Personalizing the cover letter to the firm...
Firms are looking for a good fit. Sure your 1L grades matter, but they are not everything. It’s not just about someone who can do the work well, but about finding people who will also be happy at the firm. MB in particular hires with the hope that you will stay as an associate (all of you; the students are not in competition for limited associate positions). The best way to show that you know what you are applying for is not to make mistakes in your cover letter. That means if, like MB, the firm does not offer rotations, you shouldn’t be referring to them in your cover letter. Personalizing the cover letter to the firm, even a little, shows you’ve thought about whether you want to work there and mentioning that you spoke to someone at the firm or read their website or blog shows you cared enough to put in the research time.
Fit also comes down to personality. Firms are not all looking for the same thing and there will be some places that you will be happier than others. At MB, students get “litigation immersion” which Ashley described as a “sink or swim environment with all the life preservers and assistance you need to succeed”. In many ways, you are treated like a lawyer from day one and you will learn fast. Does the application suggest you could thrive in this program? Do your past jobs show you are a hard worker or a self-starter? Do you seem like you can work well in a team with the other students? Where reference letters are required or optional, these can help too.
Areas of Interest
Make sure the firm does what you are interested in. Not all firms do everything. MB does litigation, so if you aren’t inclined towards this, you might prefer a full-service firm with a wider variety of practice areas to try. When applying to a boutique, it’s ok if you have done things that show an interest in other areas of law. That said, your application should show some interest in that firm’s area. For litigation, there are a lot of ways to show interest, whether that is working at a clinic, mooting, or taking relevant classes.
Don’t Shy Away From What Makes You Interesting
Include the interesting things about you. Even if your application is not the strongest, the firm may meet with you just to meet a former professional ukulele player. At the very least, it will give you something to talk about in an interview.