Your writing skills are second to none, you can solve any host of legal problems, and you know the law inside and out—you’re an exemplary attorney. You know you can win justice for future clients, fight legal battles shrewdly, help folks stay on the right side of the law, and bolster the reputation of any firm, but first, you have to convince them you’re the right choice.
Getting the job starts with a cover letter and resume. It’d be great if all employers cared about was your track record of winning cases, but both your attorney resume and cover letter must present strong evidence of your qualifications and on-the-job skills to create a rock-solid case for the role.
Easier said than done. You already spend your days scouring through research and legalese, and now you have to spend more time writing. It can feel like the odds are stacked against you, but we can help you draft, complete, and polish your cover letter with our three attorney cover letter examples and practical writing guide.
Before you know it, you’ll have a cover letter that gets you noticed and sets the precedent for those to come.
Why this cover letter works
Why this cover letter works
Why this cover letter works
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As an attorney, you know how you can best help your client, but do you know how to advocate for yourself? Your cover letter must present a favorable argument for your qualifications, exhibit knowledge of the company, and relate your skills to the job description’s requirements—all with a professional yet ardent tone.
It’s a lot, but if anyone can effectively present their accomplishments to a tough crowd, it’s you. Write a hard-hitting attorney cover letter with these simple tips.
There’s no point in submitting a generic cover letter. If your cover letter looks like it’s been submitted to multiple organizations, employers will assume you’re not all that interested in the job.
Moreover, if your cover letter doesn’t speak to their job description, they’ll assume you aren’t a good fit. Instead, hit the books (figuratively) and research the company. Then address their specific needs based on what you find online and in their job description.
If you reveal a strong link between your qualifications and their requirements, employers will be hard-pressed not to consider you.
No one likes a broken record, so your attorney cover letter can’t simply repeat your resume. A cover letter’s purpose is to relate your experiences and skills to the company in a way your resume can’t.
A cover letter also gives you the space to examine specific accomplishments in detail. You may argue that you’ve covered everything in your resume, but we know that’s not the case. Go beyond the basics to explore the motivations behind your achievements and how they reveal your value on the job. Are you exceptionally thorough? Find a task that highlights your attention to detail. Are you a whiz at research? Integrate that detail into a metric about your cases.
Here’s one example that gives you a glimpse into the candidate’s methods and motivations.
As a senior associate with Pincus & Associates, PC, I mentored summer and junior associates throughout their onboarding process. After the initial training period, I realized many mentees were struggling with repeat issues, such as voir dire and preparing witnesses. To combat this, I created video lectures and PowerPoint slides to explain procedures and laws surrounding the issues and gave examples, both good and bad. After two months of video training, the new hires completed double the number of tasks, and their client satisfaction scores rose by 18 percent.
These examples show the candidate’s passion for the job and their relevant experience. Moreover, the candidate demonstrates the value they’ll bring to their next role.
You’ve successfully incorporated your research, accomplishments, and personal style into your cover letter, but a cover letter is more than that. Here comes the tricky part: adjusting your message and tone.
The correct message and tone can mean the difference between getting dismissed or getting noticed. Remember, although we’ve compared a cover letter to a trial, your letter shouldn’t sound like a cross-examination. It also shouldn’t come across as flattering, casual, or confusing.
Think of your cover letter as the pre-interview. It’s a way to get your foot in the door and encourage further communication. Nailing the right message and tone isn’t easy, but there is good news: unlike a trial, you can start over.
Revision plays a huge part in writing cover letters. No one has a perfect first draft, and oftentimes, even the second or third drafts aren’t ideal (ask us how many times we’ve revised our cover letter examples). Luckily, you can keep revising and editing until you have an error-free draft that accurately sums up your experience and fervor for the job.
If you think your judgment isn’t perfectly sound, you can appeal to a coworker and ask them to suggest edits. Their new perspective is more likely to catch content errors and grammatical faux-pas.
All that’s left is one last round of revision before you save it and send in your application to the attorney job you’ve been eyeing.
Building arguments are your strong suit, which will help you immensely when writing your cover letter. But even the most experienced of writers can find themselves paralyzed by the blank page. Use our outline to build a case employers can’t refuse.
Your contact info: Don’t leave your future employer wondering how to contact you. Include your email, number, and address (city and state) at the top of your cover letter. Many employers also like to see your LinkedIn profile.
Formatting: Don’t include your name in the address, whether in a template or block format. In block format, you’ll only need to include your name in the signature. In a template, your name goes on the letterhead, too.
Date: Adding a date to your cover letter is a professional touch, and it can help both you and the employer keep track of your documents. Just change the date to reflect the actual day you submit your application.
Formatting: Write out the full date, e.g. May 3, 2022.
Inside address: Although a virtual cover letter doesn’t need to be sent by post, you should still include the employer’s address, also known as the inside address. Include the hiring manager’s name, their official title, and the company’s physical location.
Some companies are a bit tricky to track down, especially if they have multiple locations. Scouring Facebook, LinkedIn, and the company’s website usually yields favorable results. Also, check the job description—sometimes they specify where or to whom your documents should be sent. If there are multiple locations, use the address of the location in which you’ll work.
Heather Adams, Firm Administrator
1215 Fourth Avenue, Suite 1700
Seattle, WA 98161
Formatting: Each part of the address should be on a new line. Double-space between the inside address and greeting.
Greeting: Every word of your cover letter matters, including your greeting (also called the salutation). A poor greeting indicates a lack of etiquette (dangerous in the highly competitive legal field). The good news? A good greeting is pretty easy to get right. Use “dear” and the name of the hiring manager.
Dear Ms. Adams:
Formatting: Plenty of letters use a comma in the greeting, but colons are more professional, especially for an attorney.
Body: Just as a case has clearly defined sections, a cover letter has a structure.
Opening paragraph: Applying to job after job might get monotonous, but your opener has to sound genuinely excited. Don’t underestimate the power of sincere enthusiasm for the organization and knowledge of its operations. It can also help to include personal details to empathize with the employer. Although, we would urge you not to include intimate details like this:
Your law firm values hard work and dedication, which sums up my career. Ever since I was a child, I wanted to become a lawyer. I even acted out cases with my stuffed animals! As I grew older, I made sure I received top marks in every class so I could attend Harvard, the law school of my dreams. My commitment was so intense that I never had a relationship that lasted more than 3 months, but it was so worth it.
Although this opener definitely keeps the hiring manager reading, it’s probably because they find your cover letter funny (also known as you don’t stand a chance) instead of compelling. It’s far too personal and has no real relevance to the job. Instead, include details that relate to the company and what you can offer:
The Conservation Law Center’s mission to provide legal assistance to conservation organizations exemplifies my goals as a senior attorney. Throughout my career, I have offered at least 60 hours a year of pro bono work surrounding environmental law. The senior staff attorney position at your law center is a way to combine my passion for conservation, my love of mentorship, and my years of experience to provide assistance where needed most.
Here, Valente explains his background in environmental law and why he wants to work for the company. He leaves no doubt that he wants to work for them specifically, which will make any hiring manager take notice.
Paragraphs 2-3: Each paragraph should substantiate your claims in the opening paragraph. Your space is limited, so focus on the highlights. Ideally, keep each paragraph focused on one accomplishment like this:
Later, as a trademark attorney for Classics United Entertainment, I had the opportunity to work with a cross-functional team of designers, actors, producers, directors, and artists to create trademarks for all six departments within the Spears & Things division. For each trademark, I conducted a rigorous trademark clearance search to ensure trademark law compliance and eligibility. Once completing the trademark clearance process, my team and I successfully gave our efforts to developing clearance search procedures for future legal staff, creating a cohesive system across the three CUE divisions.
Although this paragraph isn’t focused on one task, it is focused on one process, and one aspect of that process in particular. Stella explains the overall trademark clearance process but keeps the focus on teamwork with phrases like “work[ing] with a cross-functional team” and “[giving] our efforts.” She effectively shows her legal abilities and her team-building strategy, both of which bode well for future employers.
Closing paragraph: Good endings are hard to achieve because they have to leave the recruiters both curious yet satisfied. Scale back and reiterate the big-picture view of your values and qualifications and how they align with what the company/organization needs. End with a call to action that encourages the employer to reach out. Just don’t fall into arrogance like this:
This job requires someone who has years of experience and who values justice. In that case, I am your perfect candidate. In my 10 years of work, I have never lost a case, and I love to argue until everyone knows I’m right. I know I can win the most cases for your company; reach out to me if you want to hire a winner.
Not only is this arrogant, but it’s also unprofessional. Instead, write something that humbly indicates your enthusiasm:
My goal has always been to provide clients with trustworthy, honest service that makes clients feel safe and valued. Reed McClure shares my vision of providing litigation services to improve the lives of both clients and the community. At your convenience, I welcome the chance to further demonstrate how our goals are aligned and how I can personally contribute to Seattle’s civil case resolution.
This close reminds the employer of the candidate’s persona, values, and aligned goals. It’s also clear that a follow-up is desired and anticipated.
Formatting: Single-space your paragraphs, but double-space in between paragraphs.
Signature: Mind your manners and say “thank you” if you haven’t already said it in the closing paragraph. Then, sign off with a professional closer along with your name.
Formatting: If you’re presenting any hard copies of your attorney cover letter, quadruple space to sign your name in blue/black ink.
Enclosure(s): This is an important piece to include although many cover letters miss it. This section delineates any other documents you’re attaching, which shows employers you’ve done your research regarding their requests and requirements. In addition to your resume, you may need to include documents like your law school transcript, a writing sample, and/or the job application.
USPTO Law School Clinic Certificate
Formatting: Use the singular or plural form of “enclosure” depending on what you’re enclosing.
Your cover letter is finished! Case closed, right? Objection—you still have to perfect your attorney resume. Both resume and cover letter work in tandem to affirm and defend your qualifications, so both must be polished and complete.
But don’t stress—we have you covered. We offer free modern resume templates for you to use, or you can try one of our Word resume templates (there’s one created especially for a lawyer). You can craft a winning resume in no time; in fact, if you like this attorney resume example, you can begin editing it now.
Whether you’re outlining your resume or checking it over a final time, our smart resume tool will help you identify gaps and errors. We’re here for you every step of the way, so you can keep doing what you do best—fighting for justice.