Paralegal cover letter: The big idea
What does an employer want?
How to target your cover letter
How to prepare
How to format your cover letter
How to structure your cover letter
Did you know that the cover letter is the older, more sophisticated cousin of the resume? If it were a person, the cover letter would listen to mellow jazz, swirl a brandy and know all about French cinema.
Your paralegal cover letter should expand and elaborate on your CV, demonstrating your comprehensive knowledge of the law firm that you’re applying to, as well as the legal sector more broadly. If you’re still looking to perfect your CV, however, check out our 5 expert tips on CV writing.
When you apply for a paralegal or legal administrator job, you only get one first impression. So make it count. The cover letter is your opportunity to showcase your achievements and to let your personality shine through.
It is the part of the application that tells a hiring manager whether you’ve done your research and if you’ll fit in at their law firm.
But, as you’ll definitely know by now, you face pretty stiff competition when trying to land yourself an entry level paralegal job. There’s no two ways about it: you have to stand out from the crowd!
What does an employer want?
The law firm wants you to write a paralegal cover letter that really sells you. They want you to prove that you’ve got what it takes to be a paralegal with them and that you can hit the ground running.
Simply put: they want to know if you’re the person who can make a real impact at their firm.
The hiring manager reading your cover letter will also want you to show them that you know your stuff. That’s to say, you’ve researched this particular law firm and that you’re able to tell them how your individual qualities align with their values.
But keep in mind that your cover letter should make enjoyable reading too. A few punchy sentences here and there could distinguish you from the other 40 people applying to be the next paralegal at the firm.
If you’re still not sure what qualities employers are looking for in their paralegals, why don’t you check out this handy article that tells you exactly what it takes to be a paralegal?
How do you target your paralegal cover letter to a particular firm?
Law firms like to feel special. You need to convince the hiring manager who reads your paralegal cover letter that their firm is ‘the one’.
The key to doing this, as a little-known politician once said, is: ‘Education, education, education’. You need to know the firm that you’re applying to inside-out.
Great research makes for a great cover letter. So make sure you know the following about the firm:
- Which practice areas do they specialise in?
- Where do they operate?
- Have they completed any noteworthy deals recently?
- What do they expect from their paralegals?
- What are the essential skills you need to demonstrate to land the job?
You’ll find all the answers you need by having a scroll through the firm’s website. Definitely check out the news section! You might also want to peruse their social media, especially their LinkedIn page.
Once you know your stuff, take time to carefully match your skills and experience to the values and vision of the particular law firm. This might take you a while, but it will boost your chances of landing a job.
When you actually come to writing up your paralegal cover letter, make sure to tailor your experience to the specific qualities that the firm is looking for.
What if you’re inexperienced
So, you haven’t got any experience, huh? Really?
Just because you haven’t been pacing the carpet of a law firm for years doesn’t make you ‘inexperienced’, especially when it comes to entry level paralegal jobs.
Transferable skills are your best friend! Once you’ve got a good understanding of the qualities the firm wants to see in their paralegals, start thinking about the experiences that demonstrate exactly how you fit the bill.
Whether you’re a debating whizz, an accomplished writer, or you’ve got some pro bono work under your belt – prove that you’re a born paralegal.
Don’t forget about your degree either, it cost you a pretty penny. For some reason, lots of paralegal cover letters don’t make any reference to academic qualifications. This seems a bit silly, especially if you were lucky enough to nab yourself a law degree.
Why not mention your favourite practice areas? And if you came top of the class (or near enough) in your family law exam, shout it from the rooftops!
The best preparation for writing a paralegal cover letter
You might have a particular law firm in your sights, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll hit the bullseye unless you do your research.
Obviously you need to know all about the law firm. But did you know that by simply addressing your cover letter to the right person, you can already get a head-start on the competition?
Normally, the job advert will include the name of the hiring manager to whom you should address the letter. But if it doesn’t, take a look at the firm’s website. And if all else fails, don’t be embarrassed to pick up the phone and ask.
Format your paralegal cover letter
Make sure to use a sensible, size 11 font: nothing too garish. And no, Comic Sans does not count as ‘sensible’.
There’s no set style or length that your cover letter must adhere to. But it’s definitely recommended to write no more than a single side of A4 paper: you want this to be short and sweet.
You need to avoid spelling and grammar mistakes at all costs. Writing and reviewing documents is a big part of the job for paralegals and legal administrators, so a prestigious law firm won’t let you one step through the door if you’re getting the basics wrong.
I’m guessing you want to know a surefire way to ensure that you become a superb speller? Proofread. Proofread ‘til you can’t proofread no more. And then get your friend to proofread!
How do you structure a perfect paralegal cover letter?
The best paralegal cover letter will be succinct and to the point. All you have to do is explain who you are, why you want to apply and why you should get the job. This should be a walk in the park, kind of.
Make sure that each experience that you list demonstrates how capable and totally brilliant you are. To do this:
- Contextualise a relevant experience
- Explain the impact that you personally made
- Relate it to the qualities that the law firm are looking for
Now, there are lots of sample cover letters out there. But to be perfectly honest with you, a copy and paste cover letter won’t cut it in the world of paralegals. Each of your cover letters has to be unique and tailored to the particular law firm. They can smell a recycled cover letter a mile off! Instead, you have to make it your own. But here’s a handy template to get you started.
1: Who are you and why are you writing to me?
Introduce yourself and explain why you’re writing. Keep this section brief, the hiring manager really doesn’t need to know your life story. It’s good etiquette to mention where you are in your legal career and where you heard about this paralegal opening.
2: Why do you want this job in particular?
The second section of your paralegal cover letter should be a breeze as long as you’ve done your research. If you can’t think of a good answer, you haven’t done enough research. Go do some digging!
You want to make it clear that you’ve been thinking long and hard about why you want to be a paralegal at this law firm in particular. Maybe it’s because they specialise in your favourite practice area, or maybe they’ve just finalised a deal with a massive client. Whatever your reasons, be explicit.
Now tell the hiring manager all about the experiences which sparked your passion for law and that will help you in your day-to-day paralegal tasks.
3: Why should you be offered the job?
The job specification is your best friend! The firm will have spelt out precisely what they’re looking for in a paralegal. If they haven’t, take a look here to see what makes a good paralegal.
Once you know what they want, let them know that it’s time to call off the search: you are their dream paralegal.
You might be wondering how you do that though? Easy. Just match up your previous experiences with the qualities they ask for. In this section of your paralegal cover letter, you have the opportunity to really showcase your achievements.
You might choose to talk about that time you shadowed a lawyer, or your Vac Scheme, or even a previous paralegal role. It doesn’t matter, so long as you explain the impact that you personally made. Always ask yourself: what did I achieve?
4: How to end you paralegal cover letter
You’ll want to go out with a proverbial bang! Remember the key to landing a paralegal or legal administrator job is to stand out from the crowd (for the right reasons, mind you).
Make sure to mention that you’ve attached your CV. While your paralegal cover letter is more detailed and sophisticated, we all know that behind every great cover letter is an incredible CV.
Once you’ve ticked all these boxes, sign off politely: ‘Yours sincerely’ (if you know the name of the addressee), ‘Yours faithfully’ (if you don’t).
Now you have your paralegal cover letter written, what’s next?
Wait just one second before you start licking the stamp. Make sure that you’ve:
- Got the basics right. There are no spelling or grammar mistakes to be seen.
- Shown that you know this law firm like the back of your hand.
- Aligned your experiences with their particular vision and values.
If your paralegal cover letter hits the mark, covering all 3 of these points, you’ll be in the running for the job. If you need a sample, Monster have some great ones.
Don’t get too ahead of yourself though. You’ll need an equally excellent paralegal CV to boot. So why not click here to get some super CV tips to boost your chances of landing a job at your dream legal firm?
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