A legal curriculum vitae (CV) does more than list your past jobs. An effective legal CV enables you to market your skills and abilities to potential employers. The objective should be to make yourself attractive to law firms and stand out from other candidates. Information should be concise, possess impact, and, most of all, be truthful.
A legal CV is about visibility. It shows what an asset you can be to a law firm. Because it casts the first impression, it needs to be carefully prepared. A one-size-fits-all approach does not work anymore. Legal resumes should be targeted to each prospective employer.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Resume paper
Choose a resume style. Chronological works best if you are moving to a new location but practicing the same type of law. A functional resume, which outlines skills and accomplishments, works best if you are new to the field or switch jobs frequently. Corporate resumes combine elements of functional and chronological styles.
Format your resume to have 1-inch margins on each side and between 0.6- and 1.2-inch margins on the top and bottom. Ensure consistency in spacing, centring, tab placement and font use. It doesn't matter so much whether you use a serif font (Times) or a sans serif font (Arial) as long as one font is used consistently throughout your legal CV.
Center your name at the top. Highlight it in bold. You can also place your name at the top along the left margin. Then list important contact and personal information beneath your name. Include address, phone number and e-mail address.
List education qualifications starting with advanced degrees and concluding with undergraduate work. Include your law school grades and class rank if you are in the top half of your class. Otherwise, GPA is optional. This listing should include the name of the school, its location, degrees earned and years awarded (or anticipated date of graduation), and any honours you received.
Detail your work history starting with your most recent job. Include dates of employment, titles held and duties performed. Explain how your accomplishments produced results for each job. Tailor these descriptions to show how your skills are a good fit for the advertised position.
Feature any special skills you may have such as fluency in a second language, computer software proficiency or any other skills relevant to the job you seek. Nonlegal work can be included in your legal CV if that experience shows skills applicable to legal work such as writing, communicating or managing time.
List your bar affiliations or where you are licensed to practice law last, if applicable. Conclude with two references including your most recent or previous employer and another reference from your education background or a character reference. You can also prepare a separate page of references if more are needed.
How to Write a Legal CV
Tips and warnings
- Ask friends to review your legal CV. See if they can tell what kind of position you are applying for. If their answers are on the mark, then your resume is probably targeted to the appropriate audience.
- Address any gaps in your employment. If you land an interview you will be asked about them.
- Keep legal CVs to two pages (though this limit will vary, depending on the person and the job).
- Use boldface to emphasise your name, schools and places of employment. Use italics to emphasise items like job titles, awards and honours, and academic degrees.
- Don't exaggerate in describing your accomplishments or experience. Accuracy is paramount in legal resumes.
- Don't use an e-mail address that appears unprofessional. Keep inappropriate words or odd phrases out of it.
- Don't use unusual fonts or embellishments. Stick to a clean, dignified look that is simple and clear.
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