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Presentation of the C.V. and the Role of Referees for Job Prospects of Law Graduates

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The final aspect of your C.V. is its presentation. You want a C.V. that aims to make an impression but that does not mean that you should use luminous green paper in order to achieve this. Bearing in mind that the legal profession is a fairly traditional and orthodox profession, unless you know that the firm to which you are applying considers it to be progressive, trendy and ahead of the crowd, it is probably safer to follow a fairly conventional approach to the presentation of your C.V. That said, there are some small efforts which you can make which will pay dividends. One aspect which few people consider is the need to provide a C.V. on good quality paper. Do not print it out on flimsy see-through sheets. Rather, buy the best quality bond paper that you can and print out a C.V. for each separate application. Photocopies of your principal C.V. will often detract from the overall effect as there may be shadings and markings on the copies which spoil the presentation.

In being distinctive try to avoid too much hype. It is important to bring out the skills which you have, but be careful how you make use of the current trend for a personal "profile" dominating the front page of the C.V., as without care, this can become too glaring and overwhelming. Bold typeset which declares that you are a "dynamic, energetic, innovative and creative high-flyer seeking a well-paid position" might not have the desired effect. While it indicates that you are a confident and ambitious person, not every employer will share your liking for such inflated use of adjectives. More particularly, if you want to claim that you are dynamic, energetic and innovative-and there is often a place for that-then you must substantiate it. Give the employer evidence for these claims. What have you achieved that is listed in your C.V. that demonstrates you genuinely are dynamic, energetic or innovative. This is one of the key weaknesses of many C.V.s. People make claims that they are committed, dedicated, energetic, hardworking, etc., but they do not tell the employer why they are justified in making those claims. It may be perfectly appropriate to offer a self-analysis of this sort, but you need to provide illustrations of how you have been committed, dedicated, energetic and hardworking. This might mean explaining that you were responsible for introducing a new policy to your sports club; or that you were the secretary and treasurer of two separate clubs while undertaking your degree; or that you were a member of the Staff/Student Liaison Committee during your undergraduate years which pushed through innovative policies to assist students; or that you held down an evening job entailing 20 hours a week during your degree.

Finally, a comment on sports and other leisure interests. Employers are often interested in what you do in your spare time as it may reveal whether you are a gregarious person, a team player, a competitive person, a risk-taker or a disciplined person. Someone who spends their weekends rock-climbing or hang-gliding will have a different personality than someone who inhabits art galleries or plays bridge. But any or all of these reveal something about a person's willingness to take risks or socialize. Employers will want to be confident that you are going to be able to attract clients, bring in business, and work equally well on your own or in teams. Aspects of your C.V. that reassure recruiters on these points will be to your advantage.


Whether you are completing an application form or preparing your own C.V. you are likely to have to give the names and contact details of at least two referees. Some forms specifically ask for an academic referee and another, either personal or employer, referee. The academic referee will be someone in your law school who can speak about your exam results and general involvement in the course. Normally this would be your adviser of studies. If there is a particular reason why you do not wish to choose that person then be sure to find another academic who is willing to provide a reference and talk it over with them in advance of citing them as referees. There is little that is more irritating to a referee than to find that your name has been given as a referee without any prior request or information being supplied by the student. "Speaking personally, I am very happy to provide references for my students. I do so on dozens of occasions each year. I cannot, though, do so to the best of my ability unless my students supply me with an up to date C.V. and, preferably details of why they have applied for this particular job and what they expect to be able to offer to their prospective employer. If they give me such information I can take it into account in framing the reference. I will therefore make it a much more relevant and pertinent reference, which must, ultimately, benefit the student," says a recruiter. If you fail to give advance notice to your nominated referee that you wish him or her to be one and if you fail to supply them with relevant details, then you should not be surprised if all they can produce is a fairly standard but limited account of your record while at university. That will not make you stand out from the crowd. It will not advance your position amongst other candidates. The answer lies in your hands. Moreover, do not feel that once you have left university and are seeking a reference perhaps one, two, three or more years down the line that you are somehow relieved of the need to contact your referee. As a simple matter of courtesy you should request advance confirmation from them that they are happy to act as a referee. You should also take that opportunity to update them on what you have been doing and the kind of job that you are now pursuing. Those simple preparatory measures will make all the difference to the success of your applications.

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