As you begin your job hunt, two of the most important tools you have are your cover letter and resume. In an age of increasingly Internet-based job searches, these two documents are your only opportunity to showcase your skills and set yourself apart from other applicants.
We know there are plenty of tips on the Internet for how to structure your resume or make your resume visually appealing, but there isn’t a lot of information specifically about legal resumes for new attorneys to refer to. We hope that our tips help you understand what a prospective employer is looking for and how to avoid some of the pitfalls we see on a regular basis.
1. Structure Your Resume To Highlight Your Skills, Not Your Education
In today’s workforce, education is common. This is particularly true for law graduates and recent bar passers. Remember, you are not competing with potentially uneducated individuals for the position; everyone has been to law school and taken the bar.
We understand that this can be particularly difficult if you focused on academics and didn’t get a lot of real world experience in law school. If your resume is education heavy, focus your attention on what the mock trial team and law review taught you, and how those skills will translate in the workplace.
While you are looking for a job, get out and volunteer in a legal setting. Offer to work for free for a solo practitioner in exchange for attending depositions, client meetings and court appearances. Volunteer to help at a small claims court or your local homeless outreach program, or provide other pro bono services. Building your experience while you are looking for a job will help your future employer see how committed you are.
2. Showcase Personal Accomplishments Or Skills That Relate To The Position
We are all unique individuals with different personal experiences, and we encourage you to share those experiences when the time is right. If you are multilingual or have legal experience in another country, include it in your resume if those skills relate to the position you are applying for. If they aren’t relevant, leave them out. There will be plenty of time to tell your new employer and colleagues about your unique experiences once you’ve landed the job.
3. Stay Away From Sensitive Topics
Many students decide to participate in on-campus political organizations or religious groups. It’s great that you were able to do that, but we encourage you to avoid mentioning religious or political affiliations in your resume. While there are legal protections in place relating to discrimination, you do not want to risk irking the hiring manager or your boss because you supported the Republicans in the last election and she is a liberal Democrat.
4. Ask A Professor Or Other Attorney To Review Your Resume
Take advantage of the network you built in law school and ask someone you respect in the legal field for an opinion on your resume. Having a fresh set of eyes is always helpful.
5. Avoid Crazy Colored Fonts, Text Lingo, And Emoticons
You would be amazed how often someone tries to make their resume stand out by using a red font or adding smiley faces. Don’t do it! Standard fonts are a must, text lingo is inappropriate and no one should use a smiley face in a professional legal setting, ever.
We understand that applying for a job in today’s legal market can seem daunting, but by structuring your resume to showcase your skills and relevant personal experiences, you will start the job hunt with an edge most new graduates do not have.
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