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January 31, 2007

Emailing a cover letter? Attachment or in the body of the email?

QUESTION If someone says to email a cover letter (along with resume, writing sample, etc.), should I send the cover letter as the body of the email, or attach it separately? It seems more natural to make the email body the cover letter, since that's the whole point of a cover letter in the first place. What do you think?

You should write a real cover letter and attach it to the email. Why? If the purpose is to get hired by the OFFICE, your letter may be passed around. Photocopied email used in that context looks unprofessional -- as if you didn't bother to "write a letter."

But how, then, should you use the email?

Your email should give enough information about you and about the goal of your communication so that you could be contacted – even without the attachments. One rule; one example:

1. ALWAYS use an informative signature block when you apply for a job and when you are using email as a networking tool. My U of MN signature block is informative (name, employer, address, phone, fax, website, blog, Symplicity sites). My personal email has only my personal blog link – no phone, no address -- it's going to people who already know me.

2. Your email functions as a “letter of transmittal.? For example:

Dear Mr. Smith:

I am a first year law student at the University of Minnesota Law School applying for a summer clerkship with your firm. I have attached the resume, cover letter and transcript that you requested to this email. If you have questions or need more information, you may reach me through the phone number or email below.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Your name
Your address
Your phone/email

January 17, 2007

Making Documents Into PDFs

Many employers and job posting systems, including Symplicity, convert your word processed resumes and cover letters into PDF documents. The on-line application system for federal judicial clerkship applications, OSCAR, requires all applicants to submit documents in PDF format. There are also advantages to converting documents to the PDF format when attaching them to e-mail applications. But what can you do if you don't have a copy of the Adobe Acrobat program at your disposal?

The answer is to search the web for one of a number of free services and downloads that enable you to convert your Word or Wordperfect documents to the PDF format. One such service recommended by an alum of ours can be found at the following website:


This service allows you to download free software that you can use from your desktop. As our alum stated, "This pdf converter application is very simple to operate. I managed to download it, use it, and upload a doc onto the Oscar page. The good news is that if I can figure it out, anyone can." There are other services available on the internet and you should explore them as well.

January 15, 2007

Warning: Social Networking Can Be Hazardous to Your Job Search

Please take a look at the following article from CareerBuilder.com: Warning: Social Networking Can Be Hazardous to Your Job Search. Note the 'bottom line': "80% of companies perform background checks."

As you seek and secure employment, please Google yourself and also review your social networking sites (e.g. Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, blogs, etc.). Are they presenting an image of someone you would like to employ?

January 11, 2007

"Travel" is a loaded word

When interviewing for a job which you and the employer know will involve a lot of "travel," be careful how you show your enthusiasm. If the interviewer gets even the slightest hint that when you say "travel," that you mean "vacation-like activity," "umbrella drinks" or any kind of unprofessional frolicking, your candidacy is doomed.

Use language that acknowledges that you may be BASED in one city and have assignments, projects or trials in other cities or countries. De-emphasize the "travel" and focus on the work.

January 9, 2007

Keep slang out of professional communication

Whether your languages are Spanish, English, Mandarin or Urdu, it is a good thing to be multi-lingual in the 21st century. However, in your professional communications, standard English is key, and anything else runs the risk of distracting your audience. When important people are interested your message, they may lose concentration because they know that "I'm like' is not a part of speech.

Written communication, which is key to your success as legal professionals, has as many potential pitfalls as your speech.

Having just received the second email in two days containing "anyways," which struck me as slangy, distracting and odd, I went to both print and on-line dictionaries to find out whether it had become standard English while I wasn't looking.

Paper: 1943 Webster's Collegiate: "dialect"
Paper: 1960 Webster's Second Unabridged, which is famously prescriptive and cranky: "in illiterate speech"
Electronic: 2000 American Heritage: "non-standard"
Electronic: 2006 Random House Unabridged: "non-standard"

You get the point.

Better Memos -- crucial for new attorneys

The consistent message from the 2006 NALP-ALI-ABA Professional Development Institute is that your legal writing and analysis can make you a Star or make you the Opposite of Star, and that you have one or two opportunities as a new lawyer to make your mark.

Once tagged as a poor writer, all but one of the Professional Development Professionals agreed that either no one would want to give you work, or that you would be assigned document review. The lone dissenter said that her firm would assign a writing mentor.

Help is on the way. Here is a quick guide:http://www.legalwritingpro.com/articles/D02-resolutions-new-attorneys.php

January 4, 2007

Resume fraud -- not that you would even THINK of this

This link to an article about a 30-day suspension for resume fraud was sent to us by one of our pals who is a Director of Training in a major law firm...


How did they catch it? Employers with human resources infrastructure can capture resume data in ways that allow easy comparisons between old and new applications. In this particular candidate's case, he would have been caught out after providing his transcript.

January 3, 2007

New Year’s Resolutions for Your Career Development

Happy New Year and welcome to 2007. We hope you had a wonderful holiday break.

Here are five resolutions to consider making for your personal career development:

1. If you don't already know, decide what you want to do, where, and for whom you want to do it. "This is the number one reason people have trouble finding a new job. They don’t know what they want. Take the time to figure it out, and you'll be way ahead of the rest of the crowd."

2. Work on your resume and cover letters. Do these marketing tools accurately and strongly promote your skills and experiences? Do they reflect what you have to offer a law firm or potential employer and why you would want to work for them?

3. Build relationships with "new" people who work for employers you'd consider working with. Who are your future colleagues? Find them now! Join school-related clubs, professional/industry associations, and go to their meetings. Volunteer and/or perform informational/investigative interviews.

4. Retain or rekindle relationships with people from your past. "Stay in touch (or get back in touch) with old friends, school mates, colleagues, neighbors, long-lost relatives, etc. Let them know about your job hunt and help them with theirs." Ensure they all have a copy of your resume and know what you are looking for (and where).

5. Keep track of your accomplishments and the people who can provide a recommendation. Be organized and follow-up where appropriate. Remember that career development is a life-long activity,

The CPDC has many resources available to help you accomplish all of the resolutions above. Make a resolution to visit us often this year.

1 - Posting based on and quoted from http://www.job-hunt.org/onlinejobsearchguide/article_new_years_resolutions.shtml