Putting Together a Legal Resume – A Few Key Pointers to Get You Started

Putting Together a Legal Resume – A Few Key Pointers to Get You Started

28 April, 2020

By: Amrit Rai, Recruitment Partner & Mike Race, Client Partner at ZSA
Your resume is a marketing tool, a living document that should be tailored to accord with whatever job you are applying for. The main function of your resume is to land you an interview. Make no mistake, a good resume can do you wonders. It doesn’t need to be a creative masterpiece, the legal profession as we all know is fairly conservative. In fact simple is better.
The main thing to bear in mind is that the first impression is everything. The lawyer or HR/talent professional initially reviewing your CV (at a prospective employer) will form a view within a few moments of picking up your resume, and if it’s not immediately clear that you’re a potential match, they will move on quickly. The big mistake is trying to cram too much in there. Instead you want that first page to be easy on the eye, and extremely clear and obvious at a glance to a complete stranger why your background is relevant for that particular position.

Some more detailed suggestions:

  • Heading: your name and contact information is all you need. Date of birth or marriage status is not necessary.
  • A short executive summary at the top, just a couple of lines, can give a good overall picture of how you perceive your career path and core skills.
  • After that, lead with your legal experience in reverse chronological order – ie current (or most recent) at the top. Content is important: ensure that you meet the basic requirements for the job and highlight the experience you have gained, preferably in informative bullet points that match the job description. The employer shouldn’t have to trawl through to find this information in the body of a long-winded paragraph. Be concise, and put your relevant experience front and center.Your current position is the most relevant thing on your resume, so this is where you need to spend the most time and attention making your wording right.
  • For all positions, include the MONTH and YEAR you started and left. As a rule of thumb, detail the legal positions you have held in the last 10 years. Any further back, the information is not as relevant, you can just list the positions without going into detail.
  • Any pre-law experience should only be included if it clearly relates to the position you’re applying for, and should be bullet-pointed in short and simple terms. Remember, your resume is just a snapshot of your relevant experience for the position, not your entire employment history.
  • State your education credentials in reverse chronological order (including year of your call to the bar). Stick with higher education, high school isn’t relevant.
  • Volunteer Experience: a demonstrated commitment to public service is great to have on the resume, but don’t take up too much real estate speaking about this in detail.  A snapshot is fine at this stage, you can always expound on it at interview.
  • Interests: people have varying views on whether this section should be included. Personally we quite like reading this section, as it can give a broader sense of you as a person. It can also be a good conversation starter.
  • Accuracy: Your resume should be completely free of typos, grammatical errors, and inconsistencies. Read it through several times and ask scrupulous friends or family members to go through it with a fine-tooth comb. This is your first introduction to the firm/company, and as you know attention to detail is extremely important for lawyers, so take your time and make sure you get it right at the outset!

If you have any specific questions, and wish to discuss how to best present your own career history and current situation in your CV, feel free to reach out to a ZSA consultant to arrange a conversation.

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