Crafting An Effective Cover Letter

I recently came across some excellent cover letter advice penned by Joel A. Holt of The University of Akron School of Law that I want to share: 

Craft a professional introductory statement.  Avoid repeating information that should be clear from your letterhead and resume.  Also, resist the urge to tell the employer about the benefits you will receive from working there. Employers are more concerned with what you will do for them.  Tell the employer why you will be an asset.  Realize you are a commodity and demonstrate an understanding of the business of law practice.

Sell yourself.  Words matter.  Word choice is a crucial lawyerly skill and will showcase your ability to write persuasively.  If you cannot advocate for yourself, how can you convince an employer that you will advocate for their clients?

Be humble but quietly confident in writing about your value and the skills you bring to the table….Most legal employers want to hire bright enthusiastic, and confident people.  There is nothing wrong with saying you meet those criteria as long as you do not cross the line into arrogance. 

Independently and sequentially, draft one “proof” paragraph for each claim.  The proof will consist of employment, education, and other relevant experience.  Always write like a lawyer.  Make sound arguments.  Avoid generalizations and prove everything claimed.  Be specific and concise.  Always bring your arguments back to the principle that the claim you just proved will benefit the employer.

Reference:  “7 Steps to Creating a Great True First Impression” by Joel A. Holt.  NALP Bulletin, Vol. 23, No. 8, August 2011.