Updating Results

Writing a law CV and cover letter

Jaymes Carr

First impressions are lasting, and this is especially true when it comes to CVs and cover letters for law jobs. After all, the content of your application is only half the game – as a law graduate, it will also be expected that you can write clearly and persuasively. Moreover, recruiters are often time-poor professionals who want to separate the wheat from the chaff quickly, before reaching out to candidates who distinguish themselves with their academic credentials, work experience or diverse interests. So, to help you put your best foot forward, we’ve assembled some tips on how to create a killer cover letter and resume.

Creating a Standout Cover Letter

The Basics

A cover letter is like a sales pitch, and what you’re trying to sell is your own suitability for a target job. Successful cover letters:

  • Highlight the important parts of your resume
  • Provide a sample of your written communication skills
  • Show how your skills, education, and experience are relevant to the position for which you’re applying
  • Address any specific selection criteria in the job advertisement
  • Draw attention to your achievements
  • Use appropriate formatting and a professional and confident tone of voice
  • Encourage prospective employers to read further into your resume or CV
  • Demonstrate one’s command of the rules of grammar and style.

Why invest time in writing a good cover letter?

Cover letters can be time-consuming, and that’s largely due to the importance of writing a new one for each application. Nothing turns off a prospective employer quite like the sense that they’re reading a template letter. It’s vitally important that your submission – or, at the very least, the bulk of it – is specific to the employer in question. It’s a chance to convince them that you want to work in their industry, for their specific organisation, and in the job role they advertised. For example, why do you want to use your law degree in a community legal centre? What, to you, is the appeal of pursuing a public career instead of a private, commercial one?

The contents

A cover letter should include the following:

  • Your personal/contact details
  • The date
  • A salutation/greeting
  • How you heard about the job/company
  • What attracts you to the job or company (you can mention some of their recent projects or significant staff members)
  • Why you believe you would be an asset to the team
  • How you will follow up
  • A closing/signature.

The trick is to have a clear idea as to what the company does and what the job entails, then draw out evidence of your own relevant skills, interests and experience. Here, the more specific you can be, the better. For example, instead of simply writing that you’ve “interned at a leading law firm”, you could say “as an intern, I helped to draft supporting documents for a case that was ultimately settled in favour of the firm’s client”.

Structure and tone

Your cover letter should have a clear structure with an introduction that leads into a summary of your relevant skills and experiences. This should be followed by a closing statement that reiterates your interest in the job, thanks the employer for their time, and includes a ‘soft pitch’. For example, you might write something like:

“I look forward to speaking with you further about how I can make a positive contribution to your team”.

Throughout the letter, your tone should be polite and professional. This doesn’t mean, however, that you should tie yourself in knots trying to sound overly formal. Simply avoid colloquial language wherever possible and focus on providing evidence of why you should be hired (as opposed to simply claiming to be ‘excellent’ or ‘talented’).

Finally, keep your cover letter succinct – it should be no longer than one A4 page and have your details clearly written as part of a letterhead.

Get to the top of the pile: writing a successful CV

A curriculum vitae (CV) is a written overview of your experience and other qualifications for a job opportunity. Creating a good CV generally takes more time than writing a cover letter. However, once complete, a CV can be submitted to each new employer with only minor adjustments.

The Basics

A CV should concisely outline your relevant educational history, work experience, professional accomplishments and qualifications. It may also include details of referees (if requested).

A successful CV:

  • Can be read easily, and uses a clear font in a reasonable size with logical headings and well structured bullet points
  • Uses a skills-focused or chronological format
  • Emphasises skills or job experiences that are particularly relevant to the job description.

Why invest time in writing a good CV?

The role of a CV is to provide recruiters and prospective employers with an easily scannable summary of your achievements so that they can decide whether or not to progress your application by offering you
an interview.

As a law graduate, you’ll often find that your educational pedigree is similar to other applicants, many of whom will have completed near-identical degrees at equivalent institutions. Consequently, it’s
worth taking the time to figure out what differentiates you from the crowd before subtly emphasising it in your CV.

For example, you might bill yourself as a lawyer with strong communication skills and include in your CV the fact that you volunteered for a community law centre. Or perhaps you speak another language, love coding or have a specific five-year goal that the role you’re apply for will help you to achieve. Giving your CV a novel ‘twist’ is a surefire way to make sure it doesn’t get lost in all the noise.

The contents

A law CV should include the following:

  • Your contact details, including your p