An application for an internship or NYSC role should always be accompanied by a cover letter. A cover letter is the voice behind your CV. It is your chance to highlight important aspects of your CV and convince the employer that they should hire you (or at least interview you).
Before you start
It is important to carry out research on the firm you are applying to, as your cover letter would need to be tailored to that firm if it will stand out.
Also, you need to consider the skills required to be a successful lawyer (and a successful lawyer in that office), and how you have been able to demonstrate those skills at work or at school.
Flesh it out
Your cover letter should begin with a short introduction of yourself, and should then answer the following questions (i) why law, (ii) why that law office and (iii) why you.
Keep your cover letter concise and to the point. Your letter should never exceed two pages; one to one and a half pages are ideal.
Here, explain in two or three sentences who you are and why you are writing them. You should write in the first person here.
I am a Bar Part II candidate at the Nigerian Law School, Enugu and a first class graduate of Law from the University of Nigeria. I would like to [be considered for the role of NYSC Associate/apply to undertake an internship] at Adebiyi & Adebiyi.
If you are in the early stages of your law degree, you may wish to include a short paragraph on why you have chosen to study or practice law.
This is where your research on that firm comes in handy. Every law office wants to feel special – like you chose them, not like they are one of many options.
How is UBBO different from Templars? What is it about B&I that compels you to apply there instead of Olaniwun Ajayi? Why are you applying to a five-man firm instead of a big name? Going the extra mile is what will make your letter stand out.
Read the firm’s website, read articles on them in the news, attend seminars taken by their partners, reach out to one of their Associates on LinkedIn, whatever it takes. Not only will it increase your chances of getting that interview invite, but you can also decide for yourself if the firm is worth your time.
Apart from just regurgitating what you have learnt about them, you have to show why that is important to you. Also be careful not to mention a rival firm’s name.
I am an avid LinkedIn user and follow quite a few Nigerian firms. I quickly discovered that Adebiyi & Adebiyi is passionate about engaging its stakeholders, even prospective NYSC employees. In a clime where many law firms still believe the students have to come to them, Adebiyi & Adebiyi demonstrates innovation, forward thinking and above all, genuine respect and appreciation its employees. The growth rate of the firm over the years and the palpable job satisfaction of the current associates is very commendable. I want to work in an environment where I am respected and equipped to be the best lawyer I can be.
Adebiyi & Adebiyi has established itself as one of the major players in the commercial law space. These days, it is nearly impossible to see a panel or political group without a member of your staff or alumni present. I also listened to your Kola Adebiyi speak at the seminar on… in 2015 and the lessons learnt motivated me to write my university dissertation titled… I am a highly ambitious person and would like to attain the highest levels possible in my legal career – I know that Adebiyi & Adebiyi can provide me with the platform to do so.
Forget all the above, this is the most important aspect of this letter. Yes, you have good grades, and the desire to work with the firm, but so do a hundred other applicants. Why should they choose you?
Look at the skills required to be a successful lawyer and highlight the ways you have demonstrated some of these. This is also where you connect what you know about the firm, with who you are. This should be easy if you have chosen a firm that really is a good fit for you.
During my time at university, I studied subjects like Debt Finance, Equity Finance, Mergers & Acquisitions, International Trade Law and International Energy Law. I was awarded ‘Most Outstanding Student in Commercial Law’ upon completion of my LLB degree.
As a result of my exposure (via internships), to the type of transactions, firms, and clients that Adebiyi & Adebiyi works with, I have developed excellent research and communication skills, problem-solving abilities and general commercial awareness, thus making me the ideal candidate for the firm.
Wrap it up & sign off
In our view, there is no need for an elaborate farewell, and you don’t even need to say you are looking forward to a positive response. If your application is good, you will get that response, regardless.
Please find attached my CV for your consideration.
Yimika Adesola, for Legally Engaged