Both your resume and cover letters are essentially your initial writing samples, aren’t they? They are the first thing an employer is likely to see about you, so make it count! Consider the information below when working on your resume and then schedule a meeting with the Career Development Office to review in detail.
Paint a Professional Picture
Resumes should be concise, error-free, well organized, clear, easy to read, and visually pleasing (i.e., not distracting). Keep in mind that the reader of your resume will probably spend no more than 30 seconds reviewing it. To be effective, it must be brief while still offering enough information to interest the employer. You can find more help online with Resume Tips and Samples.
Formatting Details: Most law student resumes should be one page in length, at least for the first few years and possibly into your first job after graduation. Use a standard font such as Times New Roman and a font size no smaller than 11 point with margins between .7 and 1.0.
Most importantly, be accurate with the information you include on your resume. Your integrity is one of your most important professional (and personal) traits, so do not compromise it. Plus, employers can – and will – verify information. There is no faster way to lose a job opportunity than to falsify your credentials.
In other industries and professions your resume may look different. Legal resumes are structured with 3-4 sections, each of which is briefly discussed below. Do not include extraneous items such as clip art, photos, text boxes, or other designs.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Your resume shows not only your experience thus far but also your accomplishments. Consider your target employer and what skills and experiences might be important to them. That means you may have slightly different resumes for different employers if they value unique skills and experiences. Find out as much as you can about the types of projects in which you would be involved if hired. Based on that information, determine which skills you should highlight. For example, are your writing and research skills most important, or your communication and presentation skills – make sure you are highlighting your relevant strengths.
The Make-Up of a Legal Resume
Your contact information. We recommend using your Drake e-mail address, but if you use a personal e-mail address it should sound professional. Be sure to check this e-mail account often and answer your calls once you start applying, as it may be an employer trying to reach you.
Degrees or anticipated degrees in reverse chronological order. Include honors and activities under the appropriate school entry. Often, items that occupied a lot of space on your college resume simply can be listed in this section without much explanation. Talk with CDO if you have questions about whether to include your grades, groups, or activities.
The experience section should list in reverse chronological order all relevant employment. Include the name of the employer, the location, and dates of employment. The dates you provide can be general (i.e., Summer 20XX) and need not state specific starting and end dates.
Highlight what you did, including any transferrable skills. Use action verbs in your job descriptions. For example, state “researched and wrote memoranda on issues of jurisdiction and venue,” not “involved in" or "assisted in" unless appropriate. Whenever possible, provide enough description so the potential employer learns something about the projects you worked on and the skills you developed.
As your resume grows, you may decide to leave out less relevant employment. For now, do not worry if you do not have any legal experience yet. As a new law student, you also may not have much in the way of professional experience, which is fine! Remember that employers are looking for other experiences too, including ones that show resilience, dedication, innovation, or just old fashioned hard work. Think about what experiences you do have—did you develop leadership skills, analytical ability, or public speaking proficiency? Did your employer entrust you with more responsibility over time? If so, be sure your descriptions reflect that information.
This section may have different titles or content depending on what type of information you want to include, such as hobbies or interests, additional skills or certifications, foreign language proficiency, or community service. This section is not required.
We asked employers to share their advice on the job search You can find all of the excellent tips at Advice from the Experts, but below is advice specific for your resume.