Cover Letters and Writing Samples
Vicki Huebner, JD
Assistant Dean for Law Career Services
Job Searching is About Message and
• Analyze your skills, interests and
• Assess the needs of legal employers
• Identify how your background meets the
• Make your case
Why Image Control is Important
Dear Job Goddess,
I don’t know whether I should put my work
experience prior to law school on my resume. I was
a Hooters girl. I probably wouldn’t even ask except
that I have a friend at law school who used to be a
male stripper, and it doesn’t seem to hurt him. What
do you think?
How Do You Develop Your Image?
• Use proper grammar and avoid typos
– ―I often use a laptap‖
– ―will accept nothing less than $18 annually‖
• Format counts
• Insert relevant information
– ―Able to say the ABCs backward in under five seconds‖
– ―Running, editing video, cooking, writing and wondering‖
• Communicate transferable skills
• Indicate what you can do for the employer
Cover Letter Purpose
• If your resume is your marketing piece,
your cover letter is your
– Absent Interview!
• Ask yourself:
– If a potential employer is looking at my resume,
what else do I want him/her to know
Cover Letter Purpose
– Employers don’t read cover letters
• Cover letters are:
– A transmittal document
– A writing sample
– An example of how you act as an advocate
– An example of your persuasive writing ability
Cover Letter Format
1234 Sesame Street
San Jose, CA 95555
July 29, 2008
Ms. Susan Eframi
Pain & Fear
5678 Law Street
Palo Alto, CA 95334
Dear Ms. Eframi:
―Bad‖ Sample Cover Letter
What Are the Problems?
Dear Sir or Madam:
My name is Susan Lawyer. I am a second year student at Joe’s Drive-Thu
Law School, and I am seeking a position with your firm for this summer. I am writing to
your firm because of its excellent reputation and its location in San Francisco. I’ve always
wanted to live in San Francisco because it has so much to offer—sports, culture, history—
but I don’t need to tall you that because you obviously made the wise choice to live there
I plan to be a litigator when I graduate, and working for your firm would help me
to develop strong research and writing skills. In addition, I would like to be able to gain
exposure to other practice areas, and because your firm has several departments, I would
be able to rotate among them.
As my resume shows, I received good grades in Criminal Law and Contracts,
and I am nearly in the top forty percent of my class. I am a hard worker and I work well
under pressure. I would be a good addition to your firm.
I have attached my resume for your review. I am available anytime for an
interview. Give me a call. You won’t be disappointed.
• Three paragraph rule
• First paragraph
– Who referred you?
– What school do you attend?
– What year are you in school?
– What position are you applying for?
– When do you want to perform that job?
• Second paragraph
– What can you offer the employer?
– Topic/ thesis sentence is important!!
• Third paragraph
– What do you want to have happen?
– What documents have you enclosed?
Helpful Phrases for 1st Paragraph
_______ recommended that I contact you regarding.
With a background in ____ I am seeking opportunities to _____
I am applying for a position as ________ (judicial clerk,
We met at the _________ in ______ (month).
I am interested in applying for ____ (position) with your
(firm/agency/company) because of (type of practice, ties to
geographic location, reputation, etc.)
My interest in (practice area) prompted me to contact you.
Helpful Phrases for Second Paragraph
• I can offer your firm specific (experiences, courses) in
• My background in ____ might be of particular interest to
• Prior to law school I spent ___ years as ___.
• I developed strong _____ skills at/as _____.
• As you can see from my background, I have concentrated
on obtaining experience in (field/area/industry) with my
ultimate objective to obtain a position in (specific
industry/field) . . .
• My academic achievements demonstrate that I produce
quality work, work hard and am dedicated to what I am
doing. My GPA places me in the to (high ranking!) of my
class . . .
Helpful Phrases for Third Paragraph
• Thank you for taking the time to review my qualifications. I
look forward to talking with you soon.
• I will be in ____ between ____ and hope to have the
opportunity to meet with you at that time.
• I would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you to
discuss my qualifications.
• I can be contacted at ____ and look forward to hearing form
• I would be happy to discuss arrangements for an interview.
• You are being hired to perform a job that involves
a lot of writing
• In a close case between candidates, your writing
sample will often determine who gets the job
• You should be working on polishing your writing
samples for next fall
• Take advantage of any assistance your LAWRA
professor offers you to review your writing sample
• Page limits
– Redacting information
Writing Sample Do’s and Don’ts
• Print on plain paper, 12 point font, no notebooks or binders
• If the writing sample is an award winner—say so!
• Keep it recent
• Make sure it is Bluebooked.
• Provide contextual information
• Make sure it is formatted correctly
• If written as part of a job:
– Get employer’s permission
– Redact confidential information
• Choosing what to submit
– Paper for a class
– Co-authored pieces
– Judicial externship pieces
– Write for a trade publication