Cover Letters

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Cover Letters

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jul 18, 2017 4:01 pm

So after already sending out about 70 apps, I read that my cover letter may suck. I adapted it using samples of supposedly effective cover letters, but now I just read this: http://abovethelaw.com/2011/03/small-fi ... o-hire-me/

How do I write a cover letter that praises some partner's accomplishments when I don't even know who will read it? All these apps go to Human Resources or some local recruiter. I have a standard letter that I basically change three sentences of: The firm & office where I want employment, why I want that location, and some statement (usually info found in press releases) about their inclusion on some list or their experience in real estate law or whatever.

The rest of the letter relates what I've done so far to my preparedness for the job (or at least that's how I hope it comes across). One of the attorneys at my current job took a look at it for me and said I wasn't talking myself up enough. But now I'm wondering if I just shouldn't delete half the letter and make it all about the awesomeness of the firm I'm applying to, and how do people have time to do that for every single application anyway? I'm pushing to get these sent out as it is while all I'm doing is just altering a few sentences. It says to not talk about your boring duties from your summer internship. Almost every example I've seen does that though, plus I don't really consider what I've done this summer to be boring at all - at least not to me.

I already know my app isn't standing out on the merits. It's pretty average (above median 2L at T20 with journal & 2 internships). Should I put a hold on this and rethink my cover letter? Is it really the potential job-killer this guy makes it out to be?

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Re: Cover Letters

Postby lolwat » Tue Jul 18, 2017 4:23 pm

I briefly read that article. That advice is great for small firms, not necessarily giant biglaw firms where your resume is going to recruiting or a group of hiring committee peeps. It makes total sense for small firms, too, especially firms with like 1-2 partners. Why wouldn't you do the research and personalize the letter to them?

That being said, there are probably things you can change in your cover letter.

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rpupkin

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Re: Cover Letters

Postby rpupkin » Tue Jul 18, 2017 4:34 pm

Based on your post, my guess is that your cover letter is way too long. Keep in mind that many firms aren't going to read your cover letter no matter what. If you want to increase the chances that your letter is actually read, keep it short.

It's a good idea to tailor your cover letter so that the firm believes you have a sincere interest in the firm and the city, but don't go overboard. (The ATL author says "I want to hear that you think working for my firm will be the greatest honor you could ever have," but I think that's extremely hard to pull off if you don't actually believe that.) Your current approach sounds fine.

As far as whether you should promote yourself in the letter, I think it's fine to do so--but, again, keep it short. If you have a full paragraph about your "preparedness for the job," it's too much. Try to keep the "self-promotion" part to two sentences at most. A single sentence would be even better.

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Re: Cover Letters

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jul 18, 2017 4:50 pm

Op here. That makes sense. So far, I haven't applied anywhere that lists contact info for anything but HR/Recruiting. So far, the extent of my "tailoring" is a sentence like:

"Your firm’s recognition as being among X area's "Best Places to Work," fifteen consecutive years on [insert top firm listing], reputation of community service, and your substantial experience in land use and real estate law, are quite impressive."

then later saying something like "I have family in X and would consider relocating there for summer employment to be an exciting opportunity."

The rest of it is a couple of brief paragraphs about what I will be doing this year (classes, journal, moot court, blah blah), and how what I did this summer relates to working there.

My letter is almost a full page. (Single spaced TR with a header, return address, and 4 paragraphs) The third paragraph contains info about both internships. 5 sentences and 9 lines long.

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rpupkin

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Re: Cover Letters

Postby rpupkin » Tue Jul 18, 2017 5:02 pm

Quick comments:

"Your firm’s recognition as being among X area's "Best Places to Work," fifteen consecutive years on [insert top firm listing], reputation of community service, and your substantial experience in land use and real estate law, are quite impressive."

This isn't helpful. The firm knows about its reputation and strengths. The right way to do this is to tie in your interests to a strength of the firm--e.g., "I am interested in land use and real estate law, and am looking for the opportunity to work at a firm with a strong land use practice."

then later saying something like "I have family in X and would consider relocating there for summer employment to be an exciting opportunity."

This is bad. You're not just looking for "summer employment"; you're looking for a permanent job post-graduation. Your sentence makes it sound like you're looking for a place to make some money while taking a summer vacation. And, no, you would not "consider relocating" to a city; instead, you should say that you want to work in that city.

The rest of it is a couple of brief paragraphs about what I will be doing this year (classes, journal, moot court, blah blah), and how what I did this summer relates to working there.

Consider cutting this. It's too generic and, as that ATL author pointed out, discusses item that are on your resume. I would only highlight a school activity on a cover letter if that activity ties into one of the firm's strengths. To use the example above, I'd mention that you're on the "real estate/land use" journal if that's a strong practice group at the firm.

My letter is almost a full page. (Single spaced TR with a header, return address, and 4 paragraphs) The third paragraph contains info about both internships. 5 sentences and 9 lines long.

Yeah, this is way too long. I'd say the ideal length is half a page--you certainly don't want to go longer than two-thirds of a page. I'd combine the "what I will be doing this year" and the "summer internship" stuff into a single paragraph of about four sentences.

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Re: Cover Letters

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jul 18, 2017 5:13 pm

rpupkin wrote:Quick comments:

"Your firm’s recognition as being among X area's "Best Places to Work," fifteen consecutive years on [insert top firm listing], reputation of community service, and your substantial experience in land use and real estate law, are quite impressive."

This isn't helpful. The firm knows about its reputation and strengths. The right way to do this is to tie in your interests to a strength of the firm--e.g., "I am interested in land use and real estate law, and am looking for the opportunity to work at a firm with a strong land use practice."

then later saying something like "I have family in X and would consider relocating there for summer employment to be an exciting opportunity."

This is bad. You're not just looking for "summer employment"; you're looking for a permanent job post-graduation. Your sentence makes it sound like you're looking for a place to make some money while taking a summer vacation. And, no, you would not "consider relocating" to a city; instead, you should say that you want to work in that city.

The rest of it is a couple of brief paragraphs about what I will be doing this year (classes, journal, moot court, blah blah), and how what I did this summer relates to working there.

Consider cutting this. It's too generic and, as that ATL author pointed out, discusses item that are on your resume. I would only highlight a school activity on a cover letter if that activity ties into one of the firm's strengths. To use the example above, I'd mention that you're on the "real estate/land use" journal if that's a strong practice group at the firm.

My letter is almost a full page. (Single spaced TR with a header, return address, and 4 paragraphs) The third paragraph contains info about both internships. 5 sentences and 9 lines long.

Yeah, this is way too long. I'd say the ideal length is half a page--you certainly don't want to go longer than two-thirds of a page. I'd combine the "what I will be doing this year" and the "summer internship" stuff into a single paragraph of about four sentences.


THANK YOU! Very much appreciated. I guess I should've asked this question a couple of weeks ago. Hopefully, what I've already sent out won't hurt me too much. I hadn't realized the relocation sentence sounded like that. :|

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rpupkin

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Re: Cover Letters

Postby rpupkin » Tue Jul 18, 2017 5:15 pm

Anonymous User wrote:THANK YOU! Very much appreciated. I guess I should've asked this question a couple of weeks ago. Hopefully, what I've already sent out won't hurt me too much. I hadn't realized the relocation sentence sounded like that. :|

I wouldn't worry too much. Like I said upthread, these cover letters often don't get read anyway. Good luck--I'm rooting for you!



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