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5 Tips for Your Legal Cover Letter

We've covered resumes before, but cover letters are a whole other ballgame. The cover letter -- which you should be sending even if a job description doesn't ask for it -- is your time to shine, to separate yourself from all the other lawyers blindly sending their resumes into the ether.

While there's no single correct way to craft a cover letter, there are some general principles you can follow for a smoother experience and with any luck, a better outcome (read: a job!).

You know you aren't in college anymore. And you know that social media sites typically couldn't care less about your privacy, so there is a decent chance that whatever you post will accidentally go public. (Or an annoying friend will screen-cap it and pass it along to others.)

And yet: you're on The Facebook. And Twitter. And Instagram. And Ello. And whatever the heck else is out there.

Here are five tips for survival:

Yesterday, we blogged about law school marketing buzzwords. The buzzwords and marketing gimmicks don't end upon graduation, however, because job statistics count towards law school rankings as well.

For all the current law students out there, the ones that delusionally think that "things will be better when I graduate!," we're going to give you a quick vocabulary lesson on post-graduate employment.

Here are five terms you need to know:

There are hundreds of law schools in this country. All of them teach law. We'd even venture a guess that nearly all of them use casebooks. And really, the the quality of instruction doesn't vary that much between the schools, though you'd almost certainly learn more from an Ivy League school than the People's College of Law in Los Angeles or some online dump.

In fact, the main differentiators are cost, geography, and prestige (which means jobs). When schools lack in one of those three categories, or have trouble differentiating themselves from their many peer schools, they do what all businesses do when offering a commodity to a saturated market: adopt marketing gimmicks.

We've been writing about "fixing" law schools, law school demand, and really everything law school-related for some time now. Here are some of the increasingly popular buzzwords that pre-Ls might not know about:

Outlines? Nearly done. Practice questions? In progress. Thanksgiving plans? Cancelled. Christmas and New Year's plans? Likely alcoholic. But first: finals.

Bu wait: What about your 1L summer? Take it from me, kids: You need to be digging for a gig. And even if you do dig, there are pretty high odds that you'll find nothing of note, thanks to, you know, the economy and all. But still, try.

What's that? Me? Don't get me started on my 1L summer: It involved reppin' Mandarin-speaking prostitutes (no hablo) and writing a movie based on someone else's plot-line -- a movie that, in retrospect, sounds a lot more like an adult film than a female-empowerment drama. I was used!

Anyway, the past is past. You need to know this: You're about to hit the first important date for job-hunting, which is, of course, right around finals. Are you ready?

By now, we all know that you shouldn't just out-and-out lie on your resume. You shouldn't make up a university or a job experience; employers can easily find out about those. But what about taking a little bit of poetic license with your job descriptions? Like inflating the importance of a job you had?

Your goal as a resume embellisher is to make the interviewer think that you did something much more important than you did, without ever saying specifically what you did. This requires being a little vague to begin with -- which isn't in your favor even before the interview phase because employers don't want vague statements in resumes or cover letters; they want specific, concrete examples.

Still, many people do it. According to a 2008 CareerBuilder survey, 38 percent of employees had lied about their job responsibilities. But the consequences if you're caught can be pretty severe.

It seems like a perfect fit: Only 57 percent of the Class of 2013 found full-time, long-term lawyer gigs. And in rural areas of America, there are a whole lot of people (20 percent of the population) and not a lot of lawyers (2 percent). What's more, many of those lawyers are retiring, leaving entire counties without any counsel.

This is why many states are pushing (or bribing) recent grads to go rural with their practice, and it's why the ABA announced a Legal Access Job Corps last year that would do the same.

One year later, how are those programs working out? And how are debt-laden grads surviving in the rural areas?

Landing an interview is great. You can impress the interviewer with your penchant for witty quotes from "Spaceballs" and then you're off to the races!

What? It's an informational interview? That sounds like the booby prize of interviews: "Yes, I'll go spend my time to get a guarantee of absolutely nothing in return." Well, maybe. There are varying schools of thought about the informational interview. In the interest of public service -- because, if anything, we're here for you -- here are some things to consider about informational interviews:

Should the American Bar Association drop its long-standing ban on academic credit for paid externships during law school? That was last week's "Room for Debate" topic over at The New York Times, with two people (a law student an an attorney) arguing in favor of lifting the ban, and one (a professor) arguing for the status quo.

If you're a long-time reader, you know how much I absolutely hate the idea of unpaid internships, though that's more an aversion to employers taking advantage of rising 2Ls and 3Ls who are desperate for resume filler by having them provide actual, valuable labor for free. But this is different: academic credit for an educational experience in a practical setting.

Let's take a look at the pros and cons, and see why lifting the ban is probably a bad idea.

With job prospects still fairly grim for recent law graduates, you might be asking yourself, "Should I move somewhere else?"

It's a decision fraught with questions if you don't have a job offer, and even more fraught with them if you do. Where should you move? And is it a good idea?

Here are five things you may want to consider: