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Power Attorney Resume Formats

published January 29, 2013

By Author - LawCrossing
Published By
( 117 votes, average: 4.7 out of 5)
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Sample Resumes for Every Situation

There are many formats from which to choose when writing your resume. The most common in the legal community is the chronological format, which lists your educational background and work experience in reverse chronological order. This style is excellent for someone with a solid work history. Another frequently used format is the functional style. This style is best for someone who has great skills but a not-so-strong employment history. The functional resume emphasizes abilities and experience rather than consistency or longevity in job history. Functional resumes are not popular because they can be confusing. However, if you've been a "job hopper" but now want to make a long-term commitment, the functional style presents you in the best light.
Click Here to Read BCG Attorney Search’s Guide to Corporate and Finance Job Search Categories for More Information.


Personal Identification Data Personal identification data is the introduction to your resume. Therefore, you do not need to use "resume" or "curriculum vitae" as a title. Your resume must include the following information, usually in the center, at the top of the page:
  • name (in capital letters)
  • address (street, apartment number, city, state and zip code)
  • home telephone number, including area code
  • optional business or message telephone, including area

Limit telephone numbers listed to two. If you do not have an answering machine, now is the time to buy one. Busy employers become frustrated if they are unable to reach you. In this competitive job market, a missed call is a lost opportunity.

Career Title

Listing a career title tells the employer that you want the job being offered. This optional part of your resume appears below your personal identification data. A career title, such as Litigation Paralegal, Corporate Legal Assistant or Litigation Support Specialist, to name just a few, should be CAPITALIZED or in listed in bold face type. It should be positioned two lines below the personal data.

A career title is an excellent way for entry-level paralegals to indicate their specialty area. It may also be used in place of a career or professional objective as described in the next section.

Career or Professional Objective

Your career objective tells the employer what kind of position you are seeking and what your interests and short-term goals are. It must be clear, concise and no longer than three lines. This section is optional, because it doesn't really add much to your resume. A career title is sufficient. Most recruiters do not bother to read the objective, and if it is poorly written, it will detract from your resume.

Here are a few suggested career objectives. Be sure to write your own objective, using these suggestions as references.
  • To secure a litigation paralegal position where my abilities in communication, research and writing are used.
  • To obtain a position as a corporate legal assistant that offers the opportunity for increased responsibilities and use of my organizational and communication skills.
  • To obtain a probate paralegal position that uses my organizational, analytical and communication skills.
  • To secure a challenging legal assistant position that fully incorporates my litigation experience and provides continued growth and greater responsibility.

Do not use vague objectives like, "I am looking for a position that will use my education."

Summary of Experience

If you've had a long or established career in another field, it might be worthwhile to summarize your experience at this point. Place the summary which should be no more than five lines just after your career or professional objective. The summary should be concise and to the point, using language not repeated elsewhere. Include your strengths, skills, years of experience and areas of expertise. For example: "Six years of supervisory experience with a major electronics firm specializing in the production of widgets."

Educational Background

Attorneys place great emphasis on education. That is why, as an entry-level paralegal with no experience, you must list your educational background first on your resume. Attorneys relate well to good educational backgrounds. They will not react as well to a field unrelated to legal, and are likely to dismiss your resume. An entry-level paralegal's resume with a B.A. and certificate listed first will be more favorably viewed than the very same candidate whose resume shows experience as a receptionist first, and then lists a B.A. and certificate.
Include all post-high school education in reverse chronological order. Do not include information about high school Begin with your most recent degree or certificate. If you are still attending school, list that information first. For each entry, include:
  • the name of the institution
  • the location, if it not reflected in the name of the school
  • the dates you attended, your date of graduation or expected graduation in years only, not months (i.e., 1991 to 1994, not January 1991 to May 1994)
  • the degree and/or certificate awarded
  • your major and/or minor areas of study
  • your grade point average if it is above a B+
  • any honors or distinctions you have been awarded

Include postgraduate and continuing education courses that reflect your preparation for the kind of work you are seeking. If you are looking for your first paralegal job, you may want to include the paralegal curricula.

You can divide your education into categories, such as those found in the following example.

Sample Educational Background

Graduate Studies
  • University of Paralegal Studies, Denver, ABA-approved
  • Certificate, Honors, 1989
  • [list specific courses here]

Undergraduate Studies
  • University of California at Los Angeles, 1990
  • Bachelor of Arts in English, cum laude

Continuing Education
  • Continuing Legal Education, Texas Bar Association, 1991
  • Fast Track Litigation, Practicing Law Institute, Houston, 1988-1991
  • Various seminars on the litigation process, 1989-1991

HOT TIP: The exception to the ''education first" rule applies only to those career changers who are seeking a paralegal position in a specialty directly related to their work history. For example, a pharmacist seeking a position as a medical malpractice paralegal, or a savings and loan director seeking a position in banking litigation, should definitely list their experience first.

Skills, Abilities and Qualifications

Describe the paralegal skills you have gained through your experience or schooling, along with other relevant qualifications. If you have not attended a paralegal program, list seminars and courses you have taken that emphasize paralegal skills. For example, former real estate sales people can list their training and licenses.

Be sure to list management, supervisory and leadership skills as well as other personal qualities. Busy law firms look for legal assistants who can work independently, those who have great attention to detail, and people who can work well under pressure. If these qualities describe you, you should advertise them!

Refer to your personal skills assessment for additional abilities. Be sure to include computer experience or skills. Do not mention secretarial skills such as typing, filing, and answering phones, unless you want to use them in your work.
Don't confuse typing with "keyboarding," which refers to the use of a computer keyboard. Computer experience is a very important asset for new legal assistants. You can highlight this asset by creating a separate section on your resume to list your computer skills:

Examples of Computer Background Listings
  • Computer skills; Programming ability, dBase IV experience, knowledge of WordPerfect 5.1, Microsoft Word, and Lotus 1-2-3.
  • Special skills; Macintosh, NBI, data input, experience with search and retrieval databases.

If you've lived in another country, it would be appropriate to include such information. Don't forget to add any foreign language abilities,

Examples of Skills and Abilities Listings
  • Background skills include supervision, administration and organization; verbal and written communication; decision making and problem solving; evaluation, interviewing, analysis and organization of data; editing and proofreading.
  • Personal attributes include maturity, stability and assertiveness.
  • Experience includes knowledge of basic legal concepts, procedures and sources of legal research.
  • Abilities include the analyzing and drafting of documents and pleadings including complaints, answers, demurrers, motions legal briefs; managing files, indexing documents and records; summarizing documents and depositions; cite-checking cases, compiling and verifying citations; and identifying and reviewing decisions for relevance to the issue at hand.
  • Other abilities include handling the paperwork and procedures to form and dissolve corporations; preparing minutes; drafting agreements relating to incorporations; analyzing profit and loss statements; drafting wills and lifetime trusts; and computing federal income taxes.

You should also include skills or experience in accounting, bookkeeping, real estate or journalism. Include attendance at any courses like business law. Mention all skills you've acquired that relate to the legal profession. Be creative, and be careful not to repeat yourself.

Professional Experience or Employment

Begin with your most recent job and work backwards in a reverse chronological order. If you have limited work experience, emphasize the skills and abilities you have gained through your education. However, you should include some work history even if it's just a volunteer position or part-time employment while you were in college. If possible, show the relevance of your previous jobs to legal work. Detail only the last four or five positions that you've had in the last ten years.

For each entry, include:
  • dates (years only) of employment
  • job title
  • name of employer
  • location (if this is not reflected in the name of the employer)
  • a concise and pertinent job description

Use the present tense for current jobs and action verbs ending in "ing" to describe your current experience. These verbs add dynamism to your resume. Your description must be to the point—usually no longer than five lines.

Writing Compelling Job Descriptions

Below is a list of questions that may help you in composing your job descriptions.
  • Have you ever been a supervisor or manager?
  • Can you give any examples of having helped your company or firm grow?
  • Can you give any examples of how you saved money for the company?
  • Can you show that you were promoted rapidly?
  • Did you receive any other form of recognition that would show your ability? For example, did your salary increase substantially within a year or two? Express this in percentages, if possible.
  • What have you done that you will be doing as a paralegal? This can include writing reports, performing research, dealing directly with clients and organizing documents.

In describing previous jobs, try to avoid repeating duties that you've mentioned previously. An employer is likely to favor applicants who have had some diversity of experience. To make this section of your resume more compelling, use a variety of action verbs to describe your jobs. An Action Word List is included in this section for your assistance.

No Legal Experience No Problem

If your present or past employers are not law firms and the company names are not well known, you should include a description of about the size and scope of each company's business. For example:
  • Retail firm with $3.8 million in annual sales
  • Largest real estate development company in Riverside County
  • National nonprofit organization founded in 1975; based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Other Activities and Interests

This section should include legal professional organizations (such as your local paralegal association), volunteer activities (if not already listed), relevant hobbies, professional licenses or credentials (such as real estate or teaching).

Never include religious, fraternal or political organizations. Paralegal managers will sometimes look at your outside interests to see how those interests parallel the firm's needs or personality, particularly if your work history does not provide this match. A number of legal assistant managers say that these activities and outside interests can be helpful in determining if a candidate will be a good match with the firm. Dana L. Graves, former legal assistant manager for a firm in Los Angeles, liked people who had eclectic interests and showed a sense of humor in the descriptions of their outside interests. Dianna Musciannisi, paralegal administrator for Crowe & Day, looks for people who demonstrate leadership abilities through organizations such as the PTA or other volunteer groups. Debra Greenberg, paralegal administrator at Boston's prestigious Hale & Dorr, searches for legal assistants with an interest in writing, especially people who have been published or have written for college journals.

Two important reasons why you should consider the functional resume format rather than the chronological are: gaps in employment and "job hopping."
  • If you have unexplained discrepancies or gaps in employment, this format will not emphasize your job history.
  • If you have changed jobs every year or even more often, using the functional resume will not highlight this fault.

A pattern of gaps in employment (or "job hopping"), will land your resume in the pile of "also rans" very quickly. For this reason, as a new paralegal, you should consider staying with a new job a minimum of one year unless you have another (and better) job offer. Firms prefer to see two to three years on a job. They do not want to invest in training someone only to have that person leave. On the other hand, changing jobs every two to five years can indicate an enterprising individual on the move, and this pattern of change is considered normal in today's job market.

Personal Information Data

The functional style uses the same personal information format as the chronological style.

Career Title or Professional Objective

The career title or professional objective on a functional style resume is the same as that used in the chronological style.

Educational Background

The educational portion of the functional resume is also the same as is used in the chronological style.

Skills and Abilities

This section is the focus of your functional resume. It must outshine your weak job history, so prepare it carefully. Condense all of your experience into three or four pertinent categories that are related to the legal field. A list of possible subjects appears below. Use action verbs to describe your experience, but do not repeat yourself. Think of law-related topics you have studied and apply them to your current skills, such as writing, supervising or managing experience. This is also the section where you should detail your computer background. The format must be brief and easy to read. Each part of the resume should have no more than three sentences. Remember, the resume will be read in about thirty seconds or less, so you need to highlight your accomplishments.

Skills and Abilities Category Paragraph Ideas

Writing abilities:
  • What documents have you drafted or prepared?
  • Have you written any brochures, booklets or pamphlets?
  • Have you corresponded with clients or customers?

Supervision experience:
  • Have you hired or fired employees?
  • Have you supervised or trained employees in projects?
  • Have you taught?

Management experience:
  • Have you supervised a group or division of a company?
  • Have you been given particular projects or suggestions upon which you must act?
  • Have you organized or coordinated activities?

Administrative skills:
  • Have you delegated responsibilities?
  • Have you had responsibility for company funds?
  • Do you work with attention to detail?

Organizational abilities:
  • Have you ever founded a group?
  • Are you in charge of a particular division in your company?
  • Have you designed or modified office systems?

When drafting this section, you should use dynamic, action verbs rather than dull verbs like "work" and "do." Action verbs will add a sense of vitality to your resume. For example, instead of listing "research skills/' write "researching and analyzing data." Remember to use the present tense for your current position and past tense for prior positions. The additional skills and abilities categories listed below will add "zip" to your functional resume:
  • analyses
  • coordination
  • drafting
  • instruction
  • investigation
  • negotiation
  • operation
  • programming
  • research

Professional Experience

The professional experience section of your resume should contain-in reverse chronological order-all the positions you have held for the past ten years. Include the following information:
  • the name of the company
  • its location
  • your title
  • dates of employment using years rather than months

Action Words for Winning Resumes
  • Management
  • planned
  • revised
  • executed
  • retained
  • exceeded
  • unified
  • headed
  • operated
  • directed
  • conducted
  • managed
  • undertook
  • enacted
  • set up
  • governed
  • contracted
  • organized
  • supervised
  • obtained
  • produced
  • responsible for
  • administered
  • coordinated
  • established
  • took charge of
  • controlled
  • implemented
  • maintained

Methods and Controls
  • installed
  • clarified
  • indexed
  • completed
  • budgeted
  • compiled
  • prepared
  • compared
  • focused
  • correlated
  • analyzed
  • catalogued
  • scheduled
  • increased
  • computed
  • reviewed
  • revised
  • formulated
  • detailed
  • examined
  • enlarged
  • arranged
  • decreased
  • expanded
  • reduced
  • verified
  • extracted
  • simplified
  • systematized
  • distributed
  • synthesized
  • accelerated
  • reorganized
  • restructured
  • redesigned
  • programmed

Public Relations Human Relations
  • hired
  • guided
  • harmonized
  • monitored
  • wrought
  • grouped
  • counseled
  • fostered
  • sponsored
  • led
  • delegated
  • advised
  • handled
  • employed
  • interviewed
  • integrated
  • trained
  • motivated
  • mentored
  • rewarded

  • inspired
  • innovated
  • designed
  • devised
  • resolved
  • formed
  • excelled
  • effected
  • created
  • reshaped
  • conceived
  • enabled
  • solved
  • affected
  • skilled
  • converted
  • invented
  • developed
  • refined
  • founded
  • abstracted
  • transformed
  • performed
  • constructed
  • structured
  • originated
  • formulated
  • summarized

  • sparked
  • marketed
  • represented
  • generated
  • provided
  • influenced
  • recruited
  • secured
  • improved
  • tailored
  • promoted
  • convinced
  • persuaded
  • recommended
  • honored
  • actively engaged
  • accounted for
  • was instrumental
  • played a key role
  • cultivated

  • moderated
  • facilitated
  • served as
  • edited
  • counseled
  • conveyed
  • presented
  • wrote
  • instructed
  • demonstrated
  • advocated
  • linked
  • straightened
  • presided
  • approved
  • consulted
  • championed
  • substantiated
  • participated in
  • reunited
  • interviewed
  • disseminated
  • exemplified
  • instilled

  • investigated
  • justified
  • proposed
  • sorted
  • assured
  • evaluated
  • mediated
  • negotiated
  • bargained
  • engineered
  • determined
  • compromised

  • succeeded
  • Rectified
  • overcame
  • eliminated
  • achieved
  • Doubled
  • digested
  • executed
  • inaugurated
  • initiated
  • awarded
  • won
  • identified
  • undertook
  • earned
  • fulfilled
  • realized
  • launched
  • trebled
  • halved
  • trimmed
  • pioneered
  • diverted
  • expedited
  • perfected
  • gained
  • attained
  • researched
  • strengthened
  • explored
  • accomplished
  • advanced
  • surpassed
  • supplanted
  • engineered
  • cultivated

published January 29, 2013

By Author - LawCrossing
( 117 votes, average: 4.7 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.