In a busy law firm, legal assistants act as a lifeline. They support attorneys and paralegals while also taking care of the many moving parts that keep a practice running smoothly.
Law firms rely heavily on legal assistants and look for highly competent performers to fill those roles. And while the projected average growth rate in employment for all professions from 2021 to 2031 is 5%, employment for legal assistants and paralegals is expected to grow by a well-above-average rate of 14%.
To maximize your chances of being hired, this means your legal assistant cover letter must be crafted to impress the hiring firm.
However, writing a high-quality legal assistant cover letter is not necessarily an easy task. You must be aware of some guiding principles and best practices. We outline these principles and practices here, while also providing some examples of high-quality cover letters.
How do I write a cover letter for a legal assistant?
When writing a cover letter for a legal assistant role, be sure to reference the requirements in the job description. You also want to highlight familiarity with legal firms. Your cover letter should not simply rehash your resume. Instead, your cover letter should provide some color for your application, including insights into your work history and life experiences that make you the ideal candidate.
Even if your relevant experience is outside the legal industry, this provides you with a chance to get creative and tie this non-legal experience to the role you are applying for.
What should a legal assistant cover letter include?
A legal assistant cover letter should consist of three main sections:
- An Introductory paragraph.
- A main body.
- A conclusion.
While these labels might appear self-explanatory, there are some guidelines for what should be included in each section, as we explain below.
The introductory paragraph not only introduces the cover letter, it also introduces you as a candidate and names the role you’re applying for. Accordingly, you must broadly identify yourself, for example, as an experienced legal assistant, or a recent graduate aspiring to enter the profession.
This paragraph should also succinctly state why you are a good fit for the role. While the main body will flesh out these “good fit” arguments, you can lay the groundwork for them here.
Be sure to include any references to a referral or mutual acquaintance here as well—this places this information front and center for the reader.
The main body of your cover letter should spell out why you want to work for the firm.
This gives you the chance to make the cover letter non-generic, so it does not appear you will simply take any legal assistant position available. It also means this section must be customized to the firm. Possibilities here include:
- The firm’s mission.
- Its reputation.
- Your interest in the areas of law they practice.
In addition, the main body should also expand on why the firm should hire you. Summarize your qualifications for the role and state how those qualifications would help you in this role. You can cite your education, work experience, or other life experiences. If the job posting provides any standards the firm is looking for, be sure to detail how you meet those standards.
The conclusion should end your cover letter on a positive note.
In a single paragraph, be sure to thank the reader for their consideration and assert any next steps you will take to follow up on your application.
What do law firms look for in legal assistant cover letters?
Beyond the basic structure of the cover letter for a legal assistant, the following are a few points to remember when drafting the letter.
Understanding your audience
It’s important to show you understand your audience and have researched both the firm and the specific role it is seeking to fill.
The term “legal assistant” has no set meaning, so this role can vary greatly from firm to firm. At a larger firm, legal assistants may be hired to perform very specific duties, while a smaller firm with fewer resources might seek more of a general role. Be sure your cover letter is focused on the legal assistant role envisioned by the would-be employer.
Also, ensure your cover letter speaks to the firm’s specific practice areas, as well as how they relate to your applicable skills and interests. Your intense interest in real estate work will not resonate well with a personal injury litigation firm trying to fill a legal assistant position.
It’s important to outline your relevant experience. Attorneys or other hiring personnel will be checking your prior experience and the types of firms you’ve worked for in the past.
If you have no legal assistant experience, you will have to find ways around this obstacle. This may also be true if your legal assistant experience does not line up with the job description. In these cases, make an effort to highlight what you bring to the table despite your lack of experience relevant to the role.
For example, “having developed and demonstrated great customer service skills” could be a huge benefit at a firm where you will have a great deal of client interaction.
Your cover letter should highlight soft skills not only because they are important to perform your job duties well, but also because they describe how you work with others.
These skills are not easy to highlight in a resume, so your cover letter is a chance to tell a story of who you are and how you use these skills to excel in your professional career. Make sure you provide specific examples, instead of just declaring you have these skills.
For instance, let the hiring manager know if you work well as part of a team. Collaboration is crucial for any team, but especially at a law firm, where you may be working with attorneys and/or paralegals in high stress situations.
You may have examples from previous jobs of your excellent teamwork, but you could also point to non-work examples, such as playing competitive sports. Any examples will work better than just a conclusive statement that you have a positive trait, such as being efficient or detail-oriented.
Communicating with enthusiasm in your cover letter is key. Your aim should be to convey that you do not simply want the advertised position, but that you are in fact truly excited to fill this role at this firm.
For example, are you a seasoned volunteer who got excited about all of the firm’s volunteer work they highlight on their website? If so, let them know! Lawyers want to ensure you have the necessary skills, but they also want to know you are a good fit for the firm and its culture.
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4 tips for writing a great legal assistant cover letter
Here are a few more helpful tips for writing a legal assistant cover letter that will land you an interview—and hopefully the job.
1. Highlight your unique skills
Try to summarize the top things you want the firm to know about you in your introductory paragraph. This includes any unique skills that make you particularly well-suited to the position.
If the firm uses cloud-based practice management software such as Clio, for example, it is a good idea to point out early that you have experience with this type of technology. These types of unique skills are especially important for legal assistants, since firms will generally want to ensure you can handle a variety of day-to-day activities and that you’re up-to-date with the latest technology.
2. Be concise
A cover letter is not a novel, and the hiring manager has no intention of parsing through a long-winded screed. You must keep your cover letter concise, while also being compelling and memorable.
So, how can you create a persuasive cover letter that is only one page long?
Pay special attention to your word choices and sentence structure. Seek to vary your vocabulary, the way you start sentences, and your sentence lengths. This can help to keep your reader stay engaged, and help you avoid falling into the trap of being overly verbose.
3. Set the right tone
As with any cover letter for a legal professional role, your legal assistant cover letter should have a professional tone. This will tend to be especially true for Big Law and positions at other well-established institutions.
However, while a professional tone should be the default choice for your cover letter, you may want to match the tone of the firm’s website if it has a more personal touch.
4. Proofread your cover letter
Be sure to not let spelling or grammatical errors in your cover letter take you down a notch as an applicant.
Legal assistants are supposed to be detail-oriented, so this trait must be communicated loud and clear in your first written communication to the firm. Take the time to carefully proofread your cover letter, and do not hesitate to enlist someone else’s help with proofreading.
Legal assistant cover letter examples
While all of the above guidelines and tips are helpful starting points, you may need to review some examples of legal assistant cover letters for the final push.
Keep in mind that the best cover letter is tailored to your skills, experience, and background, as well as the firm to which you are applying. Use these examples as a point of reference only. It is still up to you to customize and personalize your own cover letter.
Final thoughts on cover letters for legal assistants
The opportunities for legal assistants are abundant, so be sure to craft a cover letter that maximizes your chances for advancement. By following the format outlined above, as well as all the principles and tips for impressing legal employers, you could be well on your way to doing just that. If you need any guidance for your legal assistant resume, be sure to check out Clio’s resume tips and tricks on-demand webinar.
We published this blog post in February 2023. Last updated: .
Categorized in: Business