Cover Letter Refresher: 6 Tips

PDO has been reviewing a lot of cover letters lately, due to impending Mock Interviews and Spring OCI.  For the most part, they have been great:  nicely-researched, brief, and well-written.  Some were not in legal cover letter format, however, and this is a problem.  We have a few tips on how to help you improve.

  1. If you didn’t do so before you drafted your letter, please review your PDO Handbook and PDO handouts folder on the shared network drive on cover letters, and follow the suggested format.  If the format you used before law school differs, you need to change the format.  Links to some of these handouts are included at the end of this article.  There are even example cover letters in the PDO folder.  They are excellent for examples of tone and length, but do NOT copy them.  For example, nobody wants to see 100 letters that say you will be an “asset” to their office, even if it is in one of the examples.
  2. You must do individualized cover letters for each employer, reflecting that you have some understanding of who they are and what they do.
  3. Don’t mistakenly send/upload one employer a cover letter that you address to another employer.  This may well preclude you from getting an interview.
  4. Watch out for typos.  Have two (or more) friends and/or PDO folks read your basic cover letter.
  5. Don’t write in a way that you would never speak, or think that you need to use “fancy” language in a letter.  Use plain, active language and shorten your sentences.
  6. Don’t use the first and last name in the salutation line, i.e. “Dear Ms. Anneliese Booher.”  Just say, “Dear Ms. Booher.”  Otherwise, it looks like you used a mail merge. I’ve seen this a lot and thought it was worth mentioning.  Use the first and last name in the address line, of course.