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Summary: While having a well-written resume is a critical aspect of your job search, many attorneys don’t know how to write one. Learn how to write a legal resume.
Getting your resume right is probably one of the most critical elements in your job search. As a general rule of thumb, employers will give each resume 20 to 30 seconds of their attention. Within that time, they have to be able to review your background, ascertain your main selling points, and determine your suitability for the position.
Consider the following basic pointers when constructing your resume:
Place your most marketable features up front on your resume (i.e. if you did particularly well in law school, mention that fact on the first page).
Often it is best to put your "Education" section at the beginning of your resume, noting your graduation year. This is helpful, as it will help the reader know whether he/she is dealing with a senior, junior or mid-level lawyer.
Use heading and bullet-point sentences in the "Work Experience" section. It is important that you avoid long paragraphs and provide only an outline of your experience. If you wish to provide more information about your practice, attach a "Transaction Summary" sheet to your resume. The goal is to make your resume as easy as possible for your reader to read.
For lawyers, a well-presented experience section is much more effective than the highlights section which tend to be recommended by outplacement organizations and resume 'how to' textbooks.
Cut the personal self-analysis blurb (i.e. "dedicated, hard-working, ambitious associate"), but don't be afraid of "showing off" about the work you have done and are particularly proud. Never leave the reader to assume facts.
Many candidates ask us how long a resume should be. It will differ for each candidate depending upon how long they have practiced and how many positions they have held. However, as a general rule you should keep it to approximately 2 pages (not including the "Transaction Profile Summary").
If in doubt, it is a good idea to attach transcripts. This is especially true if you are applying for an associate or overseas position. If you know your ranking in your law school class, this is also helpful.
Do not try to be too clever with resume presentation. Using multiple colors, fancy binders, or weird typeface is not going to get you the job. How you construct your resume reflects how you may present legal analysis.
Do not try and hide facts which employers obviously want to know. For example, some applicants omit year of graduation in an effort to hide their seniority. This just does not work. It only serves to annoy the reader and cause them to assume the worse.
Whether you are looking for a job or not, you should always try and keep your resume up to date.
Having the right resume may determine whether or not you're granted an interview. It may be time consuming to write, but will certainly be worth it in the end.
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