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I know that you don’t want to write a cover letter for an in-house counsel role (or any other position for that matter). At the same time, if you’re reading this article you probably suspect that—if done right—a cover letter can be valuable. And you would be correct! Keep reading to learn more about the four strategies that will in- crease the odds of your in-house cover letter not only being ready, but also of you being invited to interview. Whether it’s a recruiter or a busy general counsel reading your cover letter, they want to know why you want the job.

In-House Counsel Cover Letters Are Direct

Cover letters aren’t the place for your life story. Whether it’s a recruiter or a busy general counsel reading your cover letter, they want to know why you want the job. And they want to know quickly. You’ve likely got multiple reasons for why you want to work for them, but pick the best one. How will you know it’s the best one? Because it’ll be the reason that is most about the employer (as opposed to about yourself ).

This will require you to do a little research so you can be as specific as possible. Whether you search their website, scan their social media accounts, or talk to (former) employees, you want to learn about the organization’s mission, values, workplace culture, work they do and clients they serve. Based on what you discover, you can then show the employer that you have an in- formed understanding of why you want to join their organization.

In-House Counsel Cover Letters Should Address Obstacles Head On

Your cover letter is the ideal place to address any objections an employer may have to hiring you. In some cases, I advise lawyers to call out and resolve any potential obstacles in the first sentence of the cover letter. So think honestly about what the employer might perceive as an obstacle to hiring you. More often than not, this is something that you’re already somewhat self-conscious about like:

    • Lack of in-house experience
    • Limited practice area experience
    • Geographical location (not local)
    • Appearing overqualified or too senior for the position

Rather than shy away from these potential objections, bring them up so you can quickly dispel them. Then the reader will be able to focus instead on the value you’re bringing to the position.

In-House Counsel Cover Letters Need To Highlight Results

Focusing on results is key. The number one problem I see in cover letters and résumés for in-house positions is the lack of results and achievements. Every employer is looking for a problem solver. In-house employers need a problem solver who can hit the ground running on day one. Generally, they don’t have the resources for extensive training. By providing a specific example of how you’ve provided value in a scenario that’s analogous to what the employer needs, they’ll easily understand how you fit into the role. In other words, you’ve got to demonstrate that your existing skills and experience are transferable! You do that by showing a problem you solved, how you did it, and the benefit it provided to your client and/or employer.

In-House Counsel Cover Letters Must Be Concise

While I don’t believe résumés should be limited to one page, I do strongly advise that cover letters be no more than a single page. Having a shorter cover letter increases the chances that it will actually get read! Remember, recruiters and general counsel are busy. They’re more likely to at least scan your cover letter if it looks more like a one-minute read than a lengthy treatise. Your goal is to get the reader primed for and excited to look at your résumé. So think more “movie trailer” and less “Ken Burns documentary.” And, yes, I’m aware of the urban legend that claims cover letters never get read; and that can certainly happen even when you have a stellar cover letter. Regardless of whether anyone else reads yours, writing one helps you develop the narrative as to why you’re the best candidate— which gives you a head start on preparing for the interview.

Writing Your Compelling In-House Counsel Cover Letter

At the end of the day, you’re a lawyer who knows how to argue effectively. You can leverage that skillset in writing your cover letter
to make a compelling case for why you’re the best candidate for the job. In doing so, you’ll be highlighting your transferable skills.

If you’re not crystal clear on what your transferable skills are, check out my free transferable skills masterclass, 3 Simple Strategies for Uncovering Any Lawyers Transferable Skills. I walk you through how to analyze a job description, identify your transferable skills, and focus on the results you’ve gotten in your prior roles. When you combine your upgraded résumé with your customized cover letter, you’ll be fielding interview requests for any in-house position you apply to.

*Reprinted with permission from Annie Little, JD, ICF Certified Career Coach. This article originally appeared on