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Get the Legal Job That You Desire

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Cover letters and resumes are sales techniques designed to pro mote applicants to employers through their knowledge of the industry, company, or organization, and job responsibilities. Interviews are the candidates' in-person sales opportunity. What are candidates' selling? Themselves. When you seek employment, you must sell yourself to the employer. As an entry-level candidate, you may do this by concentrating on the position available and your qualifications for it, as a salesman focuses on a product being sold. The more experience, training, and education you have, the more you will be expected to know about the industry and the firm or organization. The better your sales job during the resume and interview process, the more the tables will turn and the employer will try to sell you on the position. Only after you have sold yourself to an employer will salary and benefits be discussed.

Get the Legal Job That You Desire



Create A Powerful First Impression: Resumes And Cover Letters

Your cover letter and resume tell a story about you. You will be evaluated constantly from the time your resume is reviewed and throughout your tenure with a firm or organization. Upon preliminary review of candidates for a position, most employers will read cover letters, and then review the employer names and former job titles contained in the resumes. If this seems accept able, they will then look to see how long the candidate was employed at each position. Then, if this preliminary review shows a viable candidate, they will study the objective statement. When a candidate s cover letter and resume pass these inspection stages, an employer will read candidate resumes in more detail.

When potential employers review stacks of resumes, they form an initial opinion about each candidate based upon their resume and cover letter. They base their opinion, not only on the substantive content of candidates' resumes, but also on formatting, grammar, punctuation, and writing style. Obviously, if the formatting is unattractive and you use improper grammar and punctuation, it is unlikely you will get an interview. For example, if you use improper verb tense in a sentence such as, "I been a secretary for 3 years," a prospective employer will likely think you are uneducated and unprofessional. This may lead to a more detailed belief that you would produce sloppy work, not pay attention to details, and look for ineffective shortcuts. Not only does the improper verb tense in the sentence support this belief, but also, this belief is supported by the fact that you did not even take the time to spell out the number three in the cover letter. In order to get a new job, you must not only avoid these errors at the onset, but throughout your employment.

During the employer’s analysis of your cover letter and resume, your grammar and punctuation must be impeccable.
The more professional the position for which you apply, the narrower the margins should be. Candidates for legal positions should set their mar gins at three-quarters of an inch instead of 1 inch to create a more professional
appearance.

Be sure to use American spellings instead of British. For example, use the American spelling "judgment" instead of the British spelling "judgement."

Resumes should contain parallel structures and consistent formatting between headings and lists of job responsibilities. For each job responsibility, you should use parallel structure in that nouns, power action verbs, and modifiers are in the same location for each bulleted item.

The appearance and graphics design of your resume and cover Letter are important aesthetic considerations. If done appropriately, candidates with little or no experience can show a potential employer through the quality of their cover letters and resumes that they are indeed well versed and proficient with word processing skills needed for the position.

Because the legal profession tends to be conservative, your resume and cover letter should contain conservative fonts such as Times New Roman (the quintessential classic legal font). New Century Schoolbook, Padua, and Bookman. The graphics design chosen for your cover letter and letterhead, as well as resume, may be served by using different fonts in a consistent pattern or format.

Take time and care to develop a letterhead with your personal address for your correspondence with prospective employers. This adds a polished and professional touch.

The use of graphic lines vertically and horizontally will ensure that different areas of your resume stand out, but they are not necessarily required. There are many resources for drafting effective resumes and cover letters. You should review them with the conservative nature of the legal profession in mind.

Objective Statements in General

Objective statements are generally addressed in cover letters and need not necessarily be used in a resume, unless effectively used to summarize the cover letter in one sentence. Before drafting a cover letter, you should draft an objective statement that will summarize the content of your cover letter in one sentence. Many applicants draft inappropriate objective statements that do not reiterate the content of their cover letters. These candidates generally draft poor cover letters as well. In a cover letter, you should state how your past activities show that you can fulfill position requirements and that you are professionally enthusiastic about discussing the position further. Cover letters and resumes are a prospective employer's first impression of you; make the presentation a powerful one.

When your resume objective states, "I would like employment with a stable and reputable firm," the prospective employer begins to formulate opinions about you. With this objective, you could be perceived as self-interested. Perhaps you feel you are stable and reputable so you seek the same in an employer. You did not convey this. The objective statement should not be drafted in such a way that you appear self-absorbed and only interested in what an employer can offer you. The objective statement should succinctly state what you want in a position and why you are entitled to it, as explained in more detail in your cover letter.

This objective statement may also indicate your failure to investigate the firm or organization. It must fit the firm or organizational profile and state what you have to offer. If the employer is a brand new firm in its infancy, there may be much growth opportunity, but the stability and reputation may be uncertain. You may be perceived as unwilling to help develop the firm, since the objective statement indicates the foremost consideration-the desire for an established employer. Such an employer could perceive that you really want a big firm environment. You would probably not receive an interview in this case, since your objective does not fit the firm or organizational profile, and obviously you did not investigate the employer.

Some employers advertise for positions through bar journals and news papers that contain blind post office box addresses. In these cases, you cannot adequately investigate the employer to tailor your submissions, and you will have limited knowledge of the skills and responsibilities required. If you tailor your experiences to what you know about the position requirements, however, you will not exclude yourself from consideration. Objective statements should not personalize the potential employer, but focus on the position and firm opportunities.

Objective Statements for Entry-Level Positions

An effective objective statement for an entry-level position might read, "Because I have a history of reliability and dedication, I seek a challenging and rewarding position with opportunity for increased responsibility as my expertise increases." This objective statement says much about w4iat you have to offer and explains the type of position you are seeking. An employer who reads this will believe that you can support a history of reliability and dedication and therefore, can offer the same to the employer. Also, the employer will know you want to meet challenges and reap rewards by successfully facing them.

This objective statement also indicates that you are looking for a long-term position with promotional opportunities that come as your expertise develops. The first part of the objective statement indicates confidence in your most emphasized qualities of reliability and dedication; the end of the objective statement indicates that you are humble and willing to work to earn promotions. This type of statement may be effectively used by an applicant seeking only an entry-level position. If you have experience, focus on your one or two best abilities and why you are entitled to the position you seek. Remember to be honest about this because if you are not, you will be found out and your employer will feel cheated.

Past Employment Details

Legal professionals should provide employment details tailored to position requirements. Beginning with a base resume of work history and duties, you should compare them with those posted for the position. Then you should consider whether you had the same or similar duties in any past positions. If so, you wall be in good shape. If not, you should rethink the scope of responsibilities with prior employers and see if there is some overlap of responsibilities. Ask yourself what problems you faced with prior employers and how you overcame those problems. You may also consider what accomplishments you had and how you managed them. Effective communications skills may be shown through any previous experiences, as can the ability to multitask. If you had no law-related experience, you should concentrate and focus your resume content on how you exhibited the personal characteristics generally required for the position you are seeking.

Arranging the Resume

When drafting a resume, you should view it as the script you would like the interviewer to follow. Bite-sized tidbits of work-related accomplishments are generally preferred. You should arrange the content of your resume chronologically, if you have relevant experience, or in order of priority, if you have little or no direct experience. How you choose to arrange your resume will depend a great deal on the amount of education and experience you have had. For example, if you have had no education beyond high school, you may want to exclude such a reference in your resume. If you have no job experience, but a wide range of extracurricular activities and experience, you may want to highlight your accomplishments in those activities.

Cyber Resumes

Cyber resumes generally contain no formatting. Usually, Fortune 1000 companies have computerized applicant tracking systems that require resumes to have little or no formatting. The conservative formatting of legal resumes, exclusive of any graphic design lines, is highly likely to be scannable; more creative graphics design efforts will not be.

Cyber resumes and resumes scanned into computerized applicant tracking systems must contain the appropriate keywords that an employer selects based on a job description in order for the candidates to be selected as a potential interviewee. Without enough buzz words in a resume, the computerized tracking system will not select it for consideration. Aspiring legal professionals should demonstrate their legal skills through their past academic history, work experience, extracurricular activities, hobbies, and personal lives. By learning what legal skills are and demonstrating them in resumes and interviews, legal professionals can avoid employment rejection.

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.


About Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes is the founder of LawCrossing and an internationally recognized expert in attorney search and placement. Harrison is extremely committed to and passionate about the profession of legal placement. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. LawCrossing has been ranked on the Inc. 500 twice. For more information, please visit Harrison Barnes’ bio.

About LawCrossing
LawCrossing has received tens of thousands of attorneys jobs and has been the leading legal job board in the United States for almost two decades. LawCrossing helps attorneys dramatically improve their careers by locating every legal job opening in the market. Unlike other job sites, LawCrossing consolidates every job in the legal market and posts jobs regardless of whether or not an employer is paying. LawCrossing takes your legal career seriously and understands the legal profession. For more information, please visit www.LawCrossing.com.

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Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

Harrison also does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for law firms, companies, and others who hire attorneys each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

You can browse a list of past webinars here: Webinar Replays

You can also listen to Harrison Barnes Podcasts here: Attorney Career Advice Podcasts

You can also read Harrison Barnes' articles and books here: Harrison's Perspectives


Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.

Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.

To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.

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