South Carolina Lawyer
SC Lawyer, Nov. 2004, #9.
The Scrivener - Writing to get a legal J.O.B
South Carolina LawyerNovember 2004The Scrivener - Writing to get a legal "J.O.B."By Scott Moise"A lot of fellows nowadays have a B.A., M.D., or Ph.D. Unfortunately, they don't have a J.O.B."
- Fats Domino
Whether looking for your first associate's position or a lateral move, two pieces of writing will determine whether you will get your foot in the door: résumés and their cover letters. Writing also plays a key role following the interview in thank-you notes and correspondence after receiving an offer. Although education and experience are the ultimate keys to getting a job, poor writing skills can certainly hurt or ruin your chances.
Start with research.
All effective writing begins with understanding your audience. Each lawyer and firm has individual needs. Learn what those needs are and highlight how you can fulfill them. With information so easily accessible on the internet and in Martindale-Hubbell, applicants have no valid excuse for not knowing the basics of a firm. Such ignorance is readily apparent and suggests that the applicant is either lazy or has poor technology skills, neither of which will result in a job offer.
Sell your skills.
Be an advocate for yourself. After researching firms with whom you would like to work, tailor your cover letter to show how you can help them. For example, if a products liability team needs to hire a new lawyer, they will look for your prior products litigation experience. If you do not have experience in products liability, however, sell your general litigation skills that will help the firm, regardless of prior experience in that particular field.
Show you are flexible. Many people lose job opportunities because they show interest only in one particular field. In the interview, you can determine if the law firm would support and encourage your efforts to start a new practice area within the firm, but first show them how you can fill a need they currently have.
Legal résumés, in typical situations, should cover the following: heading (name, address, telephone, e-mail address), legal work experience, education, publications, and legal and community memberships. Under each heading, concisely set out your experience and accomplishments in easy-to-follow phrases and bullet points.