Cover Letter Tips
Like the resume, the cover letter is a sample of your written work and should be brief (preferably one page), persuasive, well reasoned, and grammatically perfect. Before crafting your cover letters, review the following tips.
A good cover letter
- Tells the employer who you are and what you are seeking;
- Shows that you know about the particular employer and the kind of work the employer does (i.e., civil or criminal work, direct client service, “impact” cases, antitrust litigation);
- Demonstrates your writing skills;
- Demonstrates your commitment to the work of that particular employer;
- Conveys that you have something to contribute to the employer;
- Shows that you and that employer are a good “fit;” and
- Tells the employer how to get in touch with you by email, telephone, and mail.
Hiring attorneys and recruiting administrators use cover letters to
- Eliminate applicants whose letters contain misspellings (especially of the firm name and the name of the contact person) or other errors;
- Eliminate applicants whose letters show a lack of research, knowledge about, or interest in the employer’s work;
- Eliminate applicants who are unable to exhibit the value they will bring to the employer; and
- See if there are geographic ties or other information to explain the applicant’s interest in that city or employer.
Cover Letter Format
Your current address should be aligned with the center of the page or the left margin. Under your address you should include a telephone number where you can most easily be reached (i.e., your cell phone) and email address. The date is included under that contact information.
Determine to whom you should address the cover letter. If you are applying to law firms, address your letter to the recruiting director, unless you have reason to do otherwise—for example, if you have been instructed to address the letter to a particular attorney at the firm. For NALP member firms, use www.nalpdirectory.com to obtain that contact information. For other firms and public interest employers, you can refer to their websites, or contact the office to determine to whom your materials should be directed. The name of the person to whom the letter is addressed, his or her title, the employer’s name, and address follow the date and are aligned with the left margin. If writing to an attorney, include Esq. after the person’s name. The greeting appears two lines below the employer’s address and should be “Dear Mr.,” “Dear Ms.,” or “Dear Judge.” Avoid addressing your letter generally, such as Dear Sir or Madam; instead take the time to find the contact person and address the letter to that individual.
The body of the cover letter ought to be single-spaced with a line between each paragraph. The closing of the letter (“Sincerely” and your signature) should be two lines below the last line of the letter and either in the center of the page or aligned with the left margin, consistent with how you set up the top of your letter.
Cover Letter Body
Although there are many ways to write a cover letter, the following general format has worked well for candidates in the past.
- In the first paragraph of your cover letter, explain why you are sending your application to the employer: “I am an experienced attorney admitted in New York and am seeking a position with the Trusts and Estates practice group at your organization.” Mention your education background very briefly. In addition, if you have been referred by a mutual contact, you should mention that contact in the first paragraph.
- Use the second paragraph to explain your interest in the employer, including your interest in the employer’s geographic location, reputation, specialty area, or public service.
- In the third paragraph, stress why this employer should hire you. Try not to reiterate what is already included on your resume. Elaborate on the qualifications and experience you have that make you an exceptional attorney. As a lateral candidate it is particularly important to show the value you will bring to the organization.
- The final paragraph should thank the employer for taking the time to review your application and inform the employer of how you can be reached to set up an interview. You may wish to state that you will contact the employer in a couple of weeks to follow up and then actually do so. This is especially true with public interest employers who are often understaffed and will appreciate your extra effort.
For additional general cover letter advice, consult CDO's Introduction to Career Development. You are welcome to schedule an appointment with a CDO counselor to review and discuss your cover letter draft.
Lately, we’ve been hearing the same question from more and more law students – How do I transition to management consulting after law school? This may surprise some of you: after all, why “waste” law school and go into an entirely unrelated field? Or why leave a partner track in a law firm to start over?
The answer? Consulting offers a better experience at a comparable pay scale. Many lawyers we’ve heard from would rather be involved in proactive strategy vs. reactive strategy – being involved in setting a company’s course as opposed to being called in to fix something after it’s gone wrong. Generally speaking, a lawyer’s workload is more narrow and less diverse than a consultant’s; add that in with little to no travel and minimal exposure to different industries, and many lawyers are looking for a change.
Management Consulting straight after Law School
So what are some things you should know if you’re looking to transition to consulting after law school?
The first thing to know is this: if you’re in the U.S., consulting firms will be hiring you at the post-MBA level. Why is this important? It lets you know who you should be networking with (hint: post-MBAs who have been at the firm 1-2 years). These are the professionals who will be reviewing your resume, cover letter, and application, and a recommendation from one of these consultants inside the firm will go a LONG way in securing a first-round interview invite. Not sure how to network effectively or reach out to cold contacts? We created a comprehensive course on how to do it well.
In addition, it’s important to realize that since you’re entering the firm at a higher level, more will be expected of you sooner. Most people with law backgrounds we know make excellent consultants, but not before putting in some serious work beforehand. They generally don’t have the quant or analytical chops needed to succeed in consulting, but have the drive and work ethic to quickly become competent in these areas. We’d HIGHLY recommend you’d begin skilling up in Excel and financial modeling now!
Note: if you are applying to an international office, you’ll enter the firm at the undergraduate level. While the starting pay is less, you’ll also have more time to learn on the job. Be sure to network with the correct professionals inside the firm if applying to an international office!
Another question we’re frequently asked: What are my chances of breaking into consulting from law school? Don’t firms only recruit from top MBA programs? Our answer – your chances at breaking into a consulting firm from a top law school are very similar to the chances of your friend at a top MBA program. The principle remains the same; the better your program, the better your chances. In fact, Harvard Law, Columbia Law, UVA School of Law, and Stanford Law are core recruiting schools for top consulting firms.
Not surprisingly (at least to us), we see almost no one go back to law after entering consulting.
Transition from established lawyer to Management Consulting
There are many of you reading this who are already working professionally as lawyers, and are wondering if you too can make the transition to consulting. Well, you can! It won’t be easy, but it certainly is possible.
The primary thing to keep in mind: you need to begin to have a commercial understanding of your work. Many of our lawyer clients love to explain the legal principles behind their work, but truth is, a firm won’t care much about that. They want to see that you can frame your work in a business context. The further along in your legal career you are, the more different your pathway is. If you are more than 2 years into your legal career, we would recommend that you build – and demonstrate – functional expertise (ex: biotech). Once you’ve been a lawyer for over 2 years, this is the best pathway to break into the industry, and you’ll have the easiest time transitioning over to a partner role in a firm that carries that same functional expertise.
If you’ve been a lawyer for over 2 years, but are haven’t demonstrated that functional expertise yet, you’re in the toughest position to transition over. You’ll have to quickly get caught up to speed on your quantitative skills, prove your analytical chops, and be a master networker since you will have no relevant work experience for the industry. You’ll be in even worse shape than a product manager at GE who’s looking to transition to consulting. Of course, there is an exception to every rule, but you’ll have a real challenge on your hands.
On the plus side? Lawyers have very good reputations inside consulting firms. They’re known as smart and capable, just with no modeling skills. It’s the same issue Medical Doctors face when attempting to break into consulting. If you’re looking to transition, you’ll have to work extra hard at the things that will actually make you a good consultant. However, if you can do it, there is room for you at the top firms! Out of MBB, McKinsey by far hires the most lawyers – not only are they the largest top firm, but also have the best and biggest global training program.
Interested in exploring a transition to consulting? We help dozens and dozens of law school and professional lawyer clients a year receive offers from top firms. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to see how we can help you!