Word Tips to Make Your Life Easier: Mail Merge

Posted Feb. 13, 2007.
Prepared by Mary Whisner for Library Lifesavers.


Note: This guide was developed using Word on Windows. We’re told that the mail merge tool is very different on Macs.

The mail merge tool can make it easier for you to send letters to many people. And you can personalize the letters – you aren’t stuck sending exactly the same letter to each recipient!

For the basics of mail merge, see Word’s own guide.

Finding Addresses

Where do you get your addresses? For job hunting:

Some mail merge files are available from the Career Planning and Public Service Center.

  • A variety of lists are available to UW law students for judicial clerkships and externships. See Symplicity's Clerkships and Judicial Externships tabs. There are also links to templates for cover letters and mailing labels.
  • Staff can give UW law students access to the mail merge feature at www.nalpdirectory.com, which allows students to download 25 addresses at a time.

Search Martindale-Hubbell and West’s Legal Directory to focus on particular employers or attorneys.

  • See Getting the Scoop on Jobs and Careers for searching tips.
  • You might end up doing a lot of cutting and pasting. But if you keep your contacts in a spreadsheet, at least you won’t have to do it again and again. Consider teaming up with friends who have similar geographic or topical interests and sharing your addresses.

Using a Spreadsheet

If you use an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of your contacts, you can use it for a lot more than the addresses. For example, if you plan to write letters seeking informational interviews, you could have columns to note an attorney’s practice areas, the reason you’re writing, the date of your letter, the date of your first follow-up contact, notes about your meeting, and so on. For example:

Mail Merge

Use mail merge to tailor each letter to the recipient. E.g., “I am fascinated by <<Practice Areas>>.”

Personalize & Proofread

Take the time to personalize letters – even beyond your formulaic tailoring. E.g., in a letter to a lawyer who does construction law, add: “My undergraduate major in civil engineering makes construction law a natural area of interest for me.”

Be sure to proofread each letter in case something weird slipped in.

If in doubt, choose more formal options. For instance, if you aren’t sure whether to say “Dear Helen” or “Dear Ms. Markowitz,” choose the latter. She can invite you to call her Helen later if she prefers.

Try to stay current. If you’re using an old address list, you might send a letter to the wrong address or the wrong firm name.

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