"Tailored" Cover Letters

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"Tailored" Cover Letters

Postby TTH » Sun May 15, 2011 12:25 am

I've set a wholly arbitrary goal of researching one firm each night this summer to prepare for 2L OCI/mailbombs. I'd like to write good, tailored cover letters to each firm, but I don't really know what should go in them. I mean, I can look up shit on their websites or find news stories about the firms and what not, but I can't imagine anything I can put in a cover letter will actually leave a favorable impression. At best, I think I'll come off as ingratiating. At worst, it seems like I'll transparently be parroting their website back to them.

What's worked for you guys? What hasn't? Are cover letters the equivalent of personal statements (not going to help you but shows a threshold of writing competency and demonstrating some minimum knowledge of the firm)?

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Re: "Tailored" Cover Letters

Postby buckilaw » Sun May 15, 2011 1:26 am

Thanks for asking this question. This is relevant to my interests.

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Re: "Tailored" Cover Letters

Postby blsingindisguise » Tue May 17, 2011 1:25 pm

This is a hard question to answer, because what works best in a cover letter may depend on the whims and tastes of the reader.

However, I think it's generally good to show some sense of why you're aiming for the specific firm. E.g. if their main practice is securities litigation, you should have a line or two about why you want to practice securities litigation, and you should also maybe have a couple of lines about the firm's specific attributes that make it attractive (e.g. size, something unusual about the structure of the firm's associate program, MAYBE a major matter or clients, although this is where it can start to sound hackneyed). If your resume is good enough for the firm otherwise, you shouldn't need to say too much and I prefer a less-is-more approach (writing less = fewer chances to come off as weird or overeager).

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Re: "Tailored" Cover Letters

Postby northwood » Tue May 17, 2011 1:26 pm

buckilaw wrote:Thanks for asking this question. This is relevant to my interests.

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Re: "Tailored" Cover Letters

Postby Georgiana » Tue May 17, 2011 1:50 pm

First off, in my experience, very few OCI firms requested cover letters, they're much more interested in your resume and grades. That said, going through the exercise of writing the cover letter will help you get to know the firm and give you something to look back on the day of the interview for why you were interested in that firm (and since you don't know yet who you will get to interview with through OCI, it'll save you time later if you have it already written and just send it off/hand it to the person during OCI).

As far as what to focus on... I think first you need to figure out what you're interested in for your summer experience/career. You don't need to know exactly what you want to do, but think about what you enjoy doing and see if you can cross some things off the list of possibilities. Look at the summer program information about the firm, do they let you do a little bit of everything? Do you pick your own assignments or are they assigned to you? Are you assigned to one group for the summer? Two groups? Is there a rotation, if so how many do you get to try? These will all impact your summer experience and you can tailor your resume depending on each firm's style (e.g. you want to try one or two things in depth v. you want to work with a lot of people to get a feel for different areas).

Also look closely at the practice areas and where the partners are in that area (if you're applying to the LA office of a firm to work in their securities group and ALL of the securities people are in NY you will look like an idiot). Think about where you have excelled and whether your past experiences support your desire to work in a particular area. I targeted IP groups but not IP firms because I wasn't entirely sure about IP, but I had the background for it. I got an offer with a great firm but also learned that IP wasn't my niche and was easily able to try new things and found out what I liked.

Finally, think about contacting people throughout the summer for information about the firm. Look for alumni from your undergrad or law school and reach out to those people. If you make a good contact, ask if you can reference them in your cover letter and maybe even have that person submit your info in a "I know this person and like them" way, it can work wonders if the person is a higher up (this doesn't work too well with lower level associates). Your school will also let you know if there are any former summers from your school and you can reach out to them to get more details on the summer experience and what they really liked about the firm.

Good luck!

And for OCI, definitely come up with at least 3 questions for each firm and write them down on a cheat sheet that you take in your padfolio (along with notes about the firm). It's much easier to come up with questions ahead of time than to have to come up with them spur of the moment when the interviewer decides he doesn't have any more questions :)

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