How to write a law student cover letter
Less than 10 seconds – that is how much time an employer is likely to view a law student cover letter. It pays to get the content just right! Here’s how to do it.
What is a law student cover letter?
It explains to the recipient of a CV, or job application why the application has been made and why the applicant feels they are the right person for the job. The requirement is becoming more and more commonplace. Prospective employers view it as a means of distinguishing good applications from ones that are not as good. A good law student cover letter helps ensure that the attached application makes it to the top of the bundle – marked “for interview”! To achieve this the letter must be pristine, well-written and researched. It must show the skills of the applicant, not just descriptively but demonstrably as the recipient of such a letter will look a lot further then simply what has been written down by the writer of a law student cover letter. The recipient will infer what those skills actually are from the form, content and presentation of a cover letter.
The essence of the law student cover letter: When preparing a law student cover letter, the applicant should ask themselves – why should they be chosen for the job? There are many applicants, sometimes hundreds for just one position – what makes the applicant stand out? It may be that the applicant has unique experience, excellent qualifications or other relevant skills and selling points. This is the essence of what must be communicated in the cover letter, and a good law student cover letter will effectively draw attention to this above all else.
Preparation: The law student cover letter is often the first thing a potential employer will read, so a lot of thought must go into its preparation. An outstanding law student cover letter must grab attention by being punchy, well-written, concise, and well-planned.
The perfect law student cover letter should demonstrate that the applicant has thought individually about the suitability of the employer’s firm, chambers etc to their skills, and of course it should also demonstrate how the potential employer would benefit from offering employment to the writer. The writer of such an excellent law student cover letter needs to communicate to the reader why the match between their skills and the employer’s needs is a convincing and a credible one. It helps therefore for the applicant to peruse the potential employer’s website, speak personally to someone who works there or to do a work placement there and indicate the knowledge gathered within any law student cover letter they may write. Put this useful information into the law student cover letter – it is valuable as it takes a lot of effort to gather it!
In its most basic formulation, a law student cover letter is an opportunity for the applicant to sell their strong points and make their application stand out over the rest of the applications. A cover letter should always be written with this in mind. Remember also that the law student cover letter introduces the applicant to the company or chambers they may hope to work for eventually. Good impressions last forever! With this in mind the applicant must start from that point when approaching their cover letter, in the understanding that this is effectively their introduction to the prospective employer.
The writer of a law student cover letter should tailor the letter to the individual requirements of the receiving organisation. This involves researching the precise requirements of the position. Make sure the law student cover letter reaches the right person – if there is a named contact within the receiving organisation who processes applications, it does not look good if the applicant does not know this! The writer of a law student cover letter must therefore try not to make amateur mistakes. Receivers of any law student cover letter are looking to distinguish the best applications from many. They may choose to focus on any mistake, or the slightest hue of inappropriate or unprofessional appearance to rule out a single application.
A law student cover letter may also be used to explain any aspect of the application that may be weak, or not in accordance with employer’s generic requirements. Examples include a 2.2 degree result or a recent change of job focus. How to communicate this in a law student cover letter is a matter of individual choice, but the writer should aim to be direct, helpful and positive.
Presentation: The letter should generally be confined to one side of A4 paper. The applicant must think about presentation, and ensure that any law student cover letter written is spell-checked, well structured, clean and not creased, or folded unnecessarily.
An excellent law student cover letter will attempt to be specific as opposed to just making general claims such as “I have good inter-personal skills”. As a substitute – try “…my former employers would praise my inter-personal skills…”.
The law student cover letter should open with a paragraph that introduces its purpose, such as why the application is being made. This should be followed by a career summary, an explanation as to why the chambers/law firm have been chosen and a positive ending that uses positive language.
A law student cover letter should acknowledge the formal rules of letter writing. Readers of any law student cover letter would regard this as a must! Examples are where you have a named contact, finish the letter – “yours sincerely”, and where there is no named contact, finish the letter with “yours faithfully”.
Ultimately the law student cover letter gets a person the job or the interview they desperately want! It pays to put the effort into writing a good one. Here are ten rules to preparing the right letter:
Ten rules of writing a law student cover letter:
1. Be professional
2. Be concise
3. Use formal language
4. Inform the reader
5. Should be well-researched
6. Must not contain “fluffy”, overly eloquent language
7. Must be delivered to the right person in the receiving organisation
8. Should be tailored to the individual requirements of the position sought, and of the receiving organisation
9. A law student cover letter should be as short as is possible: remember the expression
“I wrote you a long letter, as I did not have time to write a short one…”.
10. A law student cover letter should sell the writer confidently and professionally