Communicating with Potential Employers

In addition to your resume, cover letter, and writing sample, there is other correspondence that you will be responsible for during your job quest. Thank you letters, reimbursement requests, and acceptance/rejection letters provide you with opportunities to further interact with an employer, as well as to provide them with important information.

Thank You Letters

It is not necessary to write a thank you letter after an initial on-campus interview because the employer will usually have made a decision about you before your letter will arrive. If you had an especially good interview or if there was something significant that you forgot to say to the interviewer, you may wish to write a thank you letter. Remember to keep it brief and to the point. A typed or handwritten letter is preferable and more traditional,
though email is received more quickly.

It is appropriate to send a thank you letter (or letters) immediately following your return from an interview at the employer's office. The general purpose of such a letter is to:

  • Express your appreciation to the interviewers for their interest in you as well as their hospitality during your visit.
  • Remind the interviewer who you are by highlighting something that occurred during the interview which you believe the interviewer should recall.
  • Indicate that you remain extremely interested in the employer.

A Form Thank You Letter is a Waste of Time: Each thank you letter must be customized to the individual receiving the letter. The best way to personalize the letter is to mention a particular detail that made a favorable impression on you during the interview. To do this, take notes on your interviews as soon as possible after leaving the employer.

To Whom Should You Write? Unless you can write a very distinct note to each person you met with, write one letter to either the recruiting coordinator or the hiring partner and ask the coordinator to pass along your appreciation to the others with whom you met. You will need to include the names of everyone you interviewed with, so be sure note each interviewer's name. If there is an additional person with whom you really connected, you could write that person as well. Note that if you interviewed with a small employer and only met two or three people, you should try to write personalized letters to each. However, one really good letter is better than a number of not-so-good letters or letters that repeat themselves.

Additionally, because the thank you letter is really just another writing sample that you are providing to the employer, never misspell the name of an interviewer or employer. You can either e-mail or mail your letter. If you choose to use email, the subject line should simply be "Thank You". E-mail is a lot quicker and a mailed letter is more traditional, so obviously there are advantages and disadvantages to both options. (Sample Thank You Letter.)

Correspondence Regarding Offers, Acceptances & Rejections

Receiving and Accepting an Offer

You should acknowledge an offer of employment within 24 hours of receiving it. You should be prepared to either accept, decline or request more time to decide. Do not accept an offer unless you are fully prepared to work for that employer. When accepting an offer, it is important that you proceed in a professional manner. As soon as you have decided to accept an offer, you should telephone either the individual who made you the offer or the recruitment office of the employer and inform them of your decision. Upon completing your telephone call, you should write the employer as soon as possible confirming your decision. Again in a very professional manner, you will express your gratitude at receiving the offer and state that you enjoyed both your visit to the employer and the opportunity to meet with several of the employer's lawyers. Under the NALP rules, employers should hold offers for first year students open for at least two weeks. Offers for second and third year law students that are made during the fall recruiting season have separate deadlines set by NALP. Please see page 38 for the 2007-2008 time lines. The CPDC or NALP websites will have the time lines for subsequent years. (Sample Acceptance Letter.)

Declining an Offer

It is perhaps even more critical to decline offers in a timely and professional manner, as these may be the first employers you contact should you seek other opportunities as a 2L, 3L, or after graduation. As soon as you have decided to reject an offer, you should telephone either the individual who made you the offer or the recruitment office and inform them of your decision. Your decision will usually free up an offer, which may then be extended to another law student. If you are only able to reach an employer's voicemail during their regular business hours, leave a message declining the offer. Your promptness will be most appreciated and will contribute to the overall efficiency of the recruiting season.

Upon completing your telephone call, you should write the employer as soon as possible confirming your decision. In a professional manner, express gratitude at receiving the offer and state that you enjoyed both your visit and the opportunity to meet with several of the employer's lawyers. You should also express your regrets in reaching the decision to decline the flattering offer. This letter will be placed in your file. If you contact the employer for a position in the future, there is a good chance it will still have this file and will refer to its contents in deciding whether to consider you for a position. A courteous letter may inure to your benefit. (Sample Decline Letter.)

For more information on conducting a job search, writing a cover letter or other correspondence, resumes, etc., see our other Professional Development resources.