Law Resume Tips

by Vault Law Editors | March 10, 2009

Exaggeration

Many applicants exaggerate a little on resumes. Be very, very careful. When you're describing your duties, you'll probably get away with making them seem a little more active, a little greater in scale and authority than they really were. You don't need to be humble when you're writing your resume, and you certainly want to put your best foot forward. By all means, put your duties and accomplishments in the most flattering light. Under no circumstances, however, should you lie about anything! Facts can easily be verified and a lie will, in most cases, immediately disqualify you for the position you're seeking. Don't say that you held a position that you didn't or had responsibilities well above your station. Don't make up accomplishments or exaggerate the length of your employment.

Omission is acceptable sometimes -- you don't need to volunteer that you quit your last job because you had a fight with your boss. You can also be a little vague about your length of employment, particularly if a job was some time ago. But you should certainly not exaggerate or lie about your work experience, your grades or anything else. When in doubt, tell the truth or leave it out.

Style

There are different ways to organize your resume. The traditional method is outlined above, listing education, work experience and special skills, usually in chronological order. You can also write a resume that categorizes your experience by skill -- for example, organizational, leadership, writing. (You'll still need a separate section for education). Generally, a chronological resume is more traditional for litigators, but if you feel that your skills are better viewed according to subject matter, then by all means feel free to use this format.

Appearance

Your resume is not the place to get creative. Don't try to cram in everything you've ever done by reducing the margins to half an inch or the font type down to 8- or 9-point. Employers have to look at many, many resumes and will not appreciate one that is packed to the limit, making it difficult to read or understand. It won't make you seem more qualified -- it will just show that you weren't able to decide what was most important, and neither indecisiveness nor long-windedness is an attractive trait in a lawyer. Don't get fancy with the paper, ink or font. Only applicants for creative jobs -- fashion editors, graphic designers and the like -- should play with unusual paper or dramatic visuals. Your paper should be a neutral shade of white, off-white, light gray or beige, and your ink must be black. Select a font that's easy to read and use it throughout your resume.

Proofread

If you are listing things with bullet points, make sure that they are evenly spaced. If you have subject headings in a 14-point font, make sure they're all the same size. Punctuate consistently; if half of your job duties end in periods and the other half don't, it will look sloppy. Check your verb tense as well; it's no good saying that you "supervised" interns in the same job that you "manage meetings." Any job that you are not currently engaged in should be described in past tense. Have a neutral party review your resume for anything you might have missed.

Theme

Take a look at your completed resume and see if you can find a theme. Did you do some writing at every job you've had? Or were you always working with people? You don't want to seem skilled in only one area, but if there are some consistent themes in your job experience, it can make you appear more organized in your career than you really are! (You'll also have something to consider for interviews). If you have a particular career goal -- say, to be a trial attorney -- emphasize everything you've done that will show that you have the skills, experience and interest to be a top trial lawyer.

Update

You will need your law resume to be ready at any given moment. Make sure you update your resume to include your latest activities, references and special awards.

Filed Under: Law


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