When you’re applying for a position in the legal field, it’s often expected that you will include a cover letter along with your resume. A cover letter needs to showcase what makes you the ideal candidate for the job in three to four short paragraphs. Together with your resume, its primary purpose is to sway the hiring manager that you are the right person to invite for an interview.
It’s essential to follow a cover letter format that is clear, presentable, and written with letter etiquette in mind. Companies and their hiring teams go through numerous applications and cover letters, and the ones that quickly relay relevant skills and achievements put you in a much better starting position.
Cover Letter Structure
The cover letter must include several mandatory elements: your contact information, the recipient’s contact information, date, a salutation, an introductory paragraph, several body paragraphs, a final paragraph, a sign-off, and a signature.
Cover letter formatting is somewhat different if you are sending it through email or as a paper copy. When sending an email, you don’t need to include a complete contact address. You should have your personal contact information in the following format:
LinkedIn profile URL
If you have a personal work-related website, you may include it also besides the LinkedIn profile URL.
If you send a physical cover letter, your contact information should follow this format:
City, State, Zip Code
LinkedIn profile URL
Recipient’s Contact Information
A proper cover letter format needs to include the contact information of the recipient structured in the following format:
Hiring Manager’s Name
Hiring Manager’s Job Title
City, State, Zip Code
Salutation or Greeting
You should structure the cover letter to address the hiring manager directly. The easiest way of finding out who you need to address the letter to is by finding them on the company’s or law firm’s website, as often these will typically include the names of the prominent employees. Alternatively, calling the company and inquiring is also an option. That’s one of the preparations you need to take before forming an outline for a cover letter.
If you haven’t found the name of the recruitment manager, you should generally avoid using general terms such as “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam.” It’s better to directly address the person’s position that will process your application, such as “Dear Hiring Manager.”
Knowing how to format a cover letter and approach each paragraph is essential for writing a successful application. The introductory paragraph has the primary goal of grabbing the recruiter’s attention. The introduction needs to reflect your interest and excitement for the job. You can also mention in one sentence something that you like about the company or news that covered the company in a positive light, like winning a critical case. It also needs an important highlight from your career or a mutual contact that referred you to the job opening.
“I’m applying for the position of Criminal Defense Attorney at [Law Firm Name]. I’ve noticed your job posting on legaljobs.io, and I think that you will find that my five-year experience as a Defense Attorney with both pro bono work and employment at [your previous law firm] superbly matches your job description.”
The body paragraphs in the cover letter format serve to show the significant accomplishments of your career that you can’t showcase in the same way on your resume. Use the job description as a writing guide on the crucial skills and experience relevant to the role you are applying for.
It’s great if you can exceed the expectations of the person reviewing your application. You can research the law firm or the company you are applying to and determine how it is positioned in the market. If you can, with your experience, contribute to the organization and improve its position, it’s best to take that opportunity in this section of the cover letter.
Keep in mind that the cover letter format for a job application at a law firm will be different than when applying for a company’s legal team. A cover letter also needs to reflect the field of law the firm is practicing.
“I’ve noticed that you are looking for a candidate that has experience in navigating all aspects of criminal court proceedings. My accomplishments in establishing a strong defense with research, investigation, and knowledge of state and federal laws have helped [your previous law firm] to improve its win rate and expand client base.”
Final Paragraph: Call to Action
A professional cover letter format calls for a strong finishing paragraph that addresses several key points. You need to thank the hiring manager for their time and consideration, reiterate that you can be reached through phone or email, and add a call to action that will be hard to dismiss. You can briefly mention again how you would be a good fit for the position or help the company reach its goals, but don’t overdo it.
“Thank you for considering my application. I’d love to join your team, and I am looking forward to hearing from you. I will gladly discuss how I’ve helped raise the [previous law firms] win rate at court by 10% and how I’ve attracted more clients. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (555) 123-4567.”
Our cover letter format includes a complimentary closing with a formal and friendly tone and a signature at the end. Most often, it’s best to use “Sincerely” or “Regards” as a closing. Following that, you just need to sign the letter. If you are sending it through email, an image of your physical signature is a nice touch. If you’re sending a hard copy, you’ll definitely want a signature at the end of the letter.
Since you will most likely attach your cover letter in an email as a file, you need to save it in a format that is universally readable by any recipient. Therefore, it’s best practice to save it as a PDF file.
Now that you know how to format a cover letter properly and write a legal resume that will grab a hiring manager’s attention, you need to prepare for a potential law firm interview. Remember that interview questions for paralegals are different from those for attorneys, and interviewers have a somewhat different approach. If you get called to an interview, writing a thank you letter or an email afterward is a nice touch.