Where to Place Your Law School in Your Attorney Resume
by Lancelot Larsen
It's important for law students and recent graduates to place their educational experience at the top because recruiters and employers are going to want to know where they are coming from and what they know.
If for some reason, in the more than three years you have been out of law school, you have not accumulated a lot of real legal experience to outshine your educational background, you may consider keeping your education section at the top for a couple more years — but it would be more prudent, of course, to consider garnering more legal experience to strengthen the overall effect of your resume. After you've been out of law school for 10 years, no one is going to care about what you did in college.
It's important for law students and recent graduates to place their educational experience at the top because recruiters and employers are going to want to know where they are coming from and what they know. If you are still in law school or just received your J.D., they are going to want to know that up front and, accordingly, what you can contribute. In most cases, obviously, law students and recent graduates don't have a lot of significant legal experience yet, and their legal education is their trump card.
Just be mindful of what specifications the firms or companies are looking for when you apply. If there is one skill you gained, specific course you took, certificate you earned, legal fraternity you joined, or mock trial you participated in during law school that is relevant to your search, definitely add that to your education section. CLE courses are also a big plus if you lack real legal experience.
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If you are a recent law graduate, your resume should not exceed one page. Period.
You might consider two pages if you completed a dozen legal internships throughout school at a broad range of employment venues and did a vast array of research, drafting, and court attending rather than simply filing, answering phones, and buying birthday gifts at Barnes & Noble. Even if this is true, you should still consider editing your resume for each potential employer so that it only includes relevant duties.
Even seasoned attorneys with more than 20 years of experience should consider one-page resumes since the hiring world is more demanding and fast-paced these days. Of course, every recruiter or employer is different personality-wise and works under different professional and personal conditions from day to day, but if he or she has a stack of resumes to skim in a short period of time, your one-page resume will more than likely be appreciated.
What to Include in Your Legal Education Section
universities, community colleges, and trade schools
the city and state of each school
your date of graduation — actual or anticipated (Writing both the month and the year is preferred, but writing the year alone is acceptable. Just consider consistency regarding how you approach dating your work experience and other details throughout your resume.)
the degree(s) you have earned (Majors are a must; minors can be included if relevant or spacing permits. If you graduated cum laude, place that between the degree and date. Degrees can be spelled out or abbreviated, but be consistent.)
honors programs and awards
university papers or journals — participation and/or publication
fraternities or sororities
related coursework or senior projects
special training, workshops, and seminars
Here's an example:
University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA Juris Doctor, May 2007
Dean's List: Spring 2005, Fall 2006
Member: Humanities Honors Society, Spring 2004-Spring 2007
Participant: Literary Debate League, Fall 2004
List months and years; days are not necessary. Writing "Jun. 2007-Dec. 2007" is specific, concise, and honest and won't raise any red flags for an employer. Writing "2007-2007" looks strange and doesn't really mean anything. If you worked at one job from "2006-2007" and your current one from "2007-Present," you can get away with that, but keep in mind that the persnickety employer will wonder if you quit your last job in January of 2007, went to the Bahamas for two seasons, and started your new job in September.
Your GPA should come first in a list of achievements under your school information.
Only list your GPA if you are a student or recent graduate. The longer you have been out of school and accumulating work experience, the more space you should be offering up from your education section to your experience section. The same applies to all other honorable mentions under your list of schools.
Only list your GPA if it's 3.0 or higher.
Only list your GPA if it's going to make sense to the employer. If your school did not use the standard scale, consider carefully how you will present your GPA.
If your GPA is not high enough and the employer requests it, you'll have to bite the proverbial bullet and spit it on there. Not doing so, of course, will have worse consequences, like indicating to the employer that you are hiding something or don't pay attention to directions.
Again, definitely include this information if you are a law student or recent graduate. List awards or honors programs using bullets underneath your school information. Mention "cum laude" honors after your degree/major.
Only mention that you started a program at a certain school if the study is applicable to your current chosen career. For example, if you started studying medicine and decided to earn a J.D. and want to put that in your resume, then you would write the school, city, and dates on one line and include a bullet underneath with a mention of your studies (e.g., "Studies included general medicine and health law").
Community Colleges and High Schools
Only mention community colleges if you are still in law school or are a recent graduate and you earned an A.A. in something relevant to your legal search (and you are trying desperately to fill blank space).
Only mention your high school if you are 100% certain that the person to whom you are sending your resume will be absolutely thrilled to discover that you were once a student there.