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How to Write the Perfect Cover Letter

Now, like never before, in the modern legal market to have a competitive edge, you need to know how to write the perfect cover letter. This article covers the very basics of writing a cover letter every employer would dream of reading.


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The reason?

“The resume focuses on you and the past. The cover letter focuses on the employer and the future.” – Joyce Lain Kennedy

Therefore, if you want to impress a potential employer, a CV on its own just isn’t good enough.

>> Want some help with your CV in particular? Take a look at this blog post on 5 Essential Details Employers Look for on a CV!

What do I need to include?

According to talks held this week by White & Case, when writing a a piece of text like a training contract cover letter, for example, you need to answer these three questions:

  1. Why this area of practice?
  2. Why this firm/chambers?
  3. Why you would be a good fit?

Having spoken to partners, recruiters and QCs at chambers, they all agree this is a good starting point for any good cover letter.

>> Read in more detail about the six vital things you should include in a work experience cover letter.

How does this give you the edge?

Rather surprisingly, one of the most common pitfalls in cover letter applications is to say a lot without selling yourself to the employer. The second most common is demonstrating ignorance of the company.

This has resulted in promising candidates losing potential jobs they could have otherwise gotten and is why White & Case give what should hopefully be common sense advice.

Why do we miss the point?

Now there are a couple of reasons why this mistake could take place, two stand out most to an employer though:

So, to summarise, a good cover letter is everything, and even though it might not land you the job this time, you can still make sure it sticks in the mind of employers. You might even get offered work elsewhere!

The three sections to focus on

1. Why this area of practice/law?

Think of this question as the theme for your opening paragraph: in it, you will need to set out who you are, the role you are applying for, a very brief summary of your experience and a concise line or two on why these experiences have directed you to this field. It should be clear to the reader the kind of lawyer you will be throughout.

Put in your own unique style, as long as it is clear why this area, that is enough.

2. Why our company?

The real question this is asking is what do you know about us and about our culture? So, this is a two-pronged question that enables you to show off research skills, commercial awareness and to lead into how you would fit into the company.

There are business and personal reasons for employers’ interest in this: on the business side, the less time spent in training, the more you can earn and they are looking for long-term rainmakers. On the personal side, they want to know if you will get along with other members of staff and be happy with the work-life balance.

This information can be attained in many ways: you might have been a long-term reader of the company blog or attended insight days or talks. Better yet, you might have interned there or worked with associates through an affiliated company. Whatever the details, you need to show an interest in the company and the people.

3. Why would you be a good fit?

If you have played your cards right and been selling your motivations and understanding of the company effectively so far, odds are you have done a great job of leading up to this question. In the mind of the reader, you may already be a good fit.

Now you just need to ‘close the deal’ and go from ‘top 5’ to ‘I want them’.

At this stage, you need to sell the value you bring to the company. Maybe you have noticed they are struggling with GDPR and need an expert, and it just so happens that besides from commercial law you also have specialist knowledge of computing and data security acquired in your work/study which will be of great assistance.

You need a few USPs here, as well as the ability to match up your skills to the role.

 

Find out more on making the best applications employers have ever seen:

Author: Cameron Haden

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