How to Write a Legal Cover Letter for Law Firms (that Gets you Noticed)

Written by Sharon Miki12 minutes well spent
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Personal injury demand

Whether you’re just starting your legal journey or are an experienced legal professional seeking a new role, there’s no way around it: demand for legal positions is high, and the job outlook for lawyers in the US grows at a faster-than-average pace. Pair this industry growth with movement from lawyers already working in the industry (the 2022 Legal Trends Report found that in the 12 months before April 2022, nearly one in five lawyers left the law firm they were working for, and nine percent planned to leave their firm in the next six months), and it’s clear that many lawyers will find themselves needing to stand out in a competitive job market. 

However, despite the high demand for legal positions, people still need legal expertise—and law firms need capable legal professionals to fill open roles.

Whether you’re a law student, recent graduate, or experienced legal professional, this post will help you with your legal cover letter writing. We’ve started by providing sample cover letters for legal positions below and will then guide you through the essentials of writing a compelling cover letter for law firms. 

Legal cover letter examples

If you’re feeling overwhelmed when drafting a cover letter for law firms, don’t worry. Seeing a legal cover letter example can give you the confidence to write your own. Below, we’ve compiled some sample cover letters for legal positions, covering different backgrounds and levels of experience.

Berkeley Law also provides an excellent guide for legal cover letters. 

You can start by using one of these examples as inspiration when structuring your cover letter and what you may want to highlight. You can also take insights from these sample cover letters for lawyers—insights you can apply to your own cover letter when following our tips below.

How to draft a cover letter for a law firm

writing a legal cover letter

It’s one thing to review examples of legal cover letters, but how to write one? By following the standard etiquette and structure—and then personalizing it—you can draft an effective cover letter. First, let’s review some legal cover letter best practices.

Cover letter etiquette

Even after reviewing some legal cover letter examples, the dos and don’ts of legal cover letter writing aren’t always easy to spot. You may ask yourself: what should a legal cover letter include for a law firm? While the content of your cover letter will differ between employers, these points of etiquette should not.

  • Don’t skip it. The first—and potentially most important—element of legal cover letter etiquette is just writing one. While job sites and hiring portals may state “Cover Letter Optional,” disregard this, it is always best to send a cover letter.
  • Be concise. The hiring manager is likely receiving dozens, or maybe even hundreds, of cover letters a day. Respect an employer’s time by getting straight to the point. Long legal cover letters may also indicate an inability to achieve quick and succinct results.
  • Match their tone. Write as if you’ve already been hired for the role. It’s subtle, but an employer will appreciate this personal touch.
  • Prioritize the employer. Don’t include unnecessary details about your life that won’t impact how you’ll perform the job.
  • Don’t recycle legal cover letters. Be original. It’s time-consuming work, but it’ll show your potential employer your dedication.
  • Triple-check it. Spelling and grammatical errors should be avoided at all costs. Given the highly competitive nature of the legal job market, you don’t want to be passed up over a simple error.

Addressing cover letters for lawyers

To whom it may concern: Always take the time to find the correct contact. When writing cover letters for law firms, it’s a common misstep to dedicate so much time and attention to the body of the letter that you overlook the basics—like who and how you’re addressing the letter. 

Here are some best practices for addressing your legal cover letter:

  • Know who you’re speaking to. Do your research and be specific. Address your cover letter to the person responsible for hiring at the firm you’re contacting, like the senior partner or hiring manager. If you don’t have this information, the law firm’s website might come in handy, or you can contact the law firm’s human resources department for guidance. 
  • Be careful with salutations. The salutation is a place to convey respect and showcase that you’ve taken the time to personalize the letter. Mistakes in the salutation are a sign that you’ll miss details, which won’t bode well for your chances of impressing your potential employer. If you’re certain of the recipient’s preferred gender-identifying language, you can write the salutation as “Dear Ms.” or “Dear Mr.”; however, if you aren’t certain (and don’t make assumptions) or you don’t want to use gender-identifying language, drop the “Ms.” or “Mr.” and write out the person’s full first and last name.
  • Double-check your spelling. People will always notice if you spell their name wrong, and there are multiple ways to spell even common names. Ensure you start on the right foot by getting the basics right.

Introductory paragraph

In your cover letter’s opening paragraph, you have two main goals:

  1. Introduce who you are.
  2. Explain why you’d be a good fit for this particular firm. 

In the first paragraph, include details about:

  • Who you are. Are you currently a law student? Are you an associate at a law firm?
  • Who you know. Mention any referrals or mutual acquaintances right away.
  • Why you’d be a great fit for the firm. Include specific reasons—you’re looking for a way to create connections with the senior partner or hiring manager.

Main cover letter body

The body section of your cover letter is your chance to shine—and to concisely summarize exactly how you meet the requirements in the job description. 

In one or two paragraphs, give a high-level overview of your legal education and experience to show:

  1. Why you want to work for this firm. Elaborate on what makes you genuinely excited about the firm—whether it is an area of interest you’ve specialized in, the firm’s reputation or mission, or past experiences that will make you a uniquely good fit.
  2. Why this firm should hire you. Make clear connections between your qualifications and aspects of the role you’re applying for. If there is a job posting, look closely for key attributes that the firm is looking for, and then detail how you meet those expectations. 

Highlighting your qualifications

Above all else, ensure your legal cover letter highlights your skills. Relevant qualifications for a law firm cover letter include: 

  • Past legal work experience or positions.
  • Community service roles.
  • Academic or research specializations.
  • Publications.
  • Relevant awards you’ve received.
  • Your personal background.

For example, consider a job posting that describes their ideal candidate as someone with personal injury litigation experience, excellent communication skills, and who works well both independently and as a part of a team in a fast-paced office environment.

If you were applying for this role, your cover letter’s body paragraphs might detail your past personal injury litigation experience and specific examples of how you’ve successfully communicated within a team and in a fast-paced environment.

Remember: Be specific, but keep in mind that this is not the place to restate your resume—if you can grab the hiring manager’s attention here, they will read your resume for those details. Your cover letter is where you can entice the reader to move on to your resume by providing context and highlighting how your experience lines up with what’s needed for the role.

For tips on writing a standout lawyer resume, read our blog post here.

Concluding paragraph

Finally, your concluding paragraph is where you’ll succinctly wrap the cover letter up, close the loop, and leave a positive impression. In your closing paragraph, be sure to:

  • Say thank you. Gratitude can make a difference, so always thank the reader for their consideration.
  • Assert your next steps. It’s fine to clearly outline how and when you will follow up on your application, rather than waiting indefinitely for an answer. And, if you say that you’ll follow up at a specific time, be sure to do it—and hold yourself to your word.
  • Provide relevant contact details. Let the reader know how to reach you by phone or email, if these details are not already outlined in your letter’s header.

Tips for using your legal cover letter to stand out

tips for writing a legal cover letter

The legal industry is rapidly evolving, and job hunters need to set themselves apart to get hired (unless, of course, you decide to start your own law firm). 

If you’re applying for a job as a lawyer, whether it’s a traditional position or a legal work-from-home job, here are five tips to make sure your cover letter lands at the top of the pile.

1. Make it personal

Perhaps the most important tip for writing cover letters for lawyers is to make it personal. 

Many of your competitors have similar education and professional experience, so being generic is a fast track to being forgotten. 

Use a personalized cover letter to showcase the unique reasons why you’re the best candidate. Show that you know the person you’re writing to, and highlight any connections. If that isn’t possible, you can always write about the firm to show that you’ve done your research. 

2. Prioritize the positive 

When writing a lawyer cover letter, focus on what you have to offer. Regardless of why you’re looking for a new job, you bring a unique mix of attributes to the table. Highlight these attributes, whether they’re your: 

  • Skills
  • Experience
  • Passion
  • Other legal careers
  • Relevant work experience 

If you’re a law student or recent graduate, you may not have a long legal career to highlight. However, you can still note strengths like technology skills that make you an asset.

To a hiring law firm, being tech-competent and familiar with certain cloud-based tools like Clio could be an advantage that sets you apart from other candidates.

For example, more and more law firms are adopting artificial intelligence (AI) tools to help them run their practices more efficiently, with the 2023 Legal Trends Report finding that nearly one in five legal professionals are using some form of AI in their practices already. With this in mind, lawyers up-to-date with AI technology may stand out for hiring law firms.  

3. Get to the point

Legal cover letters are not the place to be long-winded, and droning on will almost certainly have the opposite effect of what you’re going for. Keep cover letters for attorneys short, to the point, and persuasive—the trick is to be memorable and limit yourself to one page. Because you want to make a lasting impression on a single page, it’s also a good idea to check your cover letter’s sentence structure. Do you start all of your sentences the same way? Are they all the same length? Ensure there’s some variety so your reader stays engaged.

4. Set the right tone

Tone matters. While what you say in a cover letter for lawyers is obviously important, it also matters how you say it. 

No matter what type of legal job you’re applying for, you always want to convey a professional tone. However, depending on the law firm you’re applying to, using a personal tone may work to your advantage. Tailor your tone to match the law firm you’re applying to. 

If you’re writing a Big Law cover letter, for example, you’ll want to err on the side of being more formal. For a smaller local law firm? Check their website and match the tone to demonstrate your familiarity with their firm. 

5. Proofread

There is zero room for typos or grammatical errors in cover letters for lawyers. With so much competition for legal jobs, don’t give hiring managers a reason to eliminate you. Take the time to carefully proofread your cover letter yourself, and consider enlisting someone else to proofread your cover letters as well.

Final thoughts on how to write a legal cover letter for a law firm

In a crowded legal job market, there’s no better way to outshine the competition than an excellent legal cover letter. Ensure you’re putting your best foot forward with your future employer by: 

  • Making it personal. At every step, customize your cover letter to the firm you’re applying to—from the tone to the specific skills you detail.
  • Keeping it brief. Cover letters for lawyers are a one-page summary to let the hiring manager know that you’re a candidate they should talk to further. You want to give them enough information to draw them in, but not overwhelm them and risk losing interest.
  • Showcasing your strengths. Focus on the positives, and don’t be afraid to highlight how your past experiences make you uniquely qualified.

While finding a new legal job in a competitive market isn’t exactly easy, staying resilient and adaptive will lead you to success. By crafting a great cover letter, you’re more likely to be noticed in this—and any—job market. 

And, no matter what job you’re applying for, knowing technology can help set you apart—both when job hunting and once you’re working at your new firm. If you’re a law student and want a head start, you may be able to get free Clio access via Clio’s Academic Access Program (CAAP) at your law school. Learn more about CAAP here.

Do law firms read cover letters?

In a competitive job market, hiring managers at law firms read cover letters to help determine which candidates may be the best fit. A well-written legal cover letter can entice the reader to review your resume—and, hopefully, invite you for an interview—by showcasing how your experience and skills align with the role. 

Categorized in: Business

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