The Do’s And Don’ts Of Creating An Effective Attorney Resume

Think Prom 1970’s. Think light blue tuxedo with an overly wide satin lapel. Think large black bow tie topping a ruffled shirt. Look a little closer… Is that blue trim on the ruffles? A cummerbund is awkwardly placed around a slightly too skinny waist. Throw in some big hair, large glasses, and a smile riddled with protruding silver braces. Do you see him? Aren’t you just dying to tell the fellow in your psychedelic vision that his tux is a disaster? That even though it might have been in style it was bad idea and that he would regret it?

You might be wondering what a 1970’s tuxedo has to do with anything. It has to do with how we represent ourselves, and the mistakes we might make representing ourselves on paper. Like a bad tux, often our tendencies are to overemphasize and spend too much time on qualities that are best served understated. We highlight aspects of ourselves that should remain conservatively subtle, yet available should our prospects ask.

Here are some resume tips that stand the test of time. No matter where you are in job search, these tips will allow you to show a prospective employer who you are and what you’re worth. So let’s start with the cover letter.

DO: Be brief and specific about how your skills can improve their company. Think short and bold. Notice the use of the word bold, not braggadocios.
DON’T: Spill your hopes and dreams. Let your resume do your talking.

What about your resume?

DO: Use action verbs like litigated, managed, co-wrote.
DON’T: Use personal pronouns like I, me, or my.

DO: Give details. Use concise and descriptive words. For example, if you handled security transactions, say handled filings, proxies, and compliances.
DON’T: Write sentences and sentences of descriptions. Be smart with your words.

DO: Tailor your resume to the job description. Highlight the areas you feel a recruiter is looking for.
DON’T: Use the same resume for every job. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all resume.

DO: BE HONEST. Recruiters are trained to cut through the fluff and get to the heart of your experience.
DON’T: Gloss over out of work periods. Deal with it honestly and remember it is what it is and there is nothing you can do to change it.

DO: List law school grade point averages, scholarships, summer clerkships, and fellowships.
DON’T: List grade point averages if they aren’t good. Also, don’t list high school information.

DO: Try to limit your resume to one page if you are a junior attorney and two pages if you are a senior attorney.
DON’T: Include separate pages of descriptions of jobs you have performed. Only provide this information by request only.

DO: Add professional and social media profile links.
DON’T: Include a photo or any information that’s illegal to ask about (health, marriage, jobs).

DO: Have multiple people review your resume for errors. Ask other professionals to read the job description and then read your resume to make sure everything looks like a good match.
DON’T: Think you’re a great editor and submit your resume without another pair of eyes seeing it.

DO: Write and rewrite your resume. Write it and then revisit it later when your perspective is fresh. Have someone close to you read your resume to help determine if it represents you correctly.
DON’T: Be close-minded about your resume. If someone offers a suggestion, take it to heart. Writing a resume can be a daunting task. Most people find it difficult, if not excruciating, to write about themselves. Work hard to make your resume look like a sleek, black tuxedo.

By: Dawn Lowe

Date: 11/23/23