Now that you are getting closer and closer to completing law school, it’s time to start sending out resumes so that you can land your first job at a law firm. When doing so, there will be many aspects of it that will require close attention. Since the best law firms receive huge numbers of resumes from law school students, you’ll need to make yours stand out from the competition. To do so, include these five things in your resume.
Keep Your Resume Brief
Rather than tell your life story on your resume, keep it brief. One page is usually sufficient, but you can have two pages if you have additional experience that is relevant to the job. Law firms get a lot of resumes sent to them every day. In most cases, the longer your resume is, the more likely they are to just scan through your resume instead of actually reading it. Because of this, you should not only be brief with your resume, but also be concise. By getting full thoughts packaged into one sentence, you have a better chance of them actually reading through it.
Use an Easy-to-Read Format
Along with keeping your resume brief, also use a simple format so that the firm’s hiring manager can give it a quick scan and still get all of the information they want from it. If you send in a resume to a law firm, you want to make sure that your resume stands out. However, you don’t want to stand out because of poor design. Instead, use fonts that are easy to read and break each part into easy-to-understand sections. Instead of long paragraphs, try using bullet points, bold words, and headings so your resume is easy to read.
Emphasize Your Specialties and Skills
The beginning of your resume should have a lawyer profile or a summary statement that is different from the rest of your resume. This is the section where you can showcase your ability to make concise and persuasive arguments in court so make this section like your opening statement in a case. Instead of pleading innocent or guilty, however, this section is to argue why you would be a good fit for the law firm. It should include who you are, what law practice you are passionate about, and the expertise you can provide to help the firm’s success rate. Since law firms tend to specialize in certain areas of law such as personal injury, criminal law, or other areas, emphasize your specialties and skills on your resume. If you completed an internship or other special project in a certain specialty, note this on your resume, since this may get your foot in the firm’s door.
Use Action Verbs
When describing your previous experience or how well you handled class projects or other situations, using action verbs on your resume will make your efforts sound even better. Generic words like “participated,” “worked,” and “managed” are all words that take up space on your resume but they don’t showcase any story that makes you the way you are and perhaps better than other applicants. Also, some law firms use tracking systems that scan resumes for certain keywords, so keep this in mind. As for the best words to use, try incorporating such words as achieve, define, create, coordinate, implement, and execute into your resume as much as can reasonably be expected. You can also learn the type of language they are looking for by listening to what they say in the job description. If they mention things like they are interested in a team player or a leader, then you should include language like “mentored”, “collaborated”, or “directed” in your resume to showcase that competency. Another example would be if they want you to get things done on time or efficiently, then they are probably achievement-oriented and thus want to see language like “spearheaded,” “accelerated,” or “expedited” that show you are achievement-oriented as well. There are many lists of words like this online that you can use to dictate a more persuasive resume.
Only Include Relevant Work Experience
Even if you worked hard waiting tables to get through law school, don’t bother including this on your resume to a law firm unless you can argue in a few bullet points why it is relevant. Instead, only concentrate on your relevant work experience, such as a summer internship at a law firm. Also, if you served in the military, always include this, since this shows you are dedicated and service-oriented. If you’ve done pro bono work, then include a section in your resume to outline that work experience. In addition to showcasing the type of cases you’ve worked on, also showcase the results from this experience. For example, instead of saying that you helped a business create a contract for employees, consider saying something about the result of that contract such as protecting the business from employees taking proprietary information to competitors or from their future ventures. In addition to work experience, you will want to include details about any relevant education. This will include your law school and your ranking if it is impressive. However, it can also include your undergraduate degree if that proves to be relevant to the firm.
Rather than have your resume tossed into the reject pile, include these five keys on it instead. When you do, chances are you’ll be setting up an interview with a prestigious law firm.