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Entry-Level Attorney Resume
First impressions are everything. This is especially true when it comes to applying for a job. The first impression you’ll make with most employers will be through your resume. As an entry-level attorney, putting an effective legal resume together can be daunting. Most recent law graduates or law students typically do not have a great deal of legal experience or work experience to include in their resumes. Therefore, being able to make a good first impression, while selling skills when experience is thin, can be challenging. That said an entry-level attorney resume should nevertheless make a good impression by being accurate, focused, and persuasive.
If you are an attorney that graduated from law school less than five years ago, you should aim to keep your entry-level attorney resume to one page. You should only allow your resume to exceed one page if the work experience, publications, degrees, and awards warrant it. A good test is to ask yourself whether the information you are including is relevant to your job search as an attorney, law clerk, or legal intern. For instance, if you have a couple of years of work experience prior to going to law school, such as working in banking, marketing, or other white collar job, that professional experience may be relevant and should be included in the resume. Working as waiter in a restaurant may be more difficult to match against the types of positions you are currently seeking. Therefore, if including this information takes you over the two-page limit, it may be best to omit it.
You need to make sure that all of the information in your entry-level attorney resume is absolutely complete and accurate. Complete information relates to experience you have acquired since earning your law degree. While it may sound obvious, you might be surprised to find out how many applicants stretch the truth or simply lie or their entry-level attorney resume. The most common offense usually involves some type of misrepresentation or misleading statement concerning degrees, grades, class standing, academic honors, participation on scholarly publications, work history, or relevant work experience. Today, employers have access to a number of tools to verify resume information through both formal and informal channels. Therefore, avoid making factual misrepresentations of any kind on your legal resume; you should always aim to represent your qualifications, skills, experience, and interests fully and accurately.
The work experience section of your entry-level attorney resume may be the most daunting task in creating a resume. The most obvious concern is not having enough or relevant experience to include. It is very important to highlight all professional experience, including internships, whether paid or unpaid. Internship or volunteer experience can be very valuable for candidates with little or no job experience, particularly if it corresponds to the position sought. This is an opportunity for a law student or entry-level attorney to highlight his or her legal skills and demonstrate potential for a position. If you don’t have much work experience, consider other types of activities. If you have been a member of a clinic, journal, or other organization during law school, you can use your activities to demonstrate how you have developed practical ’real world’ skills, such as working as part of a team, providing services, organizing, budgeting, etc. Such types of activities can be made interesting and applicable to your future jobs application, as long as you can effectively distill the applicable skills that you’ve derived from them.
The purpose of a resume is to persuade an employer that you deserve an interview, and you need to remember that a potential employer probably has a stack of other entry-level resumes to choose from. In order to land a job interview, your entry-level attorney resume needs to focus on three main things: accomplishments, skills, and attributes. Every single sentence of your legal resume needs to be an accomplishment, an attribute, or a skill. If the information isn’t an accomplishment, attribute, or skill, then it doesn’t belong in your entry-level attorney resume. You should also highlight the various accomplishments, attributes, or skills using "action words," such as "led," "performed," "provided," "supervised." This will change your entry-level attorney resume from being a bland listing of various skills, to a persuasive piece of writing. For instance, you may have developed and led a group or organization, developed or created a research project, or presented a paper or an argument before a group of people – the key is to synthesize those specials skills that are likely to make your entry-level resume seem unique and appealing.
Do not list extraneous details, such as hobbies or experience with basic word processing, which can easily come across as irrelevant or unprofessional. Unless your hobbies or activities relate to the position you are applying to, leave them out, no matter how interesting they might appear to you. These are better addressed in the course of an interview rather than on a resume. However, if you are a member of an association that relates to your legal practice or practice focus, include it in the resume. This may include publications, articles, lectures, and speaking engagements. Also, anyone who has graduate from law school in the last ten years is expected to have some word processing skills and familiarity with software tools like Westlaw and Lexis Nexis. Therefore, do not include this information on your resume, as it will appear extraneous and irrelevant.
As with any type or legal resume or professional writing, you need to keep it clear, simple, and easy to read. Once you’ve listed the appropriate experience and skills, that information needs to be presented in a format that is appealing to employers. You should use a plain font, and if you are mailing a hard copy use a high-quality white or ivory paper. Stay away from using colors or too many types of fonts that could be distracting. Also, make sure you proofread and spell-check any document you send to an employer. Any misspelled words or signs of disorganization will send the wrong impression to a legal employer even before you have met anyone.
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