What Should You Include in a Cover Letter for a Law Internship?
A strong cover letter can help you stand out from other candidates
Internships go hand-in-hand with law school. If you're currently pursuing your law degree, you’ve probably heard countless times how important it is to complete an internship before you graduate. Many experts recommend that you do several internships to give yourself the best chance at getting a full-time job.
But it can be difficult to set yourself apart from other candidates when you’re a student with limited work experience.
This is where a well-written, thoughtful cover letter comes in. It can be a powerful tool for securing a law internship, an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise, work ethic, knowledge, and passion for the subject.
Don’t just repeat and retell your resume. Tailoring your cover letter to a particular firm's specialties and needs can help you stand out as a polished and professional applicant. Your cover letter should show your personality and give specific examples—either from your work in school or in a previous internship—of how you can fulfill the internship's responsibilities.
Some Tips and Some Things to Keep in Mind
You’ll notice from this sample cover letter that the student wastes no time explaining who she is and what she’s accomplished so far. It’s right there in the first sentence, and that's good. This is important information. Don’t make your reader hunt for it.
The third paragraph in this sample letter demonstrates the writer’s knowledge and understanding of the law firm she's applying to.
She understands the types of cases it takes on and what it seems to want to achieve. The writer uses this to mention why she would be a good match for this firm given these considerations.
Close by expressing your gratitude for the opportunity and for the time this individual has already invested in reading your letter and your resume because the words “thank you” can go a long way.
It’s always better to offer more contact information than less. Consider if you only provided your cell number, then you lose your phone. The law firm can't reach you and might decide to just move on to the next candidate. You want to be reachable 24/7.
You might also pave the road for follow-up. Mention that you’ll be in touch by phone within a certain period of time if you don’t hear anything back.
Sample Cover Letter for a Law Internship
Helen Marie Jenkins
4 Birch Court
Los Angeles, CA 43212
February 11, 20XX
Ms. Kerry Ann Monroe
Vice President of Human Resources
l Jones, Mills, and Peters, LLC
566 Treeway Avenue
Newport Beach, CA 89079
Dear Ms. Monroe:
As a current law student and previous intern with the prestigious law firm of Jenks, Jenks, and Jenks, LLC, it is with great enthusiasm that I am writing to apply for the summer internship position as a legal intern for Jones, Mills, and Pets, LLC. My knowledge, skills, and experience are a perfect match for this summer internship, and I think you’ll agree that I meet all of the qualifications as stipulated in the LA Gazette.
As president of the Student Government Association at UCLA, I participated in numerous clubs on campus and assisted in identifying and working on many causes for the betterment of the community.
Our environmental club initiated a project that cleaned and restored safe drinking water in a local stream bed that had become polluted over time, and our Community Action Club worked with the local domestic violence and homeless shelters to offer assistance and compensation for clients to get back on their feet after experiencing hard times and social isolation. I worked with each of the club presidents to develop a financial plan that not only increased revenue but also permitted donations to stream into these local charitable organizations.
I am a community minded citizen who wants to make a positive change in the world. I believe my talents and motivation would be an asset to Jones, Mills, and Peters, LLC, in the work they do for the local community and their commitment to making the city a safer and better place to live.
The mission of Jones, Mills, and Peters, LLC, is exactly the type of environment in which I hope to work upon graduation next year.
I am excited about the possibility of speaking with you further about this outstanding opportunity with your firm. I will call next week to discuss my candidacy in hopes of securing an interview in the near future. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Helen Marie Jenkins
You're Not Finished Yet
Write your letter, proofread it, then proofread it again. You must avoid any grammatical errors or typos. Both can indicate that you just don’t care about your work. Consider asking someone else to read your letter, too. A cold eye can add a layer of insurance even when it comes to your delivery—if your reader doesn't understand a certain point you're trying to make, odds are that the law firm won't either.
Above all, double-check to make sure you have the name of the firm and its hiring personnel correct. Can you spot the error in the sample letter here? You can bet Ms. Monroe will.
Cover Letter Advice
The cover letter is a sample of your written work and should be brief (preferably one page), persuasive, well-reasoned, and grammatically perfect.
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 and converys that you have something to contribute;
- 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.
Determine to whom you should address the cover letter. If you are applying to law firms, address your letter to the recruiting director. For NALP member firms, use the NALP Directory to obtain contact information. (NALP also provides a useful mail merge feature for generating multiple letters). For other employers, you can refer to their websites, or contact the office to determine to whom your materials should be directed.
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 20xx.” 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.