5 Benefits of Cover Letters

Guest Blog by’s Sarah Kuhn

Including a cover letter is a great way to express your interest in a company and stand out against other candidates. Many candidates choose not to include cover letters, so putting in a little extra work can really go the extra mile for you in the long run.

Of course, the overall idea is to make sure you are writing a proper cover letter: it should be specific to the position you’re applying for, centered on what you’d bring to the table, and not focused on what you’d want out of the company in terms of salary, progression or other demands.

The five points below will explain the benefits of a cover letter and review how writing one can set you apart from the competition.

1) Recruiters will see who put the work in

Just the fact that not everyone includes cover letters with their resume is reason enough to write one. It’s an extra touch that will help you stand out as a candidate. If you can personalize it with the name of your contact or a specific person with hiring power within the company, that will display additional effort and initiative as well. Take the time, because others won’t.

2) Your resume is factual, your cover letter is personal

Use a cover letter to shed light on the details of your resume. A cover letter gives you the opportunity to tell your professional story in a way that’s more personal. For example, you could address a large gap in employment or change in career path. Bring your resume to life by referencing it in a personal letter to your professional contact within a company.

3) Demonstrate your interest

Putting in the additional work of writing a cover letter shows that you value the time of the individual receiving your resume enough to reciprocate by taking the time and effort to write them directly. You’re willing to put action behind entrance into their company. This is the perfect place to express why you want to work for them. Tell the company why you’d be a good fit for the position. Tell them why you want the position.

4) Show you’ve done your research

Use company-specific examples of what made you look to them as an employer, what sparked your interest in them, or any company initiatives that align with your values. Immediately, this approach sets you apart from mass LinkedIn applications, or individuals who have just clicked a button to apply with no care for the company deeper than the position at hand. Employers value loyalty, and this tactic will help set you apart as a candidate that wants a career, rather than to use the position as the next stop in your job hop.

5) Give them a taste of who you are

Depending on your writing style or skill level, you can get really creative with how you let your personality show through a cover letter. But no matter how skilled you are, it’s important to keep your cover letter concise so that the content is impactful. Make sure to sound professional—you can even use borrowed language from the company itself—but ultimately the voice of the cover letter should be your own.

These five benefits will help you as a candidate by providing leverage that an application or resume alone wouldn’t allow. While your resume provides an overview of your skills and experience, the cover letter is your opportunity to express your personality through paper. Give yourself a leg up on competition by supplying your potential employer with a chance to learn more about you.

The Post-Holiday Job Search

Now that the holidays are in your wake, take into consideration that the early part of the year isn’t quite business as usual. Understanding this will let you make appropriate adjustments and use your time wisely. Here are some thoughts to help you get your search back on track:

1. Reestablish your routine. Even the most dedicated job-seeker saw his or her carefully plotted search plan rendered moot around the middle of December. Some, recognizing the inevitability of this, opted to visit family or friends with the idea of starting anew in January. Many, however, made no such conscious choice and found that their search ground to a halt amid unanswered e-mail and un-returned phone calls.

Regardless of which camp you fall into, you may be finding it hard to get back to a routine that seemed largely meaningless for three weeks. But re-imposing discipline will not only ensure that you resume productive behavior but it also will prevent a slow drift into depression. So, start setting the alarm for a reasonable time again. Prepare a written schedule of your weekly activities, including to-do lists. And reclaim the space that you were using as your “office.” These basic tasks will help you recapture the mind-set you need when job-hunting.

2. Be patient. Once you’re back on your routine, you’ll be all fired up. So you’ll find it particularly frustrating to discover that your job-search network isn’t as responsive as it was prior to the holidays. This doesn’t mean that you’ve hit a roadblock. What it does indicate is that all the people that you rely upon for future employment are also laboring to reestablish their own routines, which they also lost control of weeks ago. Even those people who are desperate to hire in early January will still take a week or more to excavate the pile that has accumulated since mid-December. Until they do that, everything else is generally put on hold, including the hiring process — and answering your e-mail and returning your calls.

No matter how much you might like or need the process to move faster, nothing will return to a semblance of normality until mid-January. Remember this so you won’t panic when the world fails immediately to match your renewed enthusiasm.

3. Do other things. Networking may be difficult right now, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be productive. Now is an excellent time to revisit your resume and other marketing materials to ensure that they’re current and reflect you in the best possible light. Think about this not just in relation to your written materials, but to how you present yourself overall. Are you eloquent about your accomplishments, pertinent skill sets, and potential contributions when speaking to perspective employers? If not, now is a good time to work on that so you can make the most of the upcoming opportunities. Practice — on your own or with someone else — until you have your patter down. Are your job-hunting clothes all set? It’s not a bad idea to make sure they still fit after the holidays.

Early January is also an ideal time to do research on industries, companies, and individuals that are crucial for your search. If you think you might be interested in an area where you haven’t previously worked, use this time to investigate it. Or if you have a big meeting later in the month, use this time to bone up on the industry, the company, and the people you’ll be talking to. Make sure that you use this time wisely so you’ll be fully prepared when the working world reengages and turns its thoughts to new hires.

4. Be optimistic. The old year is gone — and so is the fiscal 12-month period. Many companies that didn’t have the budget to hire last year now have the funds to do so. In fact, there’s often pent-up demand owing to the fact that managers who were eager to hire four to five months ago now have the resources they lacked. On top of that, the New Year brings a sense of renewal and optimism to many companies, which makes the first quarter a particularly good time to secure new employment. So even though you’re unemployed, you can feel cautiously optimistic about your professional future.

Land A Law Job by Volunteering

Are you currently in the hunt for a legal position? Consider volunteering. It could be just the ticket to a rewarding career. And it doesn’t even matter so much where you volunteer, as long as you show up with open mind and a good attitude. One study showed that volunteering increases your odds of getting a job by 27 percent.

Volunteering is not about earning brownie points or padding your resume. It’s about doing something for the sake of doing it – and because it’s the right thing to do.

“Volunteering allows you to try on different organizations, roles, issues, etc., without job-hopping,” according to Ideal Careers. “Of course, volunteering isn’t the same as being on staff, but it can expose you to the work of an organization in a deeper way than becoming a member, following it on Twitter, or even conducting an informational interview with an employee.”

And the best part: random acts of volunteerism can open doors to all sorts of new career opportunities. Read More or check out the many volunteer activities with the NC Bar Association. Here are some of them:

  • 4All Statewide Service Day
  • Law-Related Education Partners
  • Lawyer on the Line
  • NC Lawyers For Entrepreneurs Assistance Program (LEAP)
  • NC LEAP Inventor Assistance Program (Patent Law)
  • Veterans Pro Bono Network
  • Wills for Heroes

Lay the Foundation of Your Network Now. Reap the Rewards Later.

Networking is the process of building relationships with professionals and other relevant contacts in your field of interest. While relevant to the job search, engaging in targeted networking has far more benefits. Meeting and connecting with professionals helps you assimilate into the profession, learn about the day-to-day life of various areas of practice, and start to build the relationship skills that will ultimately benefit you in practice.

Some students cringe at the term “networking,” imagining awkward cocktail parties with individuals competing to get noticed and exchange business cards. For other students, the prospect of getting outside the classroom and meeting professionals is invigorating. The good news is that networking can take many forms, and we encourage students to engage in a networking process that plays to your individual strengths.

Networking can mean attending formal events like Inn of Court, bar association receptions, and law firm cocktail parties. But networking often takes place more informally, through one-on-one connections with professionals. This can be a pre-arranged informational interview, conversation over lunch or coffee, or simply a brief exchange following a law school panel or program. What’s important is to recognize that all encounters with professionals have an impact, whether it’s developing your own professional identity and reputation, or providing leads in your job search.

The process of building relationships takes time. In our culture of immediate gratification and instant messaging, it’s important to view networking as a long-term investment. The time you spend speaking with one person rarely leads directly to a job opportunity, and sometimes you have to spend time talking with someone who may not be practicing in your area of interest. But these connections can lead to other connections, which lead to other connections, which ultimately can help you reach your goals.

A Distinguished Career Starts With Networking

Law school contains fertile networking grounds. That’s where law students may have the opportunity to “network” with: other law students; the alumni; adjunct professors, full time faculty members and the administrative staff, guest lecturers, suppliers to the school, parents of other students and even possibly paying and pro bono clients of the faculty practicing law. But there are numerous other places to network to maximize your growing professional network beyond just law school contacts. These include bar association events, CLE meetings, social events, and more. But why is all this networking so important?

Why Network? Why Bother?
The real payoff from being an exceptional networker and developer of sustainable relationships will impact every aspect of your life including your career, your personal life and your family’s lives. If you do a weak job of developing as a skilled networker, you definitely will limit your professional growth. The more robust your network, the more access you have to other special people and their unique contacts, experiences, knowledge. You leverage your life through your clusters of connections.

Keys to Being a Successful Networker
Being great at networking isn’t hard. We are all capable of excelling at doing it. And in today’s digital/social media age, you don’t necessarily have to be an extrovert to be great at it. Maybe the most important factor in determining how good of a networker you are is simply having a strong, sincere interest in learning about and adding value to other people’s lives. You have to get comfortable talking with everybody, everywhere, all the time, whether it’s via email communication, on the phone, or in person. Practice pays off when it comes to developing strong networking abilities.

Where to Start?
Start slow. Try out your networking skills at your next social gathering whether it’s golf outing, group dinner, or party. Get a feel for working the room, thoughtfully introducing yourself, and ultimately conquering the networking jitters. Then move on to bigger events such as law school events, NCBA Table Talk, or area luncheons and CLEs. After the event, seek feedback from your peers and colleagues on what networking skills you need to brush up on and in time, you’ll be ready to tackle a larger, professional networking event. Soon after, you’ll be expanding your network and adding tremendous value to your career.

7 Tips for What You Should (And Shouldn’t) Do at Your Callback

Not only did you make it through the hectic OCI season with some excellent interview experience, but employers are now inviting you back for additional interviews. Great job! Now is the time to be excited! It is also the time to plan. You hit it off with the on-campus interviewer and now you must plan for the next round of interviewers at the callback. Keep in mind some of these dos and don’ts for the callback, courtesy of the hiring director at an AmLaw 100 firm:

1. Wear a suit-even if the firm insists it’s a relaxed, casual place. This applies to both men and women. Don’t get fooled by the “business casual” stuff. According to this hiring director, go for business formal — though pants suits are perfectly fine for women these days. She also advises: “Iron your shirt or blouse and steam out the wrinkles in your suit. Use a lint brush.” Unsure about something you are wearing? Best to not wear it.

2. Do not wear perfume or cologne. Take a shower and use deodorant — that’s enough. “I’ve been in offices a few hours after lawyers meet a candidate and sometimes you can still smell the cologne,” says this hiring director. You want to be remembered for your skills and great talent, not your scent.

3. Find out who’s interviewing you, then Google them. Don’t just read the employer bios. Google them, too. “Note any recent cases or clients [because] attorneys do love to talk about themselves.” The employer didn’t tell you who will be interviewing you? No sweat: Just call the recruiting department and ask! But be prepared for last minute changes.

4. When you show up, treat everyone nicely. “Be friendly and engaging to the receptionist or whoever is greeting you. This shows that you can work and interact with staff and attorneys alike.”

5. During the interview, ask questions, then more questions. ”Even if you’ve asked the same questions six times, ask them again.” And never ever say, “no I don’t have any questions.” Moreover, if the interviewer asks you a question, “don’t use one word answer; always elaborate.” You should also know your own resume-inside and out as you can potentially be asked questions about your activities, clubs, awards, classes, etc.

6. But don’t ask mundane questions. Save questions about salary, recruiting process, maternity/paternity leaves, reimbursement of travel expenses, retirement plans, etc. for the hiring director or coordinator. “Use your time wisely with the attorneys-talk about you, their practice, and their company.”

7. Send a brief thank-you note. You don’t need to pull out your monogrammed stationery. Email is now acceptable. But it’s always a good idea to include something about your discussion with the interviewers. “It shows they made an impression on you.”

Even if you decide to forgo a callback from the start, or you go to the callback, get an offer, then decide to cross the employer off your list, you should promptly and gracefully decline the invitation or offer with a call, followed by an email confirmation. (It’s also a nice touch to tell the employer where you end up.) ”You may want to work at the company [you've turned down] one day, and the recruiting director might remember that you didn’t return her call!”

Countdown to Bar Exam Success

Two Weeks Out

Decide where you’ll stay during the exam. Bar exams are typically offered in the downtown region of many cities. Consider reserving a hotel room close to the administration site to avoid worrying about getting stuck in traffic or a long commute before and after the test.

Take a break. At this point, you will likely have been studying for more than two months. While you should continue your daily preparation, give yourself permission to take a break every so often. Go to a movie or out to dinner with friends.

Test your computer and the exam software. If you’re planning to take the exam on your laptop, make sure you test your computer ahead of time. Most bar exams require you to use specialized software on your computer. Install and test the software well in advance. In addition, make sure you have your computer charger packed and ready for the big day. And if you’re not planning to use a laptop, make sure you have plenty of pens or pencils ready to hand write the exam.

Two Days Out

Have your transportation plan in place. If you are not staying in a hotel that’s within walking distance of the exam site, make sure your gas tank is full if you’re driving yourself. When using public transportation, purchase your tickets early.

Don’t freak out! It’s not uncommon for students to worry excessively during the final days before the exam. Remember to trust yourself. You’ve made it this far, and you probably know more law than you think you do. Stay calm and remember to breathe! You’ll do great!

How to Transition from Law Firm Summer to 1st Year Associate

Guest Blog from Vault Law Blog – The expectations for law firm summer associates are very different than those for first year associates. Dan Grossbaum, a first year litigation associate at White & Case, answers some questions regarding the ramp-up period and how best to prepare when you start your career.

Is there anything students should do in law school or during the summer that would help with the transition to working as an associate?

One great way to get ahead of the curve is to take advantage of clinics at your law school. Clinics give you real-world hands-on experience and a good sense of what legal work entails. Depending on the clinic, you can get drafting experience, participate in interviews with clients or practice your oral advocacy skills.

As a summer associate, you should try out as many practices as your firm will allow. At White & Case, for example, you can split your summer between the Litigation and Corporate practices. Splitting the summer allowed me to experience a number of different practices and gave me a sense of how the practices differ. Based on that experience, I knew that Litigation was the right practice for me.

What are some of the best ways to meet and get to know other lawyers at the Firm? How approachable and globally minded are partners and senior associates, especially with questions about a project or assignment?

One of the easiest ways to get to know lawyers is to pop into someone’s office and introduce yourself. Whether you are interested in the type of work they do, or you have a question about one of your assignments, the partners and senior associates, are always willing to sit down and discuss it with you. Additionally, when you start, you are typically placed in an office setting with a lawyer with more experience than you have, usually a second-year associate. This makes the atmosphere more amenable when it comes to questions about projects/assignments.

When did you start to feel comfortable in your new position, and is there anything you could have done differently to make that happen sooner?

Coming from law school to a large law firm was an adjustment; having gone straight through from undergrad to law school, I had never worked in a law firm before I was a summer associate. One thing that made that adjustment easier was the informal mentors I ended up having. They were always there to give me advice and to teach me what it would take to be more comfortable in my new position. One thing I would encourage all junior associates to do is ask questions of the partners and associates they are working for.

Dan Grossbaum is a first year associate in White & Case’s Litigation group. He summered in the firm’s New York office in 2015 and graduated from NYU in 2016. Read more about his experience through Vault Law’s blog here.

New Attorneys Will Benefit from a Mentor

Passing the bar makes every new attorney think they are ready to hit the ground running and filing Supreme Court appeals their first year of practice. Whether you are starting your own solo practice or working for a big firm, make a conscious effort to find attorney(s) who are willing to mentor you as a new attorney. Good mentors are invaluable as you can bounce ideas off them and they can give you tips on how to overcome some common pitfalls a young attorney is sure to face.

But if you’re just starting out, you may be wondering just how you’re supposed to find a legal mentor. After all, legal mentors do not grow on trees. Here are three tips to find a mentor:
  1. Check in with the law school and former classmates. At no point in your life will you be surrounded by as many people involved in the legal field than when you were at law school. Check in with classmates who may have started a law practice, especially those who were a year or two above you. Also, you can ask law professors and your career advisor for suggestions. Alumni are often willing to work with other alumni.
  2. Contact your local bar association. Many bar associations have a section devoted to junior attorneys, and they may pair up juniors with more senior members. These sections are often split among practice areas, so you may be able to find a mentor directly in the area you work in. In North Carolina, membership in the Young Lawyers Division of the North Carolina Bar Association is open to all NCBA members who are under 36 years of age and all lawyers within their first three years of practice. Membership in the YLD is free and automatic upon membership in the NCBA.
  3. Approach someone you admire. At some point, you may read an article about a lawyer you aspired to be like. You should try calling or emailing that attorney. Everyone loves flattery, and even the busiest of attorneys may take some time out of their day to talk to their biggest fan. It doesn’t hurt to try, and the worst that can happen is that the person you approach says “no” or ignores you.
There are viable legal mentors everywhere. You just have to take the initiative to find one. If you need any assistance in how to start searching for a mentor, contact your career advisor today and they will help point you in the right direction.

Can Blogging Boost Your Legal Career?

There’s no better way for a law student to network with leading lawyers, alums and potential employers than blogging (also called ‘blawgging’ when referencing legal blogs). In addition, there’s no better way for a law student to demonstrate their passion for and desire to get into a niche area of the law than blogging.  Writing frequently helps to improve your expression, and the blog format means you learn to explain things in a clearer, more concise manner. Being able to explain something simply and accurately is the best way to be certain you and others understand it.

Then there are the career benefits. Blogging is particularly helpful if you are interested in a specific area of the law where opportunities are few and competition for particular positions can be somewhat intense. When you have no prior experience, all you can do is tell your prospective employer how interested you are in a particular practice area or legal niche. This typically involves saying, “Oh yes, I’m really interested in this area of the law,” and then worrying whether you sounded too enthusiastic or not enthusiastic enough when you said it.

Not sure how to get started on your legal blog? Read up on Sally Kane’s Ten Tips for how to create a successful legal blog. You’ll find advice on how to start, how to pick a topic, and how to engage your readers. Happy blogging!