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by Vault Law Editors | March 10, 2009

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In all likelihood, you will go through many interviews during your law school career and your resume will change from a general work resume (or one tailored to your previous career) to one that reflects your legal skills and experience. Obviously this may not be possible in the beginning of your legal career since few first-year law students have much legal experience.

Probably the first time that you'll need to polish your resume and send it out will be soon after your first semester at law school, to apply for internships during the summer following your first year. You might also need it to apply for certain classes and programs in your school. It's all right if you don't have legal experience yet; most students don't. Arrange your resume to reflect those skills which will convince an employer that you're on your way to becoming an exceptional lawyer. For litigators, writing and editing skills are very important, as are any managerial or organizational positions you may have held. If you have done community service or been involved in any political activities, make sure to highlight those in your resume. Emphasize any promotions or increase in responsibility in your jobs as well.

A good resume does not go too far back. At this stage in your career you probably shouldn't include your high school grades or activities. Your resume should fit on a single page. It's extremely rare that you will need more than one page, regardless what you were doing before you went to law school. Multiple-page resumes are usually reserved for high-level executives or PhDs with many publications. By the way, although you should certainly emphasize your own publications, list only the relevant ones. You can provide a separate list together with your resume.

Contents

Your resume, at this early stage, should include the following information:

Education

  • The name of your law school and expected date of graduation. If you have any exceptional grades, list them. If you are involved in any law school activities or hold any titles, list those as well.
  • The name of your undergraduate school and your date of graduation. Include your major (and minor, if any), your grade point average (if it's high), any scholarships, prizes or awards you may have received, and any relevant extracurricular activities. At this point, the quantity of extracurricular activities doesn't matter as much as the quality. Don't list the school newspaper if you were only there for one semester, but list the drama club if you became treasurer after four years of involvement.
  • The name of any graduate schools or study-abroad programs. Again, highlight your accomplishments and any notable grades or awards.

    Work Experience

  • List jobs that you have had in the last four to six years. This timeframe is flexible, but it's probably not going to help you to describe high school summer jobs unless they were law-related. An exception to this rule is when you are embarking on your second career and have considerable experience in a particular field. In this case, go by number of jobs rather than number of years -- list your last three to five jobs.
  • Don't think that you can impress people by piling on as much work experience as possible. This will take a lot of space and probably won't add substance to your resume. If the jobs were all in different fields, then it will simply look like you've been wandering through your employment without a plan. If the jobs were in similar fields, then you won't add anything by listing them all. Include the most important ones rather than the entry-level ones, and use the additional space for good descriptions.
  • If you have had varied work experience and many jobs, then you should ask yourself these questions: What will listing this job say about me as a litigator? Will it show that I can write or hold positions of authority or handle many tasks? Is the organization prestigious or at least well-known? Did I work there for a long time, showing my dedication? Is my supervisor at this job one of my references?
  • Under each job title, you should provide a brief description of your responsibilities and accomplishments. Use your judgment on what to list and make use of the available space. If you have listed five jobs, you won't have much space to elaborate. If you've only listed two, then feel free to go into more detail for each one. Be sure to phrase your descriptions so that they convey what you actually did. Don't say you were "in charge of" bank deposits, say you "supervised" or "handled" them. Whenever possible, use active verbs to describe your duties.

    Miscellaneous Accomplishments

  • You should leave at least a few lines to highlight any special skills you have. Of particular importance are language skills (be sure to note how proficient you are, and don't exaggerate!) and any special computer skills. Remember, you're competing with an elite group of people, so use this space carefully. Don't write "knowledge of many computer programs" or anything similarly obvious or vague. If you have special proficiency in anything -- you're an awarding-winning chef, a swimming champion or a licensed real estate broker -- feel free to put that down. Employers, contrary to popular belief, do want to know something about your personality. This is the place where you can give them an idea of who you are. If you don't have any special skills, it's perfectly acceptable to include a one-line list of your hobbies and interests.
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    Filed Under: Law

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