Klarissa Jeiel: Where Law Meets Design

Building Your Law Student Recruit Application Package

Learn how to build a strong application package to get an interview with your dream law firm from a recent law graduate who has gone through the hiring process!

This is an article in a series of articles called Your Ultimate Guide to Law Student Recruitment. Don’t forget to read the previous article here: Meeting with Summer and Articling Students or Junior Lawyers


Okay, so you’ve done your firm research, you’ve met with summer or articling students and you’ve decided on which law firms you’re going to apply to during the law student recruit. Now, it’s time to build your application package. This is what you’ll submit to law firms for consideration on whether they’d like to invite you over for an interview. It will serve as a firm’s “first impression” of you. So it needs to be a strong application package that will make you stand out from the pile of applications from hundreds of other students who are just as eager to get a job as you. Read this article on how to build your application package to figure out what documents you need to include and what steps you have to take to create them.

What to Include in Your Application Package

  1. Cover Letter
  2. Resume
  3. Law School Transcripts
  4. Reference Letters

An application package generally includes a cover letter, resume, law school transcripts and reference letters. But your application package should cater to the firm you’re applying to. Different firms will have different requirements. Some might require additional documents like reference letters, references and writing samples, while others don’t. So be sure to read the instructions from the firm you’re thinking of applying to.

We’ll take a closer look at each of the documents you should have in your application package below and I’ll give you some tips that I’ve learned over the course of three years while building mine.

Cover Letter

Your cover letter is the first thing that the law firm’s hiring committee will read (yes, ahead of your resume). That means, it’s the first exposure they’ll get to your writing skills. Write professionally, avoid spelling/grammar mistakes and be detailed. Generally, your cover letter should introduce yourself, address where you’d like to work geographically, why you’re interested in the firm you’re applying to, and what value you bring to the firm. It should highlight certain experiences and skills you’ve gained and explain anything that law firms might see as an issue or concern like any time gaps in your resume.

The bulk of your cover letter should be the “why this firm?” paragraph and the “what I can bring to the firm” paragraph. For the latter, use the Situation, Task, Action, and Result or STAR Method and again, be detailed. If you’re talking about a task you did or results you created, provide specific examples. BUT keep it short (interviewers are tired of reading essays – remember, they’re reading hundreds of other cover letters). If possible, leave negative space throughout your cover letter so add breaks in between paragraphs, leave lots of room for your name and signature at the bottom. This is hard to do. I understand. I strugged with it too. If you can’t keep it short enough to have room for a lot of negative space, that’s okay. As long as you keep your cover letter to one page, still have room for your name and signature at the bottom, and it doesn’t look too cluttered, it’s good enough!

Always find out where and who to address your cover letter to (hint: look at the firm website or the application instructions that should have been provided by the firm to your law school). If that’s not possible, then address your cover letter to the student recruitment/articling committee.


Law firm hiring committees will read your resume after reading your cover letter so it should provide more details on things you talked about in your cover letter. Organize your resume into headings and subheadings. It should include your work history, education, volunteer/extracurricular activities and skills and interests.

If you have an extensive work history, pick and choose only the most relevant ones to include. If you have any legal experience, make sure to include those. If you don’t have a whole lot of work experience under your belt, that’s okay. Add volunteer/extracurricular activities to demonstrate that you have the drive and the skills that the hiring committee is looking for anyway. Each experience in your resume should include a few bulletpoints that describe what your role was, your responsibilities, the results you generated, etc. Be as detailed as you can and make sure to add things that set you apart from others.

One great way to do this is through the skills and interests section. Are you a collector of rare coins? Do you play the piano? Are you a big fan of hockey? These are the things that make you, you! And they’re great conversation starters. Firms love to ask about your interests so don’t be afraid to say what you’re passionate about on your resume. If you don’t want to focus on your interests, skills are good too so don’t forget to include those. If you have any certifications (Microsoft Office, G-Suite, Adobe, etc.), even better! If you’re looking to spice up your resume, consider doing a legal-related certification like the LexCanLearn Legal Research Certification (don’t worry, it’s free!). I did this and got some positive acknowledgements from some firms during my interviews with them.

Your resume should be 1-2 pages long and in reverse chronological order (i.e. the most recent events should be at the top). Use a standard font like Times New Roman or Arial. Trust me, this is not the time to be using any fancy designs. The law profession is still pretty old school and dislikes anything too crazy looking. And make use of negative space to make your resume easy to read. The goal is to help the person reading your resume to…well, read your resume.

Law School Transcripts

Some law firms accept unofficial transcripts but most require official transcripts so you should request your official transcripts early. At least a week before the application deadline to be sure as it might take awhile for your law school to process your request, especially if you’re requesting a physical copy of your transcript to be mailed to you.

Additional Documents


Firms generally ask for references once you’ve gone through the interview process and they are seriously considering you as a candidate for the position. But I’ve seen some law firms requesting references in advance as part of your application package so I’ve included it in this article. References are just a list of people you know professionally and who can attest to your character/achievements.

Two references is a good number but some firms ask for three so don’t forget to check the requirements of the firm you’re applying to. Call your references in advance to let them know you’re using them as a reference. That way, they’re expecting the call and can prepare for it. Ideally, you’d want to include one or two work references and one academic reference but, again, pay attention to the job listing. Sometimes they specify what kind of references they want. If you don’t have any work experience yet, use a volunteer or extracurricular reference. Your references should include the name of your reference, their title/position, their relation to you, and contact information.

Reference Letters

Some firms might require a reference letter (or two or three) as part of your application package. Other firms say it’s optional. Reference letters are different from references. Rather than a simple list of references, they’re actual letters written by your references about you and the work you do/have done. Request these letters in advance, preferably at least a few weeks or even a month before the application deadline because people are busy and they might take some time to get back to you. Make sure to request reference letters from people you know professionally and who can speak at great length about you and your work. When making the request, include your resume for their review to make it easier for them to write your reference letter. And don’t be afraid to send reminders if it’s been a couple of weeks since your request and you haven’t heard back (just don’t over do it). If a firm says reference letters are optional, I’d recommend sending them anyway. In my view, it can only help not hurt your application.

Writing Samples

Writing samples are not too often requested by law firms. Out of all the law firms I applied to, I only had one ask for them. That said, it’s still something they can request so I wanted to touch on it. Choose your writing samples wisely. They should showcase your excellent writing skills. Good examples of writing samples are legal memorandums, opinion letters, and research papers. But avoid sending anything too long. If you have a long piece of writing that you’d like to use as a writing sample, use an excerpt of it instead of the whole thing.


Building a strong application package with the right documents is key to landing that interview! It’s not easy. And it can be really tedious work. You’ll have to sit down and write a personalized cover letter for every firm you apply to. You’ll have to write and re-write those cover letters and your resume about a dozen times to get it right. This can take months, even years! In 1L, my application package wasn’t the greatest. The result? I got no interviews. Yup, you read that right. I got zero interviews. Nada. But slowly, after seeking a lot of advice and doing countless revisions, I learned how to do things better. I got a couple of interviews in my 2L so I did slightly better but it wasn’t until 3L that I figured things out. That year, I landed more than 10 interviews. It took me years to build the right application package so that firms would give me a chance. So if it takes you awhile and you don’t quite get the result you’re hoping for, don’t be so hard on yourself. Things eventually work out in the end. Just try your best and make sure to edit, edit, edit!

This is an article in a series of articles called Your Ultimate Guide to Law Student Recruitment.

Next article: Law Student Recruit Cover Letter Template

Previous article: Meeting with Summer and Articling Students or Junior Lawyers

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