Different schools of thought exist when it comes to cover letters for job applications. Back when I applied for legal jobs, I took a “do no harm” approach, using the cover letter merely to transmit my résumé, transcript, and writing sample. But jobs were more plentiful back then.
In a tougher legal job market, employers expect more from cover letters. For cover letter advice from an in-house perspective, see David Mowry’s post. For cover letter advice from a small-firm perspective, see Jay Shepherd’s post.
And for an example of how not to write a cover letter, keep reading….
This clerkship application letter went to a judge up in Alaska. It’s now making the rounds among Alaska law clerk circles.
We’ve removed the salutation line and the sign-off, but everything else is intact. And no, the salutation line did not read “DEAREST BELOVED” — which might come as a surprise, since the letter is more flowery than the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Here it is (click to enlarge):
“Law school reinforced my understanding that knowledge is a tool.” But it’s not the only “tool” out there.
Looking on the bright side, reading this cover letter while plowing through hundreds of clerkship applications must have given the judge a chuckle. It’s nothing if not… refreshing. “I sipped confidently from this hearty libation.”
That was my second-favorite line. My favorite: “I am extremely self aware.”
We might do more on epic cover letters for legal jobs. If you have a specimen you’d like to share, send it our way by email (subject line: “Cover Letter”). Thanks.