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Writing a law CV and cover letter

Jaymes carr.

First impressions are lasting and this is especially true when it comes to CVs and cover letters for law jobs . After all, the content of your application is only half the game – as a law graduate, it will also be expected that you can write clearly and persuasively. Moreover, recruiters are often time-poor professionals who want to separate the wheat from the chaff quickly, before reaching out to candidates who distinguish themselves with their academic credentials, work experience or diverse interests. So, to help you put your best foot forward, we’ve assembled some tips on how to create a killer cover letter and resume

Creating a Standout Cover Letter

The basics .

A cover letter is like a sales pitch, and what you’re trying to sell is your own suitability for a target job. Successful cover letters:

Why invest time in writing a good cover letter? 

Cover letters can be time-consuming, and that’s largely due to the importance of writing a new one for each application. Nothing turns off a prospective employer quite like the sense that they’re reading a template letter. It’s vitally important that your submission – or, at the very least, the bulk of it – is specific to the employer in question. It’s a chance to convince them that you want to work in their industry, for their specific organisation and in the job role they advertised. For example, why do you want to use your law degree in a community legal centre? What, to you, is the appeal of pursuing a public career instead of a private, commercial one? 

The contents

A cover letter should include the following: 

The trick is to have a clear idea as to what the company does and what the job entails, then draw out evidence of your own relevant skills, interests and experience. Here, the more specific you can be, the better. For example, instead of simply writing that you’ve ‘interned at a leading law firm’, you could say, ‘As an intern, I helped to draft supporting documents for a case that was ultimately settled in favour of the firm’s client.’ 

Structure and tone

Your cover letter should have a clear structure with an introduction that leads into a summary of your relevant skills and experiences. This should be followed by a closing statement that reiterates your interest in the job, thanks the employer for their time and includes a ‘soft pitch’. For example, you might write something like: 

‘I look forward to speaking with you further about how I can make a positive contribution to your team’.

Throughout the letter, your tone should be polite and professional. This doesn’t mean, however, that you should tie yourself in knots trying to sound overly formal. Simply avoid colloquial language wherever possible, and focus on providing evidence of why you should be hired (as opposed to simply claiming to be ‘excellent’ or ‘talented’). 

Finally, keep your cover letter succinct. It should be no longer than one A4 page and should have your details clearly written as part of a letterhead. 

Get to the top of the pile: writing a successful CV

A curriculum vitae (CV) is a written overview of your experience and other qualifications for a job opportunity. Creating a good CV generally takes more time than writing a cover letter. However, once complete, a CV can be submitted to each new employer with only minor adjustments.

A CV should concisely outline your relevant educational history, work experience, professional accomplishments and qualifications. It may also include details of referees (if requested). A successful CV: 

Why invest time in writing a good CV? 

The role of a CV is to provide recruiters and prospective employers with an easily scannable summary of your achievements so they can decide whether or not to progress your application by offering you an interview. 

As a law graduate, you’ll often find that your educational pedigree is similar to other applicants, many of whom will have completed near-identical degrees at equivalent institutions. Consequently, it’s worth taking the time to figure out what differentiates you from the crowd before emphasising this in your CV. 

For example, you might bill yourself as a lawyer with strong communication skills and highlight that you volunteered for a community law centre. Or perhaps you speak another language, love coding or have a specific five-year goal that the role you’re applying for will help you achieve. Giving your CV a novel ‘twist’ is a surefire way to make sure it doesn’t get lost in all the noise. 

The contents 

A law CV should include the following: 

Your educational history from your university years should include your predicted or actual degree grades, information on group projects and your dissertation, any units relevant to the job, and relevant academic awards. Employers don’t need to know the specifics of units that don’t relate to them.

Work experience 

You should prioritise any legal work experience you have, and highlight specific accomplishments that are relevant to the position for which you’re applying. Of course as a graduate, your experience in law may be limited, if you have any at all. 

Fortunately, many employers look very favourably on achievements and experiences outside of the law. Examples worth mentioning include fundraising, voluntary work, independent overseas travel, sporting achievements or leading roles in university clubs or societies. You needn’t go into too much detail – a summary of your achievements and any relevant transferable skills (leadership, teamwork or problem-solving skills) will suffice. 

The most common CV format is the reverse-chronological approach, which presents your most recent work experience and educational accomplishments first, before moving backwards. If you follow this approach, make sure the chronology is clear and there are no large gaps that could confuse or worry employers. For example, if you took a year off to go travelling between jobs, you might even include that as a CV entry.

As with your cover letter, your tone should be polite and professional, and your entries as specific and detailed as possible. Here are some tips to get you started: 

Sample cover letters

Sample cover letter #1, applying for an internship.










I am a [first/second/third]-year student at [insert academic institution] and I’m writing to apply for [name of position advertised] position with [name of organisation]. I have a strong [insert average mark], which I achieved while [include example of extracurricular activity or personal challenge]. Completing a placement at [insert organisation] would allow me to continue my commitment to [insert an issue relevant to the organisation and for which you are genuinely passionate]. I feel confident that I will make a positive contribution to your office while strengthening the skills I’ll need for a career in [insert relevant area of law].

[NB: We will assume from this point that the author is applying for a clerkship at a commercial law firm.]

As a student at [insert academic institution], I wrote an honours thesis on the need to reform our approach to financial market manipulation, focusing on the legal implications of the way ‘manipulation’ is defined in the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth). My master’s thesis focused on regulatory responses to the financial crisis in Singapore and Indonesia, allowing me to better understand how other countries handle these complex issues.

I was drawn to [organisation’s name] because it is my career goal to work in financial regulation. As a market leader in banking and finance, [organisations name] has [insert example of its involvement in this area, such as a major case or client]. These matters resonated with me because [insert why these matters resonated with you]. 

This semester, I participated in the semi-final of the Ashurst Commercial Law Moot, which allowed me to demonstrate my oral argument skills and exposed me to the work lawyers can do to promote responsible market regulation. Additionally, joining the Business Law Review has kept me updated on the legal issues facing commercial law practitioners. I’m particularly passionate about the effects of commercial law reform on smaller businesses. Working in the outreach division of [insert firm] would allow me to gain experience advocating for the specific client populations I hope to assist in my career.

Because of my familiarity with the issues facing smaller businesses and Australia’s market regulation policies, as well as my background in commerce, I would be very happy to work on cases dealing with transactions in remote communities or regional areas. I’d also be delighted at the opportunity to work in any of the other areas on which your office focuses, including mergers and acquisitions for larger organisations.

I have enclosed a resume highlighting my education and work experience. I hope to have the opportunity to interview with you about a summer position, and I will call your office in a few weeks to see if I may schedule a time to speak with you. Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.

[insert name]

Sample cover letter #2

Applying for a graduate position.

RE: Application for [Position] at [Organisation] 

Dear [Mr/Ms last name of contact person],

I am writing to apply for the graduate program at [organisation name]. I am currently in my penultimate year of an [insert degree and university], having previously completed my undergraduate major in [insert subject]. I have a strong distinction average, which I have achieved while maintaining multiple extracurricular commitments, including being elected by my peers in 2019 to the role of [position] in the [student society/leadership organisation], and working part time.

I am applying to [organisation name] because of its position as the leading law firm in the Asia Pacific Region, and the first and only global legal practice headquartered in Asia. This is reflected in [organisation name]’s success in consistently winning the [award], as well as its prominent role in [litigation/deal/matter].

My interest in commercial litigation was born of my experience participating in both the 2018 and 2019 [moot competition]. Later in 2019 , I conducted research as a summer legal intern in the litigation department at Mallesons, where I also assisted the lead counsel in a pro bono community outreach case. During this time I learnt [provide examples].

In addition to my summer positions, I have taken every opportunity possible to prepare myself for a career in commercial litigation. Through my work on the Commercial Law Journal, I have refined my research and writing skills. My training during an on-campus litigation workshop has helped me to develop the strong legal reasoning skills so critical to litigation, and I am now putting them to use by volunteering at a community legal centre.

I am the ideal candidate for [organisation name] because my achievements and experience exemplify the characteristics it seeks in its lawyers. My role as a [position] at [organisation name] provided me with legal experience in working in-house for a commercial client, allowing me to strengthen my stakeholder management. Furthermore, my attainment of a High Distinction in Advanced Commercial Law reflects my commitment to excellence in this area of practice.

I believe that my legal research and writing skills, my litigation experience and my dedication to [organisation name]’s mission will enable me to make a positive contribution at your firm. Please find enclosed my resumé and a copy of my academic transcript. I will send an email in a few weeks to follow up on my application.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.

Yours sincerely,

[Your name]

For our comprehensive and updated guide on how the craft the perfect graduate CV,  check out our latest article here .

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Law graduate cover letter

This free sample cover letter for a law graduate has an accompanying law graduate sample resume  and law graduate sample job ad to help you put together a winning job application.

James Smith 34 Miller Street Mountains VIC 3333 Tel: 03 8888 5555 Mobile: 0555 555 555 Email: [email protected]

[date] Ms Annabel Jones HR Manager Legal Matters Associates Level 100 Borrowing Place 1 Samly Street Melbourne VIC 3000

Dear Ms Jones

Re: Graduate Program, Legal Matters Associates

Please accept this letter, and the accompanying resume and academic transcript as application for the graduate program advertised on your website.

I graduated in 2007 with a Commerce/Law degree from the University of Mountainville and have legal experience gained working as a volunteer and as a summer clerk.

I recently completed a summer clerkship in the property and corporate division of The Lawyers Firm. In each division, I assisted senior associates and junior lawyers in the running of files for major private sector and government clients. This experience developed my research, drafting and analytical skills, as well as my knowledge of relevant property and contract law. It gave me the opportunity to work autonomously on smaller matters and as part of a team on more complex files. During the three months of my clerkship, I was able to foster successful working relationships with colleagues and the firm's clients.

My practical legal skills have also developed as a result of my work as a volunteer at the Matthew Legal Centre. Working one evening each week since March 2004, I interview clients, draft legal documents, manage multiple files and prepare briefs for counsel. In addition to increasing my understanding of the legal problems that affect ordinary people, in the areas of consumer credit, tenancy and criminal law, my experience at the centre developed my attention to detail and understanding of a client's problem before attempting to provide a legal opinion and strategy for resolution.

I have excellent oral and written communication skills. I was captain of the successful mooting team at university, have contributed articles to university newspapers and presented workshops to clients on understanding their legal rights at the Matthew Legal Centre. I was President of the university law society in 2006, Community Ambassador for the Kids off the Street Project in 2005 and I was awarded the University Medal for achieving the highest result for the subject Real Property Law for 2006.

I am interested in a legal career at Legal Matters Associates because of the firm's reputation for providing high quality legal advice, its diverse blue chip client base and its commitment to service. I would love to be part of an innovative and growing firm that values initiative and hard work.

My resume and an official transcript of my academic results are enclosed. I look forward to being able to discuss the graduate lawyer program further at an interview.

Yours sincerely

[sign here]

James Smith

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How to format your resume as a law graduate


August 27, 2020 9:58 am Published by Salt Fuessel

As law graduate, your résumé or CV is one of the first things a potential employer will read about you and your skills and experience, so you want to ensure that you stand out from other law graduate resumes and have the best chance of being noticed. Yet it can be difficult to stand out on your law graduate resume when you have limited legal experience. This blog will explain how to format your resume and explore the ways in which you can improve your CV and kick-start your career.

Contact information The main heading on your legal resume should be your full name in a larger font than the rest of the text, followed by your address and contact details (email, phone number, website), so that employers know exactly to whom the CV belongs. The font should also be something simple like Helvetica, Arial or Calibri, and you should use the same font throughout the document.

Education If you are a recent graduate, or your experience in the legal field is still limited, it’s a good idea to list your educational background first, as well as your overall grade for your degree(s) if you would like to highlight them. If you have received any scholarships or academic awards, these should also be listed as employers will be very interested to see them.

Work experience If you have any kind of work experience which is relevant to the legal profession, it is a good idea to list these first in a separate ‘Legal Experience’ heading. This includes all experience relevant to the law, including voluntary or pro-bono work you may have completed. If you have any non-legal work experience, you should include this in a separate heading such as ‘Other Work Experience’ and highlight transferable skills. For example, if you have experience in retail customer service, you can highlight this as a transferable skill for areas such as client engagement in law firms.

Extra-Curricular Activities On every professional legal resume, this should be included! Employers are also keen to know about other relevant experience you have had, even if it is outside the workplace. For example, if you edited a student newspaper, published an article, contributed to a committee,or helped a not-for-profit organisation – these should all be included. Even your participation in sporting teams, cultural groups or fundraisers are valuable additions to a CV and demonstrate your well-roundedness as a candidate

Highlight your skills The main purpose of the CV is to market yourself, so you want to draw attention to any skills and experience which could be relevant for the job to which you’re applying. Be sure to include these skills under the jobs or extra-curricular activities in which you developed them, and always provide evidence to support the asserted skill. For example, if you have strong communication skills, you might back that up by demonstrating that you communicated with dozens of customers per week. If you need to elaborate further, or if a skill addresses the particular selection criteria of a job, then you may want to provide additional information or evidence in the cover letter. Information technology or foreign language skills can also be listed in separate headings.

Referees It is not usually necessary to list all of your referees on your CV, as an employer will only contact them if you progress past the initial recruitment stage. However, it’s a good idea to approach your potential referees well before you need them and ask if they would be happy to perform this duty for you, as you want to ensure that your referees are willing to show you in a positive light, and prepared for a phone call from the recruiter.

Keep it simple This rule applies to all CVs: keep it simple. Don’t use fancy fonts, avoid using a photograph of yourself, and be sparing with information that isn’t directly relevant to your working life, such as hobbies and interests. Having said that, some minimal information about your hobbies and interests can help make you a more well-rounded applicant. You should also avoid including personal information such as marital status, sexual orientation, political affiliations or physical capabilities, as these are usually irrelevant to the role, and mostly illegal for an employer to ask. A CV should ideally be around two or three pages, although if you have lots of relevant experience, a previous career, awards or education to include, it can sometimes be acceptable for the CV to be a little longer.

Now that you know how to format a resume correctly, you can start applying for your dream job! If you’re still having trouble, try contacting a legal resume service to get all the help you need with your law resume or contact us today!

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