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Cover Letter Advice & Samples

In most instances a cover letter will accompany your resume in your initial application package. Other materials should only be sent initially if the employer specifically requests them. Both emailing and mailing your application to employers are acceptable. When applying via email, convert your documents into pdf to avoid conversion problems. Ideally you should attach only one pdf file that includes both your resume and cover letter in one document.

The cover letter is the first writing sample an employer will view so it should be brief (preferably one page), persuasive, well-reasoned, and grammatically perfect. Before crafting your cover letter, students are encouraged to read Chapter 4 of the Introduction to Career Development Guide for a more detailed discussion on the elements of a strong cover letter, and review the sample cover letters.

In general, a good cover letter:

  • Tells the employer who you are (e.g., a first-year student at YLS) and what you are seeking (e.g., a summer intern position);
  • Shows that you know about the particular employer and the kind of work the employer does (i.e., civil or criminal work, direct client service, “impact” cases, antitrust litigation);
  • Demonstrates your writing skills;
  • Demonstrates your commitment to the work of that particular employer;
  • Conveys that you have something to contribute to the employer;
  • Shows that you and that employer are a good “fit;” and
  • Tells the employer how to get in touch with you by email, telephone, and mail.

Although there are many ways to write a cover letter, the following format has worked well for students in the past.

  • In the first paragraph of your cover letter, explain why you are sending your resume to the employer: “I am a first-year student at Yale Law School and am seeking a position with your organization for the summer 2010.” If you are applying to public interest employers and are eligible for SPIF funding, you can mention that here.
  • Use the second paragraph to explain your interest in the employer, including your interest in the employer’s geographic location, reputation, specialty area, or public service.
  • In the third paragraph, stress why this employer should hire you. Elaborate on the qualifications that you possess that will make you an exceptional summer intern or attorney.
  • The final paragraph should thank the employer for taking the time to review your application and tell them how to reach you. You may wish to state that you will contact the employer in a couple of weeks to follow-up and then actually do so. This is especially true with public interest employers who are often understaffed and will appreciate your extra effort.