Lawyers, like any other professionals, must communicate effectively. An important part of this effort is the correct formatting of written correspondence, including a simple cover letter. The legal field has developed a standard form for the cover letter, which lawyers -- or at least the staffers who assist them -- must know and use.
A cover letter is a short and simple letter that accompanies other documents, known as enclosures, that arrive with the same mailing. The cover letter informs the recipient of what is included in the mailing so the recipient knows what to expect, and so he can ensure that he has received everything that was sent.
Headers and Greeting
At the top, the cover letter follows standard business formatting. The name, address and phone number of the attorney or law firm is given, along with the fax number and email address. Most large law firms use designed logos, which give all the firm's correspondence a familiar and consistent appearance. The cover letter must carry a date, the name and address of the recipient, and a reference line that specifies the relevant case. Following the reference line is a salutation to the recipient. If the letter is going to an unknown person, it usually begins with "Dear Sir or Madam." If the mailing will be sent by certified mail or private carrier, the carrier used and the tracking number can also be given in the heading.
The letter begins with a simple explanation that reveals it is a cover letter. A common method is to simply write "Enclosed please find ..." and then list the contents, either in paragraph or list form. The cover letter should explain, if necessary, why the letter is being sent. It may be a packet of forms to sign and return; it may be a court filing in support of a motion or other pleading; or it may be material sent at the receiver's specific request. If the contents consist of digital material, such as a CD, the cover letter should courteously explain the format used to create and store the contents.
If necessary, a separate index should be included following the cover letter. If the mailing consists of a long series of documents, the index lists these documents by name and assigns to each exhibit a letter -- Exhibit A, for example. A letter tax or tab is then attached to the exhibit to make it easy to find. The indexing should follow any that has previously been agreed to by the parties in a court proceeding.
The end of the letter carries a closing and signature of the attorney sending it. Although a paralegal or secretary may have prepared the document, the attorney handling the case must sign it. Often, if the attorney is unavailable to sign, and time is of the essence, the the staffer preparing the letter uses a rubber stamp to affix the attorney's signature.