As the good old Venn diagram here demonstrates, there's a point of connection between your skills/interests/experiences and what most public service employers want. You don't have to have taken a ton of courses or worked previously in a particular field to be competitive for many internships. Even some 3L employers don't expect a high level of specialization, though it always helps. Many times I've worked with students in counseling appointments who started out saying "I've got nothing relevant to write about," but left with several solid examples to draw out in their cover letters. Here's where your effort really pays off.
So, some quick tips to get you started.
1. General Legal Skills Experience. Almost every summer internship offers some litigation experience and many public service employers do at least some litigation. Even if you don't bring subject matter expertise to the employer, you can talk about your general litigation experience and interest. If your past internships and pro bono experiences weren't litigation intensive, think about whether you've done research in support of litigation handled externally or helped evaluate whether cases should be pursued. The same applies to transactional skills for employers that need these skills. Did you help advise a client by researching in advance of a meeting? Prepare policy or regulatory language drafts? Help lead an audit or compliance effort?
2. Subject Matter Interest. If you've worked a previous internship or pro bono project in the employer's main practice area(s), you should highlight this. But if you haven't, think about your courses, papers, and journal assignments. Did you write a note on a relevant topic? When you worked as an RA or participated on a moot court team, did you do some relevant research? Have you served as an officer for a student organization that focuses on this area of the law?
3. Put it Together With a Few Highlighting Examples. Employers read hundreds of cover letters--sometimes more. A sentence or two putting flesh on a particular assignment, project or experience makes you both more memorable and credible. Your highlights should be the most relevant ones for a particular employer. Focus on projects that reflect complexity, a high level of responsibility, and/or your strengths, whether it's getting a project done in a short timeframe, a courtroom win, or a strong brief.
Good luck with your cover letter drafting and get in touch with us for help and feedback!