When answering questions like: ‘Why commercial law?’, it is important to tell your story. Graduate recruiters will scan thousands and thousands of cover letters throughout the year, so it’s important to distinguish yourself in an impactful way. Instead of just telling your reader the top three reasons why you love commercial law, take them through your life and give them insight into what got you to this point.
For example, was there something about the law that particularly interested you when you were younger? How did you cultivate this passion over the years? What about your upbringing has motivated you to pursue law? What impact do you hope to make, as a result?
Example: “Growing up surrounded by […], I became curious about […]. As a result, I began to engage in […]. It wasn’t until […] that I understood how I could achieve this as a commercial lawyer. Since then I have sought opportunities to understand the relationship between lawyers and the commercial world, as well as, deepen my commercial acumen.”
Practical tip: Take time to figure out the pivotal parts in your journey that motivated you to pursue law and how your story has progressed to where you are now. You can either briefly jot this down or create some form of chronological map.
This may sound the same as the first point, but this is to emphasise the importance of personalising your answers. For example, when talking about what key skills you have or the skills you think lawyers need, accompany this with personal examples of how you have exhibited these skills.
Example: “As a lawyer, it is important to have XYZ skills, this is because of XYZ duties. As a [insert role], I have had many opportunities to develop this skill. For example, I have [insert experience (and BRIEFLY mention the result if the word count allows)]”.
Practical tip: Take time to identify around 5 key skills that lawyers need – this can also be personalised based on the law firm you’re applying to and their own core values. You can then create a table and jot down three personal examples for each skill you have identified. This can also help cut time if you are applying to multiple firms at a time and can also be useful prep for future interviews.
When talking about why you want to work at a law firm, it may be tempting to write what you think the recruiters want to hear. What happens, as a result, is that your answer seems regurgitated and doesn’t convey a true passion for working at that firm.
Take time to think about your specific passions in commercial law and what you aspire to do in your first few years as a solicitor, as well as in the long term. It does not matter how niche or personal you may think it is. This will help you decipher if that goal or passion can be cultivated at the firm you hope to apply to.
Example: “Over the years, I have developed a great passion for legal technology. I aspire to work at a law firm that gives me the opportunity to work with the most cutting-edge technology, to assist clients in creating solutions for current market disruptions. XYZ law firm’s capabilities provide exciting opportunities for me to get involved in pioneering legal tech development […]. I was especially interested in XYZ deal and how [discuss the impact of deal]. At XYZ firm I hope to deepen my expertise but also use legal technology to make a positive impact in my communities.”
Practical tip: Take time to remember and reflect on all the interactions you’ve had with the law firm you’re applying to, no matter how small you think it is. Think about how it motivated you to apply to the firm, or what pivotal information it gave you that you could not get from a website search.
A typical cover letter structure allocates the last few hundred words to talk about your achievements and extra-curriculars. Again, this space should not be what you think you want the reader to hear. This space can be about absolutely anything you are proud of, no matter how unrelated you may think it is. It is even better to talk about achievements that involved a long-term commitment and have quantifiable results you can include in the cover letter.
As I typically do, you can also link these achievements to the necessary skills of a lawyer. Just remember, this space is to see how well-rounded you are as a prospective lawyer and what you can bring to the workforce, alongside your legal capabilities.
Being the person who simply gets the job done is not enough. This is because, as law firms have started modernising and diversifying their workforce, recruiters are looking for people who make new and unique contributions. They are also looking for people who create a positive and empowering impact in their environments.
Overall, it is important to trust yourself and your abilities throughout the process. Creating a version of you, you think will grant you success will actually disadvantage you in the long run. As recruiters are screening cover letters behind a computer, without adding faces to names, it is important to use that ‘one chance’ to wow them with who you are.
Remember, they are not looking for someone who can just do the job, they are looking for influencers, motivators and pioneers. If in doubt, you can source and read the cover letters of successful candidates and use the inspiration to make something of your own. Good luck!
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