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Cover Letters and Writing Samples . Vicki Huebner, JD Assistant Dean for Law Career Services. Job Searching is About Message and Image Control . Analyze your skills, interests and background Assess the needs of legal employers Identify how your background meets the employer’s needs

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Cover Letters and Writing Samples

Vicki Huebner, JD

Assistant Dean for Law Career Services


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Job Searching is About Message and Image Control

  • Analyze your skills, interests and background

  • Assess the needs of legal employers

  • Identify how your background meets the employer’s needs

  • Make your case


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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?

--DK, California


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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


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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


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Cover Letter Purpose

  • Myth:

    • 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


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Cover Letter Format

Vicki Huebner

1234 Sesame Street

San Jose, CA 95555

(408) 555-5555

[email protected]

July 29, 2008

Ms. Susan Eframi

Recruitment Manager

Pain & Fear

5678 Law Street

Palo Alto, CA 95334

Dear Ms. Eframi:


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“Bad” Sample Cover LetterWhat 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 yourself!

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.


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Cover Letters

  • 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?


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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, associate, etc.).

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.


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Helpful Phrases for Second Paragraph

  • I can offer your firm specific (experiences, courses) in _______

  • My background in ____ might be of particular interest to you.

  • 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 . . .


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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 you soon.

  • I would be happy to discuss arrangements for an interview.


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Writing Samples

  • 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


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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



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