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by Vault Law Editors | April 03, 2024


Writing a thank you note after an interview can sometimes feel rote, perhaps even old-fashioned. Traditions are often traditions for a reason, however, and this is a case where participating can definitely help you. First, frankly, you are expected to write a thank you note. It’s common courtesy to do so after an interview, and your interviewers will notice if they do not receive one from you. It’s also a way to help you stand out in your interviewer’s mind. When they receive that thank you email (or if you’re really looking to impress, handwritten note), it will remind them of the conversation they had with you and bump you back to the top of their mind. Whether you’re in the middle of 1L interviewing,  wrapping up OCI, or breathing a sigh of relief after a long day of callbacks, make sure to send a message of gratitude—it can make all the difference.

Four Parts

Thank you notes should never sound like a form letter, but the good ones do have a similar structure:

  • The address
  • The personalized message
  • The plug
  • The sendoff

That’s it—proper thank you notes are brief (three to four lines of an email). But they are also crucial to making a lasting good impression. So, what do these four pieces look like in practice?

The Address: Striking the Right Tone

How you start your thank you note largely depends on how formal your interview was. Some interviews are extremely formal, with lists of questions and panels of interviewers; others are more casual, conversational one-on-ones. There are also different levels of formality in firm cultures—from white shoe firms to firms boasting a “startup-like” environment, and everything in between. It’s important to keep firm culture in mind when writing a thank you note.

For example, say you’re interviewing at a firm known for being very formal and professional—starting off your email with “Hi Susan,” would be a big mistake. “Dear Ms. Smith” would be much more appropriate. Similarly, if you just left an interview with a very casual firm where everyone seemed to be on a first-name basis, “Dear Ms. Smith” may read as a little stuffy. W don’t advise starting any professional thank you note with “Hi,” but knowing whether to refer to your interviewer by their first or last name is important—you want to start your note off correctly and keep the right tone throughout.

Be certain you spell your interviewers’ names correctly. Misspellings happen more often than you’d think, and they’re very rude, regardless of how formal the firm’s culture is.

The Personalized Message: Be Specific

The body of most thank you notes will start off with something like of “Thank you for taking the time to meet with me today.” And that’s perfectly fine—it’s a sincere and honest expression of gratitude. The personalized part is what you use to make your note stand out. You don’t want to just thank them for their time, but also for something unique to each interviewer: their perspective, their insights, or their opinions, as examples. Think back to something substantive you discussed in the interview, or something that seemed to click with your interviewer. Did they light up when giving an overview of their practice area? Did you discuss a case in your writing sample in detail? Those things are worth mentioning specifically: “I really appreciated your perspective on how the emergence of telehealth is impacting the health care legal sphere,” for example. Each of these details should be unique to each interviewer you write to—it shows that you were actively listening during the interview, and that you’re not writing the same note to everyone you spoke with.

The Plug: Make One Last Pitch

Your thank you note is one more opportunity to (briefly) remind your interviewer why you’re such a good candidate. You don’t want to oversell it—this note is about gratitude for the other person’s efforts—but a quick touch on your merits can help keep you at the top of the interviewers' minds.

For this section of your note, think back to your interview. Which of your qualities most interested each interviewer? What qualifications did they seem to think were the most important? Say, for example, it was time management skills and a willingness to work on a variety of projects. This section might look like: “I’m excited for the opportunity to jump feet-first into the summer associate program—I never shy away from hard work, and I think I’d be a great fit with the teams that summers work with.” If your interviewer seemed particularly impressed with one of your accomplishments, that may also be worth bringing up again. You know your strengths; highlight them.

The Sendoff: Ask for What You Want

You know the expression “You’ll never know unless you ask?” It can be tough to be assertive about what you want; it’s natural to want to please everyone. That said, coming out and asking for the job is usually a good move, as long as it's done tactfully. Consider the difference between “Thank you for your consideration” and “I hope to further discuss the value I can bring to the program with you soon.” The first statement leaves the matter up to fate. The second all but explicitly states that, if offered a spot in the summer associate class, she will take it and work her hardest at it. These are entirely different messages, and it’s pretty clear which is stronger. You’re applying for a career in law—demonstrate that you know how to be an advocate.

Another possible sendoff is asking about next steps. If you know the next steps, mention that you anticipate their occurrence (e.g., “I hope my references can provide you with another dimension to my character.”) If you don’t know what the next steps are, then express your interest in learning them (e.g., “I look forward to hearing from the team about any next steps in the coming days.”) It is important to be grateful for the interview, but you want to demonstrate that your interest extends further.

Final Notes

The interview process can feel like a stressful whirlwind—one in which it is easy to make simple flubs. Failing to write a thank you note should not be one of them. It’s a simple gesture that can mean a lot when hiring partners and recruiting teams make their decisions. Make sure that yours is brief, polished, and sincere, so you can stick the landing and nail that position at your dream law firm.


This post is an update to an article originally written by Kaitlin McManus and published on December 19, 2019. Click the link to read the original post.