GUEST BLOG Stephanie Baldwin, 1L at the University of Arizona
If your school is anything like mine, while we are barely into the second semester, deadlines for job postings for the Spring OCI period for 1Ls are quickly closing. If you did not take my advice from my last blog of the Fall semester, you might find yourself scrambling to gather your materials, or you might be sweating bullets over your GPA and think all hope is lost. But there is a piece of the application, that is often overlooked, that might help salvage your efforts. The cover letter.
A powerful cover letter can often help open doors that might otherwise be locked. Here are three tips that can take your cover letter from bland to door opener.
1) The basics: Address it Properly!
We were lucky enough at my school to not only have a class called Prepare to Practice, that helped us prepare our cover letters and resumes in October and November, but last week a law firm came to our school to talk to us about the Spring OCI process. The number one issue, that can absolutely close a door, even with a high GPA, is if you address the cover letter to the wrong firm!
This seems like an impossible mistake, but this has been brought up time and time again. Remember how you had to make sure your essay was to the right school during law school applications? Same rules apply here. Double check who it is addressed to as well that you do not mention ANY other firm besides the one you are sending the letter to in the text. Be sure to look at the job listing to see who and how the cover letter is supposed to be addressed. Failing to follow this simple instruction can also close doors.
2) Take it to the Next level: Connect the dots!
Why this firm, judge, or inhouse position? What does their 1L summer program offer that you can benefit from over others? You can find this information by reviewing the website for the firm, nonprofit or judge. After you discover this, think about what you have to offer. Have you worked in other positions similar to the work you will do there? Have you never had a law job but have transferable skills like public speaking? Look at the job description and attempt to “tie in” the skills or attributes of what they are looking for that match your own abilities. This shows that you are really interested in working there. Also, it demonstrates from the beginning, how you are different from other applicants.
3) Expert Level: Personalization!
Have you met a partner or spoken to an associate of the firm? If so, be sure to mention that person by name. Have you volunteered with the organization in some way, or attended a conference they have hosted? Include that information as well. To really stand out, you want to make sure the reader understands that you have customized the cover letter just for them. Again, reviewing their website can provide valuable insights. You want to look for things they highlight and discover what they feel sets them apart from others. Once you know what this is, talk about it and make a personal connection to what is important to them.
Best of luck on your job search, and understand that paid 1L positions are very rare, but understand the interviews you do in Spring OCI are preparing you for 2L Fall OCI! Do you have any other suggestions for cover letters? If so let me know over at the @The1LLife on Twitter or Instagram.