We recognize that there have been many articles written about how to put together the best legal resume. As experienced legal recruiters, we also know that there are an endless number of formats and fonts for a job seeking attorney to choose from. That being said, when it comes to legal resumes – as with many other things in life – the key is to keep it simple. Don’t use multiple fonts or colors. Really, Times New Roman is classic, not boring! Make sure your resume is straightforward, uncluttered and easy to follow. While practicing law, we were often told not to “recreate the wheel” on a project. We shouldn’t make something simple and straightforward more complicated than it needs to be. This advice applies to legal resumes as well.
The contact information you provide – mailing address, e-mail address, phone number – should be to places where you are comfortable receiving communications regarding new opportunities and interview scheduling. Do not include your current work address, email or phone number; it is just not a good idea. This may sound like obvious advice, but you would be surprised by how many people don’t follow it.
For most resumes, unless you are straight out of law school, your legal experience should be the first heading under your name, and it should be listed in reverse chronological order. Start with your current position. State your experience clearly and make sure it is accurate and up to date. Remember not to include any confidential information. Another obvious piece of advice that is often disregarded! A resume is something you should be updating regularly, to ensure that it is a snapshot of all of your legal experience. Once you have been practicing for 5+ years, it may make sense to include a separate Representative Transactions List or a Representative Cases List. This list should be a broad illustration of your experience, rather than a data dump of every transaction or case you have worked on since you began practicing law.
The experience section is the most important part of your resume. This is what potential employers want to see. You should tailor this section to the specific job opportunity you are seeking. For example, a resume submitted for an in-house position may look very different than one submitted for a law firm opportunity. You will likely have several different versions of your resume by the time you are done with your job search. Each version should highlight the most relevant experience for the specific job you are seeking.
Following your experience section you should detail your undergraduate, legal and any other post-secondary education. While you should make sure to include any honors or journal memberships, this section should not be extensive. This is not the place to list every organization you joined or participated in while you were in college and law school. Potential employers are looking for leadership experience, excellent academic credentials or that unique experience that truly sets you apart.
The next section may focus on other industry experience. This is often included in resumes where the job seeker had a career prior to law school or took more than 1 or 2 years off after college before starting law school. If there are significant time gaps in your resume, you must be prepared to discuss them when you meet with a potential employer. The better course, however, is to account for this time directly on the resume.
Finally, some resumes include a short description of the job seeker’s personal interests. Our advice is to include this section only if your interests are truly interesting. While you may love to read or cook, such information likely will not help you get the job of your dreams. Community involvement, civic leadership positions or significant participation in industry-related groups can be good additions to a resume. Think carefully about including interests that are overtly political or otherwise controversial. Ultimately, you just need to be prepared to discuss any such interests, so make sure you are comfortable doing so.
This article does not touch on every aspect of, or answer every question about, creating and updating a legal resume. However, we hopefully have given you a good start.