumventing these common errors, you enhance the potential of your application, making it more compelling and professional.
9. Average salary and outlook for lawyers
Choosing a career in law comes with impressive financial prospects. According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average yearly salary for lawyers as of May 2022 was a handsome $135,740. This salary can of course vary depending on your specialization, location, and level of experience.
But it's not just about the money — the job outlook for lawyers is also promising. Employment of lawyers is set to grow 8 percent from 2022 to 2032. This growth rate surpasses the average for all other occupations, making the legal field a viable and attractive career path.
Digging deeper, the data reveals an anticipated average of 39,100 openings for lawyers each year over the next decade.
With its attractive salary and robust employment outlook, pursuing a career as a lawyer could lead to a bright and prosperous future.
10. Job seeking resources for legal professionals
Navigating the job market can be challenging, and having the right resources at your disposal can make a significant difference. Whether you're a student considering a career in law or an experienced lawyer seeking a new opportunity, the following resources can be invaluable:
- Legal job boards: Websites like Lawjobs.com or Indeed.com compile countless job listings in the legal field, making it easy to find opportunities that align with your interests and qualifications.
- Networking: Connect with other legal professionals on LinkedIn and other social media platforms. Moreover, consider joining legal associations and attending industry conferences to meet peers and mentors in the legal profession.
- Continued education: To advance in the legal field, consider acquiring additional certifications or attending workshops and seminars. Websites like Coursera or Lawline offer a range of online courses and seminars.
- Legal blogs/news: Keeping up-to-date with the latest industry trends and topics is crucial. Sites like Law.com or the ABA Journal provide updated news, articles, and insights on the legal landscape.
- Mentorship: Reach out to experienced lawyers who can share their experiences and give you insights into the profession.
- Career counseling: Many universities and colleges offer career counseling services for their students and alumni. These can help with resume and cover letter writing, interview practice, and job search strategies.
Stepping into your legal career or seeking the next big opportunity can be a daunting task. However, using these resources can guide you on the right path, equipping you with the tools and knowledge needed to excel in your legal profession. All it takes is a little direction and a hefty dose of determination. Good luck!
Your tone should be professional and confident. Though you're writing a formal legal document, avoid overly complex legal jargon. It's essential to show your personality and passion for the role.
In your cover letter, make it clear why you're interested in the job and willing to relocate. However, focus primarily on your qualifications and why you're the best choice for the role.
If you have significant employment gaps, it may be wise to address them briefly in your cover letter. Be straightforward, focusing on the positive outcomes like any skills or knowledge learned during the gap.
It's always best to customize your cover letter for each job application. Using the same cover letter for different job applications might come across as lazy and could potentially cost you the job.
Only include references if the job advertisement specifically asks for them. Otherwise, wait until the interview. When choosing, find professional contacts who can attest to your skills and qualifications.