Tag Archives: revised cover letters

Killer Cover Letters 2: The Body Wars

We dissected the Introduction of a cover letter in an earlier post.  The critical lesson there was to umbrella your particular skill-sets under a single theme that would appeal to your future employer.  This will help focus the letter and, more importantly, tell the story of you that your resume simply cannot and, really, should not tell.

So, let’s dissect the Body and Conclusion from a sample cover letter. To highlight the necessary elements of a unique and persuasive Body and Conclusion that elaborate your particular and transferable skill-sets, consider this Early Draft and compare it to its Final Draft by way of the color coding.

EARLY DRAFT

[Introduction]

Though my law school is not top-tier, esteemed persons and institutions have commended the nuance and strength of my writing.  New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts offered me a writing scholarship to its MFA program, however I turned it down in favor of law school.  As a JD/MLS candidate, my trademark professor distinguished my opinion letters and responses to office action as being “firm ready.”  I enjoy writing a trademark analysis because it requires creative problem solving, resourcefulness, and a customer service orientation, attributes I revere and have consistently sought to cultivate.  In addition, I supplemented my IP education at Bedrock School of Law and performed well in copyright law. 

I also demonstrate the keen research and organizational skills typical of a strong writer.  As a summer associate, to accent Ms. Betty Rubble’s exceptional tenure as chair of the litigation committee of the Yaba-Daba-Doo County Bar Association, I organized what became an esteemed career fair that brought together the analytical skills of law students with the legal needs of the nonprofit community in Yaba-Daba-Doo.  This required I manage and prioritize multiple complex tasks, prepare countless communications, and foster a collaborative spirit among the project partners and participants.  Moreover, I have conducted research for film producers, law school deans, and attorneys, all with their compliments, and I am resourceful at finding and using free electronic resources for legal research.

In Coats and Bennett, I see the chance to bridge my analytic and creative skills.  I recognize that such a unique opportunity does not come along often and, thus, am especially thankful for the consideration.

All the best,

Ferris Bueller, Esq.

FINAL DRAFT

[Introduction]

Developing from my past support of artists and filmmakers, I am eager to use my legal writing and analytical skills to defend and exploit the creative endeavors of IP owners.  I model my legal writing style after yours, and like you, I intend to advance their knowledge of IP law through publication.  Esteemed institutions and persons have awarded and commended my writing skills.  The Tisch School of the Arts at New York University offered me a writing scholarship that I ultimately turned down for law school.  As a JD/MLS candidate, my trademark professor distinguished the “nuanced analysis” of my opinion letters and responses to office action and called them “client ready.”  Moreover, my appellate advocacy professor identified my defendant-appellant’s brief as the clearest synthesis of the law and the most persuasively argued. 

Additionally, I am a creative project manager and versatile researcher.  To accent Ms. Betty Rubble’s exceptional tenure as chair of the litigation committee of the Yaba-Daba-Doo County Bar Association, I organized and marketed what became an esteemed career fair that brought together the analytical skills of law students with the legal needs of the nonprofit community.  This creative enterprise required I manage multiple complex tasks and deadlines and prepare countless communications, including web pages and publicity notices, to foster a collaborative spirit among the project partners and participants.  Furthermore, as a summer associate, I drafted interrogatories and summary depositions and conducted subscription-based research for asbestos litigation.  My library science background, as it did for my summer assignments, heightens my intuition in locating and using free electronic resources and expands my efficiency as a print-based researcher.

As a legal researcher and draftsman, I see the chance to prime my library science training and bridge my analytical and creative writing skills in order to advance the work of the firm and its attorneys.  I recognize such a unique opportunity does not come along often and, thus, am especially thankful for the consideration.  I look forward to hearing from you soon.

All the best,

Ferris Bueller, Esq.

ANALYSIS

The first paragraph of the Body highlights the candidate’s writing and analytical skills and their benefit to her future employer by way of elaborating how they have helped or served previous clients and customers.  The Final Draft works better because it launches from this theme of customer service orientation, set-out in the Introduction.  The Final Draft also shows the candidate has done her research and studied her future employer, in this case, his publishing history, and linked it to her own skill-set. But, if you choose to place your skill-sets, principles, or mission in solidarity with your future employer’s, be sure the statements are honest, thoroughly researched, and on instant recall were they to resurface in the interview. 

Now, take a look at the Early Draft: it fails immediately because the candidate chokes on an unnecessary – and rather pathetic – apology for her school’s ranking.  This tells the employer that the candidate lacks both confidence and the writing skill she claims to possess, because she can’t even stay within the theme of her letter’s Introduction.

The Early Draft fails to develop the candidate’s writing and analytical skills for different reasons.  First, her acceptance to the Tisch School of the Arts distinguishes her from other candidates.  But, here, it feels out of place.  This is so because, unlike the Final Draft, the Early Draft doesn’t immediately establish that the candidate’s creative and analytical writing skills stem from the same customer service orientation.  Moreover, she veers further from this theme with the limp statement about enjoying a trademark analysis.  Frankly, who cares – certainly not the employer who, if he hadn’t already, has definitely stopped reading the letter here. 

The Final Draft, however, gets it right.  It elaborates her analytical skills by illustrating how they have served customers in the past – in this instance, the owner of a trademark and a defendant-appellant – and, thus, gives the future employer a glimpse of how the candidate’s skill-sets may benefit him or the firm, as well.

The second paragraph of the Body should continue the customer service orientation theme from the Introduction and show the future employer new, transferable skill-sets.  The Early Draft misses this opportunity, reiterating the candidate’s writing skills from the previous paragraph and ending the current one with a restatement from her resume. 

The Final Draft, conversely, presents a candidate with a unique set of transdisciplinary skills, those that within the new world of work can be plugged into multiple areas, as demonstrated by our candidate here: law, non-profits and the public sector, library science, internet-technology and other creative fields.  In a new world of work where life-long employment at one company is no longer normal or likely, transdisciplinary skill-sets will be attractive to employers, particularly those straddling multiple disciplines themselves.

In the Early Draft, the Conclusion may as well read, “I give up.”  It accomplishes only a single goal: the candidate’s expression of gratitude for the consideration – and that’s all, folks.  But the Conclusion is well-designed in the Final Draft.  Here, the Conclusion immediately reinserts the candidate as embodying all the strengths of the ideal, new hire, even supporting the audacity of this assertion by expertly drawing together like the sails of a boat the most relevant skill-sets and showing how they will advance and benefit the employer; all of that takes place within a single sentence, but it took dozens of drafts to get it there.

Remember, your story is unique.  And you speak and write it every day across many different platforms.  But it will go through dozens of permutations as you re-format it for the “old-school” technology of that darn cover letter.

~Cory Lenz~

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Filed under Careers, Of Interest to Law Students, Student Information

Killer Cover Letters

Cover letter writing is essentially storytelling.  You are telling your future employer why she specifically matters to you, and why your skill-sets particularly matter to her.  You are not merely ticking-off the bullet-points from your resume.

Let’s dissect a sample cover letter’s Introduction and in a subsequent blog, we will tackle the Body and Conclusion.  To highlight the necessary elements of a stylish, personable, and strong Introduction to a cover letter, consider this Early Draft and compare it to its Final Draft by way of the color coding.

Early Draft

I am a recent graduate of Flinestone University School of Law.  Before becoming an attorney, I worked as an editor at a major publishing house in New York.  The hours were long and the pay was low, but it was an incredible time to learn.  Currently, I am looking for such an experience at Coats and Bennett.   I am eager to remain in Amityville and apply my writing and analytical skills to the intellectual property arena.  I promise to bring to the company the same hard work I applied to my legal studies and the same entrepreneurial spirit I exhibited working as a youth counselor to help put myself through law school.

Final Draft

I recently graduated from Flinestone University School of Law with a JD/MLS, which I supplemented with intellectual property studies at Bedrock School of Law.  I am writing to express my interest in providing research and document production support for your firm.  My masters in library science propelled my legal education toward the most current research trends and methods.  As a result, I celebrate exciting research discoveries with an accelerating frequency, and I draft documents and complex communications thoughtfully.  Moreover, my unremitting success as a youth counselor demonstrates a special ability to coach and encourage people toward the attainment of their goals.  These common and enduring displays of my customer service orientation make me ideally suited to conduct research and write preliminary drafts for your partners and associates.

Analysis

The Final Draft works better because it uses the joint degree and supplemental studies to distinguish the candidate and immediately suggests to this particular employer, an intellectual property attorney, the reasons for the candidate’s inquiry.  The Early Draft does none of these.

The Early Draft uses three sentences to say nothing.  It makes the mistake of falling back on the resume without application to the candidate’s skill-set.  Also, the candidate makes it all-too-clear that she has not researched the firm.  But, take a look at the Final Draft: in just a few words, it states the reason for the letter and demonstrates an awareness of the particular needs of the employer.

The Final Draft accomplishes more than the Early Draft.  It merely lists the skill-sets.  The Final Draft, however, uses the skill-sets to describe how they would benefit the employer.  In doing this, the candidate additionally manages to show-off her personality by using, for instance, the active voice (i.e. “propelled” and “celebrate”).

The Early Draft shows you a truly terrible closing sentence for an introduction.  This is so because the candidate has not spent enough time reflecting on her particular skill-sets.  But, by the Final Draft, she has.  She has brought them together under a common theme – customer service orientation – and tailored it to the employer’s needs.

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Filed under Careers, collection, electronic resources, Of Interest to Law Students, Student Information