LSAT Kung Fu Blog / Semester 2, Week 11: How to Write a Cover Letter
Semester 2, Week 11: How to Write a Cover Letter
This past week, I accepted a summer position with a local public interest firm. It promises to be an immersive, hands-on experience in which I will be given considerable latitude in determining my range of responsibilities. I cannot practice law yet (most states have laws that will allow a law student to practice under the supervision of a licensed attorney, but in most cases—including my state—the student must have completed three or four semesters’ worth of law school classes), but I can accompany lawyers to court, help write briefs, and do some of the work of an advocate. At my position in this firm, I’ll be doing that work on behalf of people in my community who need representation but cannot afford to pay for it.
Part of the reason I got this job is my first semester grades. Part is my interview and the recommendations I got from my professors. Another part is my cover letter. Today, I thought I’d show you what my letter looked like, and discuss its relevant parts.
Here’s the redacted letter I wrote:
Things to note about it:
- I didn’t mail it, but I was careful to get the address correct. Details matter.
- I addressed it to a particular person; the person who was going to interview me.
- The salutation is “Dear [person/people]” followed by a comma (or a colon for a judicial internship. I know. It’s like the Bluebook has managed to get its tiny blue hands on even this part of your legal life).
- My first paragraph contains a grounding statement; it says who I am and why I’m writing.
- I got the name of my law school right. In this case, it's "Awesome Law School," NOT "The Awesome Law School," or "Awesome College of Law." It's a small-ish thing, but I do want to get the small things right, too.
- My second paragraph explains why I would like to work in the particular office I’m applying to. This is often a geographical statement (like mine is), but there may be some other reason for your interest in the particular office. I suggest putting your reason in this paragraph, whatever that reason is.
- My third paragraph tells the reader why I’m interested in the work her firm does. Notice that it’s about me and the things that make me interested in her firm. I don’t need to tell her what her firm does; I need her to know that I know what her firm does (at least a little bit) and that I have real reasons for wanting to be part of that work.
- My fourth paragraph tells my reader why she should hire me. This may seem counter-intuitively brief, but remember that it’s just the introduction. Your grades, résumé, and references really get the ball rolling, and your interview is your best chance to shine.
- My fifth and final paragraph acknowledges that this letter is only an introduction, and that I have a lot more to offer.
- I signed it “Sincerely,” but I’d write “Respectfully” instead for a judicial internship (which makes some sense, I guess).
And that, my dear reader, is that. I’ve got an appellate brief to write now, and I can’t really put it off much longer no matter how I may want to. Sigh.
Hours for the week: Class = 7.75 / Study = 2.5 / Other = 21 / Total Time on Schoolwork = 31.25 / Total Time on Campus = 51 (some classes were canceled, and I volunteered as a witness in mock trial and also to help record a video about Power of Attorney for undocumented immigrants)
Questions? Comments? Complaints? Post them below, or shoot me an email.
Be good to one another, for we need it now more than maybe ever,
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