I need feedback on this cover letter!

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I need feedback on this cover letter!

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Jun 16, 2020 8:45 pm

[MY NAME], J.D.
[ADDRESS]
[PHONE + EMAIL]

June 16, 2020

[EMPLOYER NAME + ADDRESS]


Dear Ms. [NAME],

I am a Master of Library and Information Science candidate at [UNIVERSITY] and a Juris Doctor graduate with outstanding honors from [LAW SCHOOL]. I respectfully write this to express my interest in the Reference Librarian role at [ACADEMIC LAW LIBRARY].

I currently serve as Judicial Law Clerk for the [COURT], a position I shall be employed in until August 2020. My experience assisting the Judge in drafting judicial opinions and orders has bolstered my legal research, writing, and reasoning skills. On a weekly basis, I analyze whether filed motions are in conformity with the [STATE] Rules of Court. Furthermore, in this role, I am tasked with communicating promptly and professionally with attorneys, support staff, pro se litigants and Probation about the status of pending cases. Lastly, mediating family, landlord-tenant, and small claims disputes pursuant to my certification under [STATE] Court Rule [STATUTE] has strengthened my interpersonal and conflict resolution skills.

In response to the growing need for Spanish-speaking attorneys and support staff, from 2018 to 2019, I developed and taught an immersive, multi-session Continuing Legal Education (CLE) course, “Spanish for Lawyers” for members of the [COUNTY] Bar Association. The course covered commonly used Spanish phrases and words in courtrooms and law offices, helping students communicate with Hispanic clients regarding legal matters including family law, immigration, criminal law, etc. Students received comprehensive glossaries of terms, and each class session included an improvisational element, where students were to interview a mock client in Spanish. I am passionate about increasing access to justice for English language learners, and my course assisted attorneys in providing linguistically and culturally competent services to Latinos of [REGION]. In addition, it bolstered my pedagogical skills, which are highly relevant as the Reference Librarian position involves classroom instruction in legal research courses.

My volunteer experience has also allowed me to develop competencies beneficial to this position. During my free time from 2018 to 2019, I served as a Pro Bono Volunteer for the [COUNTY] Law Library, which helped me develop my issue spotting, reading comprehension and critical thinking skills. In this volunteer position, I scanned, cataloged, and issue-spotted countless state trial court judicial decisions issued in [COUNTIES] in [STATE]. After carefully reading and distilling the legal issues in each opinion, I then entered keywords into a digital database to facilitate attorneys and pro se litigants performing legal research. This role involved close attention to detail and analytical skills, particularly the issue-spotting piece and in selecting the most salient metadata. Presently, as a remote Archival Volunteer for the [LAW LIBRARY], I transcribe, tag, and review 14th-19th century manuscripts for the “Herencia: Centuries of Spanish Legal Documents” collection through a crowdsourcing platform so that researchers can more easily discover these rare primary source foreign law materials.

In sum, because of my passion for public service, diverse background, teaching experience, and strong legal research, reasoning, and writing skills, I hope you will see me as an ideal candidate for this position. Please let me know if I can provide any further information regarding my candidacy, such as references. Thank you for your consideration!

Sincerely,


[NAME], J.D.

1styearlateral

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Re: I need feedback on this cover letter!

Post by 1styearlateral » Tue Jun 16, 2020 11:08 pm

It’s too long.

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Re: I need feedback on this cover letter!

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jun 17, 2020 1:41 am

1styearlateral wrote:
Tue Jun 16, 2020 11:08 pm
It’s too long.
What should I cut out?

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Deserving Porcupine

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Re: I need feedback on this cover letter!

Post by Deserving Porcupine » Wed Jun 17, 2020 1:51 am

Paragraphs three and four

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Re: I need feedback on this cover letter!

Post by jigiwo1898jupiter » Wed Jun 17, 2020 2:00 am

It is about 50% too long and I hate the exclamation point at the end. Those are the only things I saw because I didn't read it because it is way too long.

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nixy

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Re: I need feedback on this cover letter!

Post by nixy » Wed Jun 17, 2020 8:32 am

Academic cover letters are different from regular job cover letters, primarily because they’re really long. I don’t think length is the issue here; with the caveat that I’m not a law librarian (but know a lot of librarians), I think the issue is that you sound like you’re selling yourself as a lawyer, not a reference librarian. While you need a legal background to be a law librarian, being a reference librarian isn’t based on legal research, reasoning, and writing skills; it’s based on knowing legal library resources and how to help people find and use the ones they need. Your experience as a law clerk isn’t that relevant. Your experience teaching Spanish for lawyers is relevant with regard to teaching, but not the way that you’re pitching it here (also don’t say it’s “highly relevant” because the reference job requires teaching. Too adverb-y and too pushy. Either just tell them about your teaching experience and leave it, or say something like you are eager to do more teaching based on your experience with the Spanish class. They can draw the connections).

The mediation stuff could be relevant but should be treated separately and not lumped in with the Spanish class, unless you open the paragraph with something about your interpersonal skills so they both fit under the same umbrella.

You harp about issue-spotting in your pro bono work but when will you be issue spotting as a reference librarian? Again, the job is you helping users find the information they need. If you see that work as identical to traditional legal issue spotting maybe you need to explain that connection. Have you taken any courses on reference work yet? You should be referencing that kind of stuff over generic legal research, reasoning, and writing skills. (Also, your reference to your diverse background is confusing in this letter since an academic cover letter actually does go into a lot of detail about you, but this hasn’t previously referenced any diverse background.)

Really what you want to do is find people at your degree program to give you feedback on this. It’s a different kind of beast than standard legal job cover letters (for which, I agree, it would be way too long and also just regurgitating your resume), so people here aren’t going to be able to help you much. Actual librarians can help you.

Oh, and yeah, definitely ditch the exclamation point at the end.

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Re: I need feedback on this cover letter!

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jun 17, 2020 6:31 pm

nixy wrote:
Wed Jun 17, 2020 8:32 am
Academic cover letters are different from regular job cover letters, primarily because they’re really long. I don’t think length is the issue here; with the caveat that I’m not a law librarian (but know a lot of librarians), I think the issue is that you sound like you’re selling yourself as a lawyer, not a reference librarian. While you need a legal background to be a law librarian, being a reference librarian isn’t based on legal research, reasoning, and writing skills; it’s based on knowing legal library resources and how to help people find and use the ones they need. Your experience as a law clerk isn’t that relevant. Your experience teaching Spanish for lawyers is relevant with regard to teaching, but not the way that you’re pitching it here (also don’t say it’s “highly relevant” because the reference job requires teaching. Too adverb-y and too pushy. Either just tell them about your teaching experience and leave it, or say something like you are eager to do more teaching based on your experience with the Spanish class. They can draw the connections).

The mediation stuff could be relevant but should be treated separately and not lumped in with the Spanish class, unless you open the paragraph with something about your interpersonal skills so they both fit under the same umbrella.

You harp about issue-spotting in your pro bono work but when will you be issue spotting as a reference librarian? Again, the job is you helping users find the information they need. If you see that work as identical to traditional legal issue spotting maybe you need to explain that connection. Have you taken any courses on reference work yet? You should be referencing that kind of stuff over generic legal research, reasoning, and writing skills. (Also, your reference to your diverse background is confusing in this letter since an academic cover letter actually does go into a lot of detail about you, but this hasn’t previously referenced any diverse background.)

Really what you want to do is find people at your degree program to give you feedback on this. It’s a different kind of beast than standard legal job cover letters (for which, I agree, it would be way too long and also just regurgitating your resume), so people here aren’t going to be able to help you much. Actual librarians can help you.

Oh, and yeah, definitely ditch the exclamation point at the end.
I don't start the MLIS program until September.

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Re: I need feedback on this cover letter!

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jun 17, 2020 6:33 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Jun 17, 2020 6:31 pm
nixy wrote:
Wed Jun 17, 2020 8:32 am
Academic cover letters are different from regular job cover letters, primarily because they’re really long. I don’t think length is the issue here; with the caveat that I’m not a law librarian (but know a lot of librarians), I think the issue is that you sound like you’re selling yourself as a lawyer, not a reference librarian. While you need a legal background to be a law librarian, being a reference librarian isn’t based on legal research, reasoning, and writing skills; it’s based on knowing legal library resources and how to help people find and use the ones they need. Your experience as a law clerk isn’t that relevant. Your experience teaching Spanish for lawyers is relevant with regard to teaching, but not the way that you’re pitching it here (also don’t say it’s “highly relevant” because the reference job requires teaching. Too adverb-y and too pushy. Either just tell them about your teaching experience and leave it, or say something like you are eager to do more teaching based on your experience with the Spanish class. They can draw the connections).

The mediation stuff could be relevant but should be treated separately and not lumped in with the Spanish class, unless you open the paragraph with something about your interpersonal skills so they both fit under the same umbrella.

You harp about issue-spotting in your pro bono work but when will you be issue spotting as a reference librarian? Again, the job is you helping users find the information they need. If you see that work as identical to traditional legal issue spotting maybe you need to explain that connection. Have you taken any courses on reference work yet? You should be referencing that kind of stuff over generic legal research, reasoning, and writing skills. (Also, your reference to your diverse background is confusing in this letter since an academic cover letter actually does go into a lot of detail about you, but this hasn’t previously referenced any diverse background.)

Really what you want to do is find people at your degree program to give you feedback on this. It’s a different kind of beast than standard legal job cover letters (for which, I agree, it would be way too long and also just regurgitating your resume), so people here aren’t going to be able to help you much. Actual librarians can help you.

Oh, and yeah, definitely ditch the exclamation point at the end.
I don't start the MLIS program until September.
It's referring to my foreign language abilities and POC background (the application form asked applicants to list their racial-ethnic group, and other "diversity" criteria).

nixy

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Re: I need feedback on this cover letter!

Post by nixy » Thu Jun 18, 2020 12:15 am

Oh, if you don't start the program till September, you're not going to get a job as a reference librarian at an academic law library, so all this is moot. (I wouldn't even describe myself as an MLIS candidate before classes have even started - accepted into the program, but not yet a candidate.) Wait until you start the program and use the many resources they will have to help you.

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Re: I need feedback on this cover letter!

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jun 18, 2020 2:02 am

nixy wrote:
Thu Jun 18, 2020 12:15 am
Oh, if you don't start the program till September, you're not going to get a job as a reference librarian at an academic law library, so all this is moot. (I wouldn't even describe myself as an MLIS candidate before classes have even started - accepted into the program, but not yet a candidate.) Wait until you start the program and use the many resources they will have to help you.
An academic law librarian job posting from late last week explicitly stated that they are accepting apps from JD's who are working on their MLIS (position starts in the fall, I believe).

nixy

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Re: I need feedback on this cover letter!

Post by nixy » Thu Jun 18, 2020 8:14 am

If that’s the posting that this letter is in response to, then great. The law librarian reference jobs I’ve seen require the MLIS, but obviously you go off what the job posting says.

However, that doesn’t address the fact that your letter isn’t addressing at all the responsibilities of a reference librarian, and is only pitching your legal skills, which are not the same thing. It doesn’t really sound from this letter like you know what a reference librarian does (I’m not saying you don’t, just that it doesn’t come through in this letter).

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Re: I need feedback on this cover letter!

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jun 18, 2020 9:23 am

nixy wrote:
Thu Jun 18, 2020 8:14 am
If that’s the posting that this letter is in response to, then great. The law librarian reference jobs I’ve seen require the MLIS, but obviously you go off what the job posting says.

However, that doesn’t address the fact that your letter isn’t addressing at all the responsibilities of a reference librarian, and is only pitching your legal skills, which are not the same thing. It doesn’t really sound from this letter like you know what a reference librarian does (I’m not saying you don’t, just that it doesn’t come through in this letter).
I haven't worked as a Reference Librarian, tho...I can't really talk about work experience that I don't have.

nixy

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Re: I need feedback on this cover letter!

Post by nixy » Thu Jun 18, 2020 9:47 am

I'm not telling you to say you have work experience as a reference librarian. You don't need to have worked as a reference librarian to know what the job entails. I'm saying you need to talk about the experience that you *have* had *as it relates to a reference librarian's duties* (which are primarily not legal research, writing, and reasoning, but working with library patrons to find out what they need and provide them with the appropriate resources and advice on how to use those resources). Talking about your legal research, writing, and reasoning skills as if you're applying to be a lawyer doesn't position you as a good candidate for a non-lawyer job. Obviously research skills are relevant, but your personal ability to do legal research, for instance, doesn't actually tell a prospective employer that you can help other people navigate legal research, or train people to do legal research (or even that you realize that's what the job entails).

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Re: I need feedback on this cover letter!

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Jun 19, 2020 10:50 am

nixy wrote:
Thu Jun 18, 2020 9:47 am
I'm not telling you to say you have work experience as a reference librarian. You don't need to have worked as a reference librarian to know what the job entails. I'm saying you need to talk about the experience that you *have* had *as it relates to a reference librarian's duties* (which are primarily not legal research, writing, and reasoning, but working with library patrons to find out what they need and provide them with the appropriate resources and advice on how to use those resources). Talking about your legal research, writing, and reasoning skills as if you're applying to be a lawyer doesn't position you as a good candidate for a non-lawyer job. Obviously research skills are relevant, but your personal ability to do legal research, for instance, doesn't actually tell a prospective employer that you can help other people navigate legal research, or train people to do legal research (or even that you realize that's what the job entails).
Then how do I spin my past work experience? After graduating it's just been judicial clerkships and library/archival-related volunteer work. During law school was public defender and legal aid (immigration, family, veterans, public benefits, housing) internships/clinics. I've only had one paid position in a library, but it was when I was a teenager.

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Re: I need feedback on this cover letter!

Post by nixy » Fri Jun 19, 2020 12:00 pm

If you can’t figure out how any of your past experience makes you qualified to do the job you’re applying for, maybe now’s not the time to apply for that job.

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Re: I need feedback on this cover letter!

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Jun 20, 2020 12:54 pm

nixy wrote:
Fri Jun 19, 2020 12:00 pm
If you can’t figure out how any of your past experience makes you qualified to do the job you’re applying for, maybe now’s not the time to apply for that job.
I mean, most Law Librarians had legal work experience prior to switching careers (most of the law librarians at my JD program practiced in the private sector and/or did clerkships)...I'm not sure how my case is any different. In order to direct lawyers and litigants in their own research, I must be skilled in research myself. Also, I fail to see how developing and teaching CLEs is not relevant to an academic law librarian position that heavily involves teaching.

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Re: I need feedback on this cover letter!

Post by nixy » Sat Jun 20, 2020 1:50 pm

Of course law librarians have legal work experience. Of course your experience teaching a CLE is relevant (I already said that it was). That has nothing to do with the fact that you're not *showing* how your past experience is relevant to a job that isn't being a lawyer. You say you have legal research, reasoning, and writing skills; that's nice, but you have to talk specifically about how those skills qualify you to be a librarian. Look at the job description and what the actual duties and responsibilities and required skills are, and address them directly in your letter.

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Re: I need feedback on this cover letter!

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Jun 20, 2020 6:57 pm

nixy wrote:
Sat Jun 20, 2020 1:50 pm
Of course law librarians have legal work experience. Of course your experience teaching a CLE is relevant (I already said that it was). That has nothing to do with the fact that you're not *showing* how your past experience is relevant to a job that isn't being a lawyer. You say you have legal research, reasoning, and writing skills; that's nice, but you have to talk specifically about how those skills qualify you to be a librarian. Look at the job description and what the actual duties and responsibilities and required skills are, and address them directly in your letter.
Your last post suggested otherwise. The job description talks about providing reference assistance, teaching courses, collection development, etc. You can't teach others to be effective researchers if you are not one yourself.

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Re: I need feedback on this cover letter!

Post by nixy » Sat Jun 20, 2020 7:19 pm

Sure, but being able to do the research yourself also doesn’t mean you can teach others how to do it. Your letter doesn’t say anything about how your legal research, writing, and reasoning skills actually prepare you to offer reference services, teach courses that a librarian would teach, or perform collection development. I’m not saying you don’t have any relevant skills; I’m just saying that the letter doesn’t make clear why your skills are relevant. Again, the letter doesn’t really make clear that you understand what the job actually entails (not saying you don’t, just that it doesn’t come across here).

You obviously don’t have to agree with me, I’m just giving you my feedback.

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Re: I need feedback on this cover letter!

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Jun 23, 2020 11:22 pm

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