Regardless of which industry you’re in, having a flawless and professional resume is imperative to getting your foot in the door. This is especially true in the field of law.
Lawyers are held to a higher standard, among themselves but also by clients who retain their services. Thus, details that may go unnoticed in other fields or industries are actually magnified in the field of law. Keep this in mind as you write your resume. You’re not aiming to write a “good” resume. You’re aiming to write a top-notch one.
Here are some resume tips to help you gain an edge:
Make It Count
Firstly, the most important parts of your resume should jump out at the recruiter. Every word should serve the purpose of showing why you're the best candidate for the job.
Be eloquent. As a lawyer, you’re expected to have impeccable writing skills.
Depending on your experience, it’s ok for your resume to be two pages, but always make sure it’s concise and to the point. Endless amount of waffle will simply put your reader off.
Tell the Truth and Nothing But the Truth
Never exaggerate your skills and experience on your resume. When illustrating your skills, always be specific and back them up with concrete examples.
Be ready to defend those details with clear facts and figures. After all, if the recruiter is particularly impressed, they may question you further at the interview stage.
Lawyers have a flair for exaggerations. If you exaggerate, they will notice it, if not right away, then during the job interview. Further, the legal community is small, so it wouldn’t be surprising if the recruiting law firm or department makes a few phone calls to have a better sense about you.
Tailor Your Resume to the Job
When writing your resume, always tailor it to the specific position you're applying to.
Focus on your area(s) of specialization. That’s what adds value.
Most candidates will see a job title they like, skim through the requirements and send their resume over without even double-checking to see if they’ve highlighted all the relevant experience.
Don’t be like most candidates. Be the 1% that has fully read the job description, understood the requirements and is able to demonstrate that they hold the relevant skills and experience.
Depending on the position and years of experience required for the specific position, you’ll either be expected to run with the file or have meetings with clients. These expectations may not be stated in the job posting, but they remain nevertheless. Make sure to address any underlying expectations that come with the position you’re applying to.
If you have information that’s no longer relevant, remove it. Be ruthless and remember that every last word should serve the purpose of getting you the job.
Examine Your Social Media
With resumes often linking to social media profiles, just be conscious that whatever you're saying online needs to reflect the professional attitude you want to convey.
Therefore, if you have anything that’s considered inflammatory, then perhaps remove it or revert to a social media profile that only exhibits a professional outlook.
Law firms need to cultivate their image in order to project integrity and preserve trust. Although some firms may be more progressive, the legal profession remains relatively conservative.
Focus on the Formatting
Substance matters, but so does form. Your resume needs to be well-written and look professional. Ensure that you break up each paragraph with appropriate spacing and add a few bullet points to help make it easier for the reader to digest the information.
Choose a font that looks professional and is easy to read, such as Calibri, Arial or Times New Roman. Make sure your font size is appropriate too (i.e., usually 11 or 12 points).
Formatting your resume shows that you can present your skills in a professional manner and makes it easier for the recruiter to identify whether you’re the right fit for the role.
It comes down to how detail-oriented you are. Some lawyers are very nit-picky… and they should be!
Raise the Bar on Your Resume
If you’re a recent graduate, some resume writers recommend you only include your GPA if it’s above 3.0. However, having no GPA on your resume looks suspicious, so why not back up your results with any relevant extracurricular activities or affiliated organisations you’re part of?
Boasting about your scholarly achievements and awards helps to raise the bar on your resume.
The legal profession is competitive and it starts as early as law school. Focus on your edge. If you don’t have the grades, compensate with something else.
Always fine tune your resume to each position you apply to and put yourself in the shoes of the person who will be reading it. Keep in mind that the person reading your resume may not always have a legal background. It could very well be that the first stage of screening is done by someone in HR. Thus, always write clearly for everyone to understand.