This article will guide you through the intricacies of creating a compelling legal cover letter to help young professionals, law graduates, and law students secure training contracts, vacation schemes, and other early career positions in law. From the fundamental principles of its structure to the nuances of tailoring it to specific legal roles, we’ll cover everything you need to know to make a strong, lasting impression on your prospective employers.

What Is a Legal Cover Letter?

A cover letter is a personalized letter accompanying your resume/CV when applying for a job. Its purpose extends far beyond a mere formality; it is a critical component in your job application. A legal cover letter serves as a platform to convey your understanding of the law, the firm, and how your skills and experiences are aligned with what the firm seeks in a candidate. It’s an opportunity to show that you are more than just your academic achievements and work experiences – you are a candidate who understands and can contribute to the legal profession.

In legal job applications, a cover letter plays a pivotal role. It’s not only about expressing interest in a position but also about demonstrating your legal acumen and fit for the firm’s culture and values. Legal recruiters look for candidates who show a deep understanding of the law, can communicate effectively, and have a genuine interest in their specific area of practice. Your cover letter is your first chance to show that you meet these criteria.

Learn how you can perfectly answer why study law or why this law firm in our exclusive career guides.

Legal Cover Letters Explained Infographic Table

Structure of a Legal Cover Letter

The structure of a legal cover letter is quite formulaic but crucial. It typically consists of an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.

  • The introduction should grab the reader’s attention and provide a brief overview of who you are and what position you are applying for.
  • The body of the letter is where you discuss your qualifications, experiences, and skills, making sure to align them with the position’s requirements and the firm’s values.
  • The conclusion wraps up your letter, often with a call to action or a statement of enthusiastic anticipation for a potential interview.

Cover Letter Format and Layout

A legal cover letter should be written with one-inch margins on all sides, 10-12 size font in Times New Roman or Calibri, and 1.15 line spacing. It is usually not longer than one page. It is formatted like a formal letter, with your contact information at the top, followed by the date, the recipient’s details, a salutation, the body of the letter, a closing salutation, and your signature. You should use professional language and keep it concise. Clarity, brevity, and professionalism are key

UK law firms often value cover letters that are succinct and to the point, reflecting the straightforward style of business communication. Additionally, understanding the UK legal market and mentioning any relevant legal work experience, like paralegal work in the UK, can be advantageous.

Example of a Legal Cover Letter for a Training Contract with Instructions on How To Write It

Writing an Effective Legal Cover Letter

Before starting the writing process, let’s outline the key steps in writing a good legal cover letter:

  • Step 1: Start with a Strong Opening – Address the letter to a specific person and state the position you’re applying for.
  • Step 2: Engage with Personalized Introduction – Tailor your introduction to the firm and the legal role, showing your knowledge and interest.
  • Step 3: Highlight Relevant Skills and Experiences – Focus on legal experiences, education, and skills that directly apply to the job.
  • Step 4: Use Specific Examples – Illustrate your abilities and achievements with specific examples from your career or education.
  • Step 5: Conclude with a Call to Action – End your letter by reiterating your interest and requesting an interview.

Starting Your Cover Letter: Best Practices for Opening Lines

The beginning of your cover letter sets the tone for the entire document. It should be engaging and tailored to the specific legal role you are applying for. Start by addressing the letter to a specific person if you know their name. If not, opt for a professional greeting like “Dear Hiring Manager.” Avoid generic openings like “To whom it may concern,” as they can come across as impersonal.

  • The Importance of Your Opening Line – The opening lines should be concise and impactful. Begin by stating the position you are applying for and where you found the listing. This not only shows your direct interest but also helps the employer understand the context of your application. A compelling start could also include a brief mention of why you are particularly interested in this role or firm, perhaps referencing a recent case or the firm’s philosophy that resonates with you.
  • Add a Personal Touch – Tailoring the introduction involves showcasing your knowledge of the law firm and the specific legal position. Mention any direct connections you have to the firm, like a referral or a previous encounter with one of their lawyers. This personal touch demonstrates your proactive approach and genuine interest in the firm.

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Body of the Cover Letter

This section is where you elaborate on your qualifications and experiences, connecting them directly to the needs of the job and the culture of the firm. Each law firm has its own culture and values. Whether it’s their approach to corporate law, their commitment to pro bono work, or their office environment, demonstrating an understanding of what makes the firm unique is essential. It’s important to balance mentioning your past experiences with how they make you an ideal candidate for the position you’re applying for.

  • What to Include: Skills, Experience, and Qualifications – Focus on the most relevant experiences and skills that apply to the position. For a legal cover letter, emphasize any legal work, internships, or education. Don’t just list your experiences; explain how they make you a good fit for this specific role. Use examples to demonstrate your skills, such as a successful negotiation or a research project that you completed during your LPC course.
  • How to Write About Legal Experiences and Education – When discussing legal experiences and education, be specific. Mention any particular areas of law you’ve studied or worked in, notable cases you’ve been involved with, or any research you’ve conducted. If you’ve had any significant achievements or have been recognized in your field, this is the place to highlight them.
  • Tailor Your Cover Letter for a Law Firm – It’s crucial to tailor it to the specific firm’s ethos, practice areas, and the role you’re applying for. Research the firm thoroughly and mention aspects of their work that align with your experiences and interests. Show them why you are not just a fit for the legal industry in general but for their firm in particular.

Find out more about Magic Circle law firms.

Concluding Your Cover Letter

The conclusion of your cover letter is your chance to wrap up your argument and leave a lasting impression.

  • How to Effectively Conclude and Call to Action – Reiterate your enthusiasm for the role and the firm, and politely express your desire for an interview. A strong conclusion reaffirms your fit for the role and can make your application memorable.
  • The Importance of a Strong Closing in Legal Applications – In legal applications, a strong closing is crucial as it demonstrates your ability to conclude arguments effectively—a key skill in the legal profession. It’s also your final opportunity to express your keen interest in the position.

Writing a Cover Letter for Vacation Schemes and Internships

Applying for vacation schemes and internships in the legal sector requires a cover letter that not only showcases your current skills and academic achievements but also demonstrates your potential and eagerness to learn and grow within the field. These opportunities are designed to give you a taste of the legal profession and are a critical step in your career path.

  • Understanding the Purpose of Your Application – The primary goal of your cover letter for these programs should be to highlight your enthusiasm for the law, your academic accomplishments, and any extracurricular activities or previous work experiences (legal or otherwise) that demonstrate relevant skills. It’s essential to convey your commitment to pursuing a career in law and your interest in gaining hands-on experience. You may go as far back as your A-Level law course or as recent as your SQE prep course.
  • Highlighting Academic and Extracurricular Achievements – Use your cover letter to draw attention to your academic strengths, particularly in law-related subjects. Mention any law-related projects, dissertations, or presentations that you have undertaken. For example, you may have done something extraordinary during your PGDL course. Additionally, highlight your participation in extracurricular activities, especially those that demonstrate skills useful in the legal profession, such as debate clubs, moot court competitions, or volunteer work.
  • Demonstrating Interest in the Specific Firm or Area of Law – Research the firm or organization offering the vacation scheme or internship. Tailor your cover letter to reflect an understanding of what they specialize in and express why you are interested in that area of law. If the firm is known for a particular type of law, show how your interests and experiences align with this.
  • Reflecting on What You Hope to Gain and Offer– Be clear about what you hope to gain from the experience and how it fits into your longer-term career goals. At the same time, discuss what you can bring to the table. Even if you don’t have direct legal experience, skills such as research, analysis, teamwork, and communication are highly relevant and valued in legal settings.
  • The Importance of Professionalism and Clarity – As with any legal cover letter, maintain a professional tone and clear structure. Ensure your passion for law and eagerness to learn come through, but balance this with a formal and respectful approach that reflects the professionalism expected in the legal field.

Writing a Cover Letter for Training Contracts

In a cover letter for a training contract, highlight your commitment to pursuing a career in law, your understanding of the firm’s area of practice, and how the training contract fits into your career plan. Be clear about why you see yourself as a part of that specific firm in the long term.

  • Tailoring Your Approach to the Firm – Each law firm has its unique characteristics and areas of expertise. Tailor your cover letter to reflect an understanding of the firm’s specializations, values, and culture. Express how these align with your career aspirations and why this particular training contract appeals to you.
  • Highlight Unique Experiences or Skills – While your legal experience may be limited at this stage, focus on transferable skills and experiences that demonstrate your potential as a trainee solicitor. This could include analytical skills from academic projects, teamwork and leadership experience from extracurricular activities, or any legal work experience you may have.
  • Demonstrating Long-Term Interest – Firms want to invest in trainees who have a genuine interest in staying with the firm post-training. Express your long-term career vision and how it aligns with the opportunities at the firm. Show that you have a keen interest in growing within the firm and contributing to its future successes.
  • Conveying Enthusiasm and Professionalism – Your enthusiasm for the law and the specific training contract should shine through in your cover letter. However, balance this enthusiasm with professionalism, showing that you understand the serious commitment of a training contract and are ready to meet its challenges.
  • Articulate Your Vision for Contributing to the Firm – Instead of just focusing on what you hope to gain from the training contract, turn the tables. Articulate a vision of how you see yourself contributing to the firm. Maybe you have ideas for community engagement initiatives or are interested in contributing to the firm’s legal research publications.

Legal CV vs Legal Cover Letter

The CV and cover letter serve different purposes and complement each other. Your CV provides a factual and chronological breakdown of your education and experience. The cover letter, however, is your chance to tell a story – linking your experiences and skills to the specific requirements of the job.

In your CV, you list your achievements, but in your cover letter, you interpret them. Use your cover letter to explain how your experiences in your CV make you a great candidate for the specific role. It’s about making connections between your background and the job description, which isn’t always apparent in a CV.

Find out everything about solicitor salaries in our guide.

Top 5 Tips For You to Succeed

Look, we want all our readers to succeed and below you will find some good tips for writing your cover letter.

Tip #1 – The Length of Your Legal Cover Letter

The ideal legal cover letter should be one page long. It’s crucial to be brief yet impactful. Every sentence should add value, focusing on your qualifications and fit for the role without unnecessary elaboration. Employers appreciate succinctness, especially in a field where clarity and brevity are valued. Remember that you can always get help with cover letters if you have a disability.

Tip #2 – What Not to Include in a Legal Cover Letter

Avoid repeating your resume verbatim; your cover letter should complement, not duplicate, your CV. Stay away from overly personal information or anecdotes that don’t directly relate to your legal qualifications or the job. Also, avoid clichés and general statements that don’t specifically relate to the firm or the position.

Tip #3 – Addressing the Cover Letter

“To Whom It May Concern” is overly generic and can suggest a lack of effort in researching the firm. Whenever possible, address the letter to a specific person, such as the hiring manager or the partner in charge of the recruitment process. If you cannot find a name, use a targeted title such as “Hiring Committee” or “Recruitment Team.”

Tip #4 – Customize for Each Application

Do not just copy and paste your cover letter and change the firm’s name. You must actively tailor your cover letter. Put effort int researching each firm’s speciality and culture. Tailor your letter to reflect their language, values, and requirements. Show a clear, genuine interest in what makes each firm unique.

Tip #5 – Proofread Multiple Times

Remember that even a tiny error can make you seem incompetent, even if you are the most educated person out there. Employ various techniques like reading aloud and peer review to catch errors. Take breaks between reviews for clarity. Ensure consistency in formatting and style, and don’t over-rely on spellcheck tools, as they might miss nuanced errors.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below you will find answers to the most commonly asked questions:

How can an applicant effectively research a law firm to tailor their cover letter more specifically to that firm?

You must go beyond the firm’s website. Attending industry networking events, seminars, or lectures where representatives of the firm are present offers a chance for firsthand observation and even brief interactions. Additionally, seeking out alumni from one’s law school who currently work at the firm can provide insider perspectives. These individuals can often shed light on the less-publicized aspects of the firm’s culture, such as its approach to work-life balance, internal promotion practices, or specific initiatives that are highly valued. You are likely to be asked to complete a psychometric activity during your job application process; make sure you are prepared with our Watson Glaser Test guide.

What are some common mistakes in legal cover letters that can negatively impact an applicant’s chances?

A frequent mistake in legal cover letters is an overemphasis on academic achievements at the expense of demonstrating practical skills and experiences. Law firms seek candidates who can apply legal knowledge in real-world contexts. Thus, an effective cover letter balances academic prowess with examples of practical application, like participation in mock trials or pro bono legal clinics. Moreover, generic statements about the law firm or its achievements can backfire. You shouldn’t just praise the firm, you must link its achievements to your own experiences, creating a narrative that positions you as a natural fit.

How should an applicant handle gaps in their legal experience or education when writing a cover letter?

When confronted with gaps in your legal experience or education, you should focus on complementary experiences that have helped develop transferable skills. For instance, if you have a gap in your legal career due to working in a different industry, you should highlight how the skills acquired there (such as negotiation, analysis, or client management) are beneficial in a legal context. It’s about reframing the narrative to focus on diverse experiences contributing to a well-rounded legal professional.

In what ways can an applicant demonstrate their potential for long-term growth and contribution to a law firm?

To show potential for long-term growth, you need to articulate your vision for your career and how it aligns with the firm’s trajectory. This could involve discussing your interest in specific legal areas where the firm is a leader, expressing enthusiasm for participating in the firm’s ongoing initiatives or reflecting on how your personal and professional values resonate with those of the firm. For instance, if a firm is known for its innovation in legal tech, you might talk about your eagerness to contribute to and learn from these pioneering practices. This approach demonstrates not only your research and alignment with the firm but also your ambition and forward-thinking mindset.