Write a Cover Letter

Your cover letter should concisely explain to the employer how the qualifications listed in your resume make you the best person for the job.

There is no one perfect cover letter. The examples of cover letters included on this site should be used only as guides.

Keep the following in mind as you draft (and re-draft) your cover letters:

Address the letter to a real person

You must find the name of the person to whom you should write. Never use “Dear Hiring Partner,” or “Dear Sir or Madam.” Only a letter addressed to “Dear Mr. Smith” will deserve to be read by Mr. Smith.

The first sentence must grab the reader’s attention

"I am currently a second year student at Indiana Law” does not compel the reader to continue. Compare it to the following:

"Prof. Fischman recommended that I contact you because of your expertise in hazardous waste disposal litigation."

or:

"I read about your firm’s representation of Waste Management, Inc. in the January issue of The American Lawyer. I was impressed by your creative approach to dispute resolution."

Identify yourself, briefly

Your resume will provide a more complete, factual summary of your qualifications, but briefly introduce yourself to the reader:

"I will be graduating from the Indiana University Maurer School of Law in May 2017, and I want to use my chemical engineering background and my law degree to practice environmental law in a firm like yours."

or

"I will be graduating from the Indiana University Maurer School of Law in May 2017. I earned a B.S. in chemical  engineering, and am registered as a United States Patent Agent. During my tenure as a research assistant in the Chemistry Department at IU, I developed an interest in intellectual property matters, and I want to use my strong technical background and my law degree to practice patent and trademark law."

Identify your purpose

Make it clear whether you are applying for a position that has been advertised or if you’re using the cover letter to try to set up an informational interview. Don’t leave the reader confused as to your purpose in contacting him or her:

"The representation of major industrial companies such as (list some of firm’s clients) must require  engineering as well as legal expertise. As a registered engineer-in-training, I can speak the language and share the concerns of your clients. I would like to be considered for a position as an associate with your firm upon my graduation next May."

Propose the next step

Having introduced yourself and your purpose, tell the reader what will happen next to further the acquaintance:

"I am excited about pursuing a career in environmental law. I hope that my experience in this area and my engineering background will interest your firm. I will call you next week to discuss my qualifications and your firm’s needs."

Follow up by telephone

Approximately a week after you send your resume, call to set up an appointment, a convenient time for a telephone  interview, or to confirm your plans to visit when you are in town. Do not presume that the reader will contact you. Good lawyers are busy, and their intentions to call you may get buried under piles of fee-generating paperwork.

Example cover letters