While you may have the skills and experience to get the best job in legal, if you don’t choose the right words or themes when preparing your resume, you could be overlooked by top law firms and corporate legal departments. It’s a fact that in order to apply for legal jobs, you must have a focused and precise approach. This approach starts with a spot-on resume. It should be easy to read and can easily catch the attention of any legal recruiter or employer.
Professionals should take great care to create professional resumes. However, a resume designed for legal professionals may be more reflective of a job applicant than for other professions. Legal professionals must be masters of words. Just as a mathematician can work with numbers, so must a lawyer. A law firm’s human resources team is skilled at weeding through resumes and eliminating those that are not of high quality.
There are three main formats for resumes: chronological (list job functions in chronological order), functional (where job functions are displayed in lieu of a chronological listing), and the combination of functional and chronological (where jobs are listed at the top of your resume and functions are listed below in laundry list fashion). The best format for you will depend on factors such as job stability and experience. These formats can be covered in a separate article. I will only highlight them here.
There are no rules that will tell you how to personalize your resume so that it grabs the attention of hiring authorities. Remember that every law firm and corporate legal department will have their own style and standards. Writing a resume is an art form as well as science. It is therefore important to create your own style when writing one. Employers will be attracted to a fresh resume and one that is “pops”. However, there are some key points to remember when putting together a resume. Below are a few of them:
1) Avoid common traps:
Professional resumes should be detail-oriented. This is also true for resumes for legal professionals.
Overdoing the details is one of the biggest mistakes in a resume. As it is often said, “too many of everything is worse than too few.” If you give too much detail about your achievements and accomplishments, it can make your resume difficult to read. You can also harm your professional reputation by trying to prove too much.
b) As we discussed in the previous paragraph about not trying hard enough, it is now time to talk about when people don’t provide the correct information or forget to include crucial details. Legal firms don’t just want to know if you are capable of doing your job. They also want to see how well you can do it. This inquiry requires that you emphasize the quality of your experiences and not just the quantity.
c) Spelling and grammar are the most important aspects of your resume. Even if you have a lot of skills and accomplishments, a single typo on your resume could ruin your chances of getting a job. Legal professionals are expected to be proficient in writing. Grammatical and spelling errors can prove fatal.
2) Focus on Achievements and Abilities:
Consider what you are most proud of and highlight it. Your resume is not an autobiography that lists everything you’ve done. It’s more of a summary of your professional achievements and collection of skills. Employers want to know what you have to offer now. Don’t mention accomplishments from more than 10 years ago. Focus on your most recent accomplishments and work products. Resumes that match the requirements of the employer are the best. It is strongly recommended that your resume be tailored to the job you are applying for.
3) Use the right words
If your resume is not written in your own voice, you’ll be rejected for lower-level jobs. Avoid using clichés such as team-player, selfstarter, motivated, and so on. These words make you sound too familiar. You want to stand out from the crowd and not be like them. As a legal professional, it is expected that you are motivated. Use words that express the essence of who you are and you will shine.
4) Make it attractive:
Your resume is your first impression to your potential employer. You will blend in with the crowd if you submit a “normal” job application. A visually appealing resume will give you an edge over your competition. Your resume should not be colored like a child’s playbook. It is about using your imagination and turning a piece of paper into something amazing. Professionally designed resumes will always be better than plain white paper with text on them. The cost of hiring a professional resume writer is negligible compared to the benefits.
5) Be honest:
If you boldly declare yourself “best in market”, a “born leader”, or a “visionary”, without providing the substance, it will raise questions about who you are. Ben Franklin once stated, “A well-done is better than a well-spoken.” Your past accomplishments will show the value of your skills. You won’t get a job in the legal industry if you try to reduce your resume. Being honest about who you are and what your abilities is will help you answer the questions. It will also set a positive background for you.