These tips are from, Lisa Breiland, Branch Director of Robert Half Legal (roberthalflegal.com) in Minneapolis:
What is different about legal resumes?
Legal resumes are concise and very structured. When developing a resume, individuals who are entering the legal profession should focus heavily on academic successes and involvement within the legal community, such as summer internships, clerkships, pro bono and volunteer work. For tenured legal professionals, specific experience, such as practice area expertise and skills, should be the primary focus and be listed before education.
What do employers look for in legal resumes? What things help the candidate stand out?
Employers look at academic successes throughout the individual’s time in law school, including the school attended, special honors and involvement. They’re also looking at the caliber of firms or corporations worked for and proficiency with technology. Resumes should be formatted consistently with all positions and education listed in the same order, making it easy to read and analyze. A candidate only has about 30 seconds to catch the attention of a potential employer who’s reviewing a resume, so it should be concise and kept to one page, if possible.
What's hot right now as far as technology needed, skills or experience? What can help today's job seeker really show they are the right candidate through their resume?
In litigation, it’s important to be proficient with document and case management tools, such as Summation, Concordance and TrialDirector. Support level candidates should also be proficient with MS Office Suite. In transactional areas, candidates should have experience working in a contract management database or similar platforms. Knowledge of e-discovery-related software is a plus.
Formatting a legal resume: What's the best way to format a legal resume?
Most employers in the legal field prefer a reverse chronological format, with your most recent experience/education listed first. Clearly outline your employer, location, dates of employment, job title and what you did in that specific role. Don’t simply list your responsibilities – this is your opportunity to illustrate your accomplishments and how you contributed to the bottom line at each law firm or corporation at which you’ve worked. Quantify results using specific terms to show how it helped win a case or benefit the client/corporation.
What to avoid in a legal resume:
- TYPOS! Legal professionals are known for having an eye for detail, so don’t let a careless typo diminish your credibility and jeopardize your chances with a law firm or corporation.
- Avoid listing your personal interests, political affiliation and marital status.
- There’s no need to include a photo of yourself.
- A legal resume should be very succinct and straightforward, so refrain from using color or graphics.
- Regarding your education, stick to college and law school(s) attended; we don’t recommend including your high school education or any schooling/degree that was never completed.
- Lastly, avoid generalities and repetitive verbiage.
Legal resume tips: What other unique tips, thoughts, tips do you have that aren't covered above?
- It’s important to customize your resume for the intended audience. For example, are you targeting law firms or corporate legal departments? As with any resume, you’ll want to modify your resume accordingly and highlight skills and experience that best fits with the organization and the position for which you’re applying.
- For candidates who have experience in another industry, that experience should be highlighted separately and after relative legal experience.
- Ensure consistency of tenses.
- Use a variety of active verbs to describe your experience.
- Do not include a “skills cloud” in your resume. This is a separate area of bulleted skills you possess, typically at the top of your resume. Skills and expertise should be listed under each position, where the skill was honed.
If these tips help, but you think you might still struggle writing your resume, contact Matt Krumrie, an expert legal resume writer. Email Matt Krumrie for more information or check out the Hire Matt section of this site for more details.