Conventional wisdom holds that in all other markets (except maybe SF), "ties to the area" are mission-critical. To a large degree, this is true. This thread isn't about what makes for a good tie, but suffice it to say its usually something like having gone to the local undergrad or having a spouse from the target city. Ties are relevant but not critical in big secondary markets (think Chicago) and basically essential in smaller markets (think Charlotte).
This causes some people to invent fake local ties, which I think is just bad practice. For one thing, it's really easy to get caught if they ask you questions about the city and you have a dumb answer or none at all. For another thing, it's just dishonest.
I was a jobless scared 3L, and I just wanted a job with a good law firm. I did not give a shit where. From 2L on, I probably mass mailed close to 500 firms. I ended up getting interviews with firms in very insular markets where I had no ties, and offers from several of them (Anchorage, Des Moines, Vegas, etc.) Here was my strategy:
I did not just gloss over local ties and omit any mention of the city in my cover letter. This s a popular strategy for out of market mass mailings, and it is lazy and doesn't work.
Instead, I added a paragraph to the end of my cover letters frankly addressing the situation. Something like:
I understand that applicants without ties to [City] are regarded with some suspicion, and understandably so. Unfortunately, I grew up in [Large West Coast City] and have no such ties. However, I assure you that my desire to relocate is genuine, and that I am exceptionally interested in working for XYZ LLP for the long run because of Excellent Pactice Group That Fit My Skill Set ABC. I know that you take a risk hiring out of town applicants, but I think you'll find that I am a risk worth taking.
The key is to acknowledge that you are an applicant who comes with risk rather than gloss it over. Get ahead of the story, of you will. This will make you appear genuine, as well as potentially neutralize a huge factor working against you. I cannot guarantee that this is something that will work for everyone, but it worked for me so I thought I'd share. Besides which, if you (like I was) are at the point of mass mailing firms in Alaska, what choice do you have?