Responding to a Form Cover Letter


Even though I am just a lowly associate at my firm, I occasionally get sent unsolicited resumes. While I can suggest to the powers that be that we need to hire someone or that we should interview this person, I have little actual role in the hiring process. The people sending the resumes don’t know this, which is why they keep sending them. And I keep reading them.


Occasionally, you find someone that is uniquely qualified to work at your firm. Sometimes you find people that have better bonafides than you do that just want a chance to sit down with the hiring partner (I immediately delete those emails . . . what the bosses don’t know won’t hurt them). Then there is that final group of job seekers that just completely screw up their job search by sending you something you will never forget.

Case in point: I believe I received the worst cover letter ever written last week.

It wasn’t that the job seeker, a soon to be graduating law student, was unqualified. It was just the liberties that he took in trying to convince me (as well as everyone else that read this form letter) that he should work for my firm. All I found myself wanting to do while reading this letter was to send him a response. But I didn’t do that. Because I didn’t want to kill some young lad’s dreams.

I did, however, write the response:

Dear Sir:

I became interested in your firm after reading your website. I believe my experience and skills will be a wonderful addition to your firm.

The fact that you didn’t know my firm already is strike one against you.  Never admit that you learned about a law firm while perusing a firm website, Craigslist or ChristianMingle.com, as it is a sign of desperation and bad internet surfing habits (neither of which I want in a potential employee). I am going to reluctantly keep reading because you claim to have skills.

I am submitting my resume for your consideration.

Wait, let me get this straight, you’ve decided that I need more reading?  Pardon me, I’m going to have to set aside this brief, this case law, and a fascinating article on ESPN.com to read your resume. I’m not really sure that I am interested in making this time commitment to you.

I hope you will agree that I will make a substantial contribution to your law firm.

I hope this too. But let’s be honest, you are going to be a law clerk, not a litigating associate, so chances of you making a substantial contribution are slim-to-none. Unless you are talking about creating a substantial increase in the work that I am going to have to do correcting the mistakes you have already made.

During the last three years, I worked as a full-time legal assistant while attending a full load of night classes.

I’m fairly certain that that has resulted in substandard grades, no social life and psychoses that would make even the craziest of my clients seem normal. But I admire your pluck. Do go on.

This experience has given me insight and substantial experience with the daily life of lawyers.

So you know that lawyers and their staff are slightly neurotic, overworked, underpaid functioning alcoholics that will go nuts at the slightest screw up? I fail to see how this will help me if I give you a job. Unless this means you can make a mean dirty martini with three bleu cheese–stuffed olives at 9:17 in the morning while collating 1,800 pages of discovery.

As well as familiarizing me with the demanding scheduled of a lawyer.

A sentence fragment. How sad for you.

In my experience I have worked for both a civil litigation and a bankruptcy law firm, which gives me insight into how both practice areas differ and resemble one another.

Wait . . . what?  Isn’t one of these things a subset of the other? I feel that as a lawyer, I should know this. WHY IS YOUR COVER LETTER MAKING ME THINK SO MUCH . . . MY BRAIN FEELS ITCHY.

The common skills I have learned from both positions have afforded me an ability to learn quickly and work efficiently in most practice areas.

I learned these skills at the age of five when was I trying to get the other kids to eat paste. I’m stunned it took you until this point in your life to develop these vital skill sets . . . but better late than never. These two skills will serve you well when you are out of law school and are working as a McDonald’s fry chef.

I am confident this ability will benefit your firm.

But you just said you had skills . . . What happened to both of them? And which one is going to benefit my firm? I don’t know if I want you to be a quick learner or an efficient worker. Why do I have to make these hard choices? Just spell it out for me next time.

I believe that the best litigation results happen when the lawyers and client assume the case will go to trial.

Assumption is the mother of all f***ups. On what planet do you want the twelve people who were too stupid to get out of jury duty deciding if (1) your client wins and (2) if you get paid. You don’t.

I believe this is a wonderful approach to any case.

I believe that my client is not lying to me when his lips are moving. Just because I believe this doesn’t make it so.

I have taken Introduction to Trial Advocacy, and am currently enrolled in Advanced Litigation Skills and Advocacy.

Actually, I think we need you to first chair this capital murder trial tomorrow . . . are you free?

I have learned in both courses that approaching a case with three questions (If I were going to trial, what do I need to prove? What do I need to prove it? And, how do I prove it?) have been exceedingly helpful in understanding the full scope of the issue, or issues, the likelihood of obtaining the client’s desired outcome, the merits/shortcomings of the opposing counsel’s case, and the best possible settlement.

No lie, I spent several minutes trying to grammatically understand this mass of words. Let me ask you three questions: (1) Have you ever met a real client?; (2) See Question #1; and (3) Did you first want to go to law school because of Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde?

I am confident that my experience will make me a valuable asset to your firm.

So does that mean you can make that mean dirty martini?

Enclosed is a copy of my resume for your review.

I am presently inhaling Xanax just to calm my nerves in anticipation of fully immersing myself in the prose that details your life. But you did tell me that you enclosed your resume already. Don’t worry, I am twice as excited to read it.

I am able to interview at your convenience.

I’ll fire three clients just to make this happen. They didn’t want to go to trial anyway.

Read more posts on Bitter Lawyer from the Namby Pamby. Or follow his writing on thenambypambyblog.com or @thenambypamby.

21 Comments

  1. Daisy

    May 10, 2011 at 9:06 am

    It is the last three part sentence that just SLAYS me.

  2. Ellen

    May 10, 2011 at 9:06 am

    It is VERY difficult for a young law student to figur out just how to make themselves look good to a new prospective employer. I remember when I was just starting out, I had some cover letters that the third years had given me now that they had gotten jobs. So I used them too. Now that I am a lawyer I see leters like this all of the time. I had a young law student offering to take me to diner if I helped him get a job. So it hapens.

    • idstomper

      January 31, 2012 at 5:32 am

      “It is VERY difficult for a young law student to figur out just how to make themselves look good to a new prospective employer. I remember when I was just starting out, I had some cover letters that the third years had given me now that they had gotten jobs. So I used them too. Now that I am a lawyer I see leters like this all of the time. I had a young law student offering to take me to diner if I helped him get a job. So it hapens.”

      or,

      It can difficult for a law student to look good to a prospective employer. When I started out, I used cover letters from third-years who had since found jobs. As a lawyer now, I frequently see letters like this. One law student actually offered to take me to dinner if I helped him get a job. (At a loss with “So it hap[p]ens.”)

  3. MagicCircleJerk

    May 10, 2011 at 10:13 am

    Mail-merge, you are a dangerous weapon.

  4. Strenuous Objector

    May 10, 2011 at 10:18 am

    Well you can assume one thing, he didn’t make law review, or good grades for that matter, because he obviously doesn’t understand the revision process. If this is his final draft his first draft must look like Ellen wrote it. Who, other than a prosecutor, would assume the best course of action in civil litigation is going to trial? Send some letters and faxes first, waste some time and try and force a settlement. All his cover letter needed was a statement like “and all I need to be able to work at your firm is for you to help me get this divorce settlement. But I need your money upfront.”

    • Wayward Esquire

      May 11, 2011 at 6:15 pm

      As a prosecutor who knows Namby (meaning thusly, he knows me all too well and can confirm this point), some of us realize how time inefficient going to trial can be. Everything has a price. Sometimes the world can be a better place just by cutting that deal.

      The author of the original letter confirmed immediately that he had never worked on a trial apart from a school administered fact pattern when he offered up that colossally bad assumption. Trial is just the elephant in the room to encourage others to meet our price.

  5. Legalad

    May 10, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Experienced Attorney Ellen’s comment is making me cringe — spelling and grammar check on isle (LOL! –Ed.) 1.

    As for the cover letter, I think the applicant’s skill is something I would call “ignorant exuberance”. I do believe however he would make an entertaining cocktail jester – speaking with him would provide me with a few laughs over a dirty martini.

    …Then again, I’m just a law student and could also be unknowingly plagued with this affliction. :/

    • MatlockIT

      May 10, 2011 at 1:34 pm

      Legalad, when correcting someone else’s spelling, make sure you spell your retort correctly: aisle not isle.

      • Legalad

        May 10, 2011 at 5:54 pm

        OH DAMN!! -_- *humbled*

      • HotLawStudent

        May 10, 2011 at 9:54 pm

        *Oh Snap!! I actually thought he had done that purposely; I was being too generous…..

      • Tom Fernandez

        January 1, 2012 at 5:10 pm

        Or placed the quotation marks after the period. .” not “. =P

        • Jess read

          June 12, 2012 at 1:04 am

          Tom – are you referring to this?
          As for the cover letter, I think the applicant’s skill is something I would call “ignorant exuberance”.
          I think the stop’s in the right place, as the quote is only a part of the sentence. Ready to be corrected though!

  6. Polly Paralegal

    May 10, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    @Legalad

    I believe the word you really meant in your slam is “aisle”, not “isle”.

  7. Craig

    May 10, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Started off a bit slow, but you definitely had me laughing toward the end. That cover letter is hard to believe. Very high on the unintentional comedy scale.

  8. Eventual Lawyer

    May 11, 2011 at 8:51 am

    NambyPamby, I love you.

    I try not to correct spelling online, Legal Laddie, because a lot of people are trying to write paragraphs on their phones. Phone+my thumbs=clusterfuck.

    Blatant comma misuse, etc…..different matter. ;)

    And NambyPamby, my legal research and writing prof did something like this…only with AWESOME rejection letters she collected throughout the years (from students and friends–I didn’t see one from her…hmmmm).

    • Legalad

      May 15, 2011 at 5:09 pm

      LOL….and then you get caught with a typo when you do.

      Never again. Lesson learned. :)

  9. Anthony

    May 31, 2012 at 11:25 am

    I believe you have misinterpreted the sentence “I believe that the best litigation results happen when the lawyers and client assume the case will go to trial.” Not that your misinterpretation means that cover letter is quality, but he is not saying that the best results happen when you go to trial, just that the best litigation strategy takes into account that the case may go to trial. You actually should be thinking that the case may not settle while marshaling evidence during discovery, not because you want to go to trial or think trial is the best course of action, but because, in the absence of settlement or dismissal, the case will go to trial. Also, developing your case in such a way does aid in reaching a favorable settlement or a dismissal.

  10. not a lawyer

    June 7, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    lawyers are assholes. i like you guys.

  11. Yep Yep

    July 26, 2012 at 8:04 am

    I guess this reply is why the author is a lowly associate worried about someone who might have better “bonafides” than him. I mean, really, not sending someone’s email along to the higher-ups because it might make you look bad? And this reply isn’t really that funny. It just goes to show how fed up he is with his own pitiful existence that he has to down others to make himself feel better. If you really want to make an impact on that young law student’s career, send him a critical reply on how he could make his cover letter stand out more, and keep your snide remarks to yourself. Or you could just go ahead and drink those dirty martinis that you seem to be fiending for at 9:17 in the morning and become that a$$hole lawyer that no one really likes. My guess is that you are already on your way to being just that.

  12. Vera

    October 7, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    I thought this was hilarious!!! Loved it! Great insight into the not so great life of a lawyer. My ex-husband is a lawyer and his new wife is a lawyer. He was cheating on me with her(she was married too) in law school while I was holding it down at home with 3 little kids and working as well. Anyway, I love Legally Blonde- she’s the only lawyer I would trust. I don’t trust lawyers- something happens to you all in law school.

    • Louis

      October 8, 2012 at 7:35 am

      Vera, you should be very careful when you are getting piped by law students. As a former student, I was of the opinion that virtually every woman wanted me to sleep with them, even tho I was 30 lbs overweight and needed a shower most of the time. The sad thing is that I was right about 90% of the time. Many women will have sex with a law student (even sloppy ones like I was) because they considered me as a potential meal ticket. After I graduated and the job market was not great, most of those that had slept with me felt cheated. Why, I will never know, because they did seem to enjoy the sex at the time. I doubt they were faking it.

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