How to impress Jones Day in your cover letter
Jones Day differs from many other City law firms in that candidates are not required to answer competency questions on the application form. The online application process may seem quite straightforward – basic application form details (in place of a CV) plus a cover letter and two questions on extra-curricular achievements – but do not take this to mean that the process is any easier. Jones Day receives up to 2,000 applications per year, so if you don’t put the effort in with your cover letter you’ve got very little chance of making it to interview.
Before you write your cover letter
It’s vital that you spend a good amount of time researching Jones Day before writing your cover letter. There will be a number of filters recruiters use when judging your letter and one of them will be your level of interest in the firm. It’s not enough to say ‘I would love to work at Jones Day because it is a truly global firm’. Anyone can say this; the hard part is proving it. Sion Richard, business restructuring and reorganisation partner at Jones Day, says that he wants to see people who’ve really thought about their career and are certain of who they want to work for. To demonstrate this, you’ll need to have a good understanding of Jones Day’s practice areas, key industries, and notable cases.
Before you apply:
- Read up on Jones Day
- Refresh your memory of what Jones Day is looking for in terms of competencies.
- Make sure you understand Jones Day’s unique training programme.
Content of your cover letter
The word limit for your cover letter is 300 words – this is not even one A4 page in size 12 font: you need to get straight to the point.
First things first: address your cover letter to Diana Spoudeas (manager for trainee recruitment and development). Failure to address your letter properly will put you on the back foot right from the off.
The first couple of paragraphs are the most important. Begin by introducing yourself and include your university and any notable employers (such as other law firms) in the first couple of sentences – you can even put these in bold. Jones Day’s recruiters will scan for the basics first. Similarly, it’s also a good idea to state any work experience you’ve had at businesses that are clients of Jones Day, such as Abercrombie & Fitch. If you’ve won any academic prizes or scholarships, don't waste word count detailing them here; you have 100 words elsehwere on the form to talk about those.
This is where you need to demonstrate your interest in the firm and explain why you’re qualified for the job. Here are a few ways you can do this effectively:
- Explain how you first became interested in Jones Day and in the specific type of work that Jones Day does. If you have had any work experience at a commercial law firm, point this out right away.
- Then, narrow things down: Why are you interested in a firm that focuses on competition law, restructuring, real estate, and mergers and acquisitions? The London office is particularly involved in real estate; real estate lawyers will spend a lot of time conducting legal research on who owns land, whether property has been constructed lawfully, who else might have rights to land etc. They will explain terminology to clients who are not property experts. What appeals to you about this sort of work? Emphasise any experience that specifically demonstrates research and/or communication skills. You may want to reference specific cases of Jones Day’s that have caught your interest.
- Remember that Jones Day is looking for commitment. Ideally, you will be able to demonstrate that you have been committed to a career in law for a good while. Studying law is not enough to make the cut – instead, review the qualities that are required of Jones Day trainees and explain what you have done in the past to develop these qualities. For example, the nature of the firm’s training scheme means that trainees must be entrepreneurial and courageous enough to seek out their own work from clients and colleagues – what have you done in the past to develop your entrepreneurial skills? Have you taken on any challenges in the past that required courage and resourcefulness (another necessary skill)? A good way to phrase this would be to say: ‘Unlike other candidates who do not have experience of seeking out their own opportunities, I…’ This allows for direct comparison, which makes the recruiter’s job a lot easier.
- It should be clear from the achievements you list that you are suited to Jones Day’s non-rotational training, but be sure to acknowledge this by explaining explicitly why you would thrive on this programme rather than on any other. Don’t be negative in your answer by disparaging other law firms’ programmes; instead, be positive by saying something like: ‘I am motivated by visible results, so would do well when working on cases from beginning to end.’ The opportunity to see cases through to completion is a unique aspect of Jones Day’s training.
Don’t worry too much about your sign-off; you only have 300 words available, and the bulk of this should be spent on relating your achievements to Jones Day’s work. Close your letter by stating that you are available for interview and look forward to hearing back about your application.