, one of the premier publications for general counsel, recently published some advice for sorting through that stack of resumes. This advice was directed to general counsel who are hiring.
Their conclusion? It's harder to find good attorneys in that stack of resumes because anyone good is not willing to jump ship in a time of economic uncertainty. The story also recommended taking a skeptical view of all resumes and applications and, thankfully for the job seeker, not letting HR do the initial screening.
The article brings up some hard truths. As a job seeker, you are competing with a lot of other job seekers. If you aren't careful, you will just be another name and resume in the crowd along with several others.
So how can you stand out?
Most people send out a hundred resumes to all of the jobs that sound remotely interesting. And when you do that, you have to realize that so has everyone else.
Instead of just submitting your resume to a bunch of places — law firms, corporations, etc. — think a bit. What skills is the company looking for? Corporations are looking for a different set of skills than a law firm position would use, so emphasize those skills.
The first big thing an in-house attorney must have is an interest in service. You can't really be the rock star in an in-house environment. In fact, if you want to be "the man," you won't be hired. The company wants you to provide a service for them, which involves team play. This means that you should include examples of how you can work on a team on your resume and in your cover letter.
An interest in business and the ability to organize are both important — more important than they are in the law firm atmosphere. As part of the legal department, you are just one of the departments in the corporation, not the reason for the corporation. This too relates to keeping your ego in check.
Since you are part of a corporate legal department, it's also important to realize that you won't focus on narrow legal issues, unlike a big law firm. That leads us to the next point: show how adaptable you are. It may be great if you are the best litigator alive, but unless you've applied to a truly huge company, if all you can do is litigate, you won't be hired. Emphasize your broad range of skills and interests.
Next, remember what you are there for: to help make the business succeed. That means trying to figure out how to get to "yes." The corporation doesn't care if you can spend 50 pages analyzing obscure legal doctrines — they want to know if they can build that new building. This leads to the third tip: show how you can be a business partner, not just a legal type.
Fourth, get actual client counseling skills. Even if you have to go pro bono to do so, you have to get actual advising skills. In this situation small firm lawyers or solo practitioners have an advantage over their Big Law brethren. Real-world experience is vital to a company, which is looking for someone who knows how to advise an organization. Serve on a commission, or volunteer with service organizations. In short, if you have experience advising or serving organizations, even if it is as pro bono Little League counsel for the local league, it helps tremendously. Remember: someone who can fit into a team that is looking to solve problems, not litigate them, is what a company is looking for.
So, to recap, tailor your resume to be specific to the company. Check your ego at the door, and show how you can be a team player. Emphasize your broad range of skills, not how great you are at just one thing. Show you can be a business partner, not just a person saying "No, we can't!" And finally, get real-world experience advising clients and organizations — face-to-face contact.
See 6 Things Attorneys and Law Students Need to Remove from Their Resumes ASAP If They Want to Get Jobs with the Most Prestigious Law Firms for more information.
By doing all of the above, you can stand out from the crowd of people dumping resumes on every company in three states. If you can network some as well, all the better.
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