September 15, 2020 8:51 am
Your cover letter is one of the first opportunities to leave a positive impression on a potential employer.Therefore it’s important that you present yourself and your skills in the best possible way. This blog will give you tips on how a great cover letter can help you gain employment at a law firm.
The importance of a well-crafted and brief cover letter cannot be overstated, no matter which field you work in and the kind of job you’re applying for. While a CV can list your university degrees, awards, work experience and skills, a cover letter needs to give a future employer enough information that highlights your abilities but without swamping them with words – leave it to the CV to go into detail.
If your cover letter is too short, they won’t know enough about how you fit the advertised role; if it’s too long, you risk losing their interest before they open your CV. The first two paragraphs should grab the recruiter’s attention, and the entire cover letter should be no longer than around one A4 page.
The structure of the cover letter will be slightly different if you are attaching it as a separate document versus writing it in the body of an email. If it’s a document, your contact details are included in the upper-right corner, followed by the date about a salutation/greeting on the left. For both types, it is best to address the recruiter directly by name.
Next, set out what attracts you most about working for this employer, such as recent projects they have completed. You can then start listing a few brief reasons as to why you would be the best fit for this role and an asset for the company. Remember: do not include too much information that can be gleaned from your CV, but instead illustrate in a few sentences why your mix of education, experience and skills make you the best candidate.
Sometimes it can be beneficial to use headings in your cover letter, as this helps the recruiter easily navigate your letter, while also showing that you have tailored it to the specific role.
Your cover letter should be professional and polite, avoiding informal or colloquial language, as well as humour (don’t try to win over your recruiter with jokes). It is also important that you keep the language simple and clear; plain English language is best. You want to show a potential employer that you have an excellent grasp of pragmatics and that you can tailor your communication to a specific audience. Your cover letter is the ideal place for this. However, you also don’t want to come across as too formal, but simply show the recruiter that you have expert language skills, particularly in regards to persuasion.
The first rule of cover letters is to address all the key selection criteria stipulated in the job advertisement or position description. If you have experience in several different areas of law, you should also ensure you list the skills and experience which are most relevant to the specific role. You should state clearly why you want the position, and it’s a good idea to avoid statements which might indicate that you only see this role as a stepping stone to something else. If you are a graduate or have limited experience in the law field, you can focus more on your education, awards, accreditations. and any previous law-related work, and indicate that you are eager to expand your skills and experience. It’s important to remember that non-legal work experience is also valuable. So don’t be shy about including transferable skills developed through retail or office jobs, as many of these will still be relevant in the legal profession.
Winning your first law job may seem like a daunting process but it is something that each prospective lawyer must go through, so if you can make your cover letter look as good as possible, you’ll have a much greater chance of success. You can also check out our other blog on how to format your resume as a law graduate.