Lawyer Resume Tips

When the job market is as tough as the one we are facing today, lots of resumes are hitting desks.  For your lawyer resume to stand out from the crowd it will require a great deal of skill and resume savvy.  The hard truth is that if you aren’t careful and strategic with your approach, your lawyer resume may end up in a rejection pile.

How can you stand out in the crowd?

Most candidates send out hundreds of resumes to jobs that sound remotely interesting.   They are not alone.  When they begin to realize that everyone else is doing the same thing, and that there are getting few responses from their resumes, they begin to realize that this approach does not work.  So what can you do to make your lawyer resume stand out?

Instead of just submitting your resume indiscriminately to a bunch of positions, with law firms, corporations, non-profits, etc. — take some time to think about what you have to offer.  The first step is to take stock and look at the process from an employer’s perspective.   What skills is the company looking for? Do you have everything they are looking for, or just some of the skills they require?  You have to be realistic in terms of fit, and make sure your lawyer resume is a perfect match to the requirements of the position.  Otherwise, you will just be wasting time sending out resumes and waiting for responses that won’t be coming.

A company, law firm, or non-profit wants you to provide them with a service that requires practical skills and experience. This means that your lawyer resume must include specific examples of the skills and experiences you have acquired to date, and how those skills will allow you to handle the functions of the position, and provide the services these employers are looking for.  The most important thing to keep in mind is “specificity;” in other words, providing real-life examples of these skills rather than simply listing them on your lawyer resume.

An interest in business is important, probably even more important to companies than law firms.   However, simply citing an interest in business in your lawyer resume is not enough.  You have to actively demonstrate how your interest in business has allowed you to provide better representation.  Be careful about  overstating your business role.  If you are an in-house counsel with a company, you are one of many who are contributing to the company’s business goals and objectives, therefore be sure to keep your ego in check.

In this tight economy, legal employers are looking for adaptability and versatility in the lawyers they hire.   This means being able to emphasize a broad range of skills.  Your lawyer resume should offer a balance between your primary skills, or depth of experience, and your secondary skills, or breadth of experience.  For example, if you are an outstanding M&A lawyer, but you cannot handle matters related to compliance, securities, or finance, chances are you won’t be hired.

Finally, you have to highlight your client counseling skills – and if you don’t have them, get them.   Even if you have to go pro bono to do so, you have to get actual advising skills. Real-world experience is vital to employers who are looking for experienced lawyers who know how to advise people in their organization.  If you need to acquire practical client counseling experience, try volunteering with service organizations, join your firm’s pro bono program, or get involved in your local bar chapter.   Legal employers are generally looking for lawyers who can avoid and solve problems, which begins with effective client counseling.  So don’t forget to discuss this in your lawyer resume, and get the experience if you need to.

How can you avoid turning off potential employers?

While focusing your job search according to your skills and experience, and highlighting your flexibility and client representation skills are good ways to get your lawyer resume noticed, there are certain things that candidates do on their resumes that you should avoid doing completely.

A professional presentation of your lawyer resume is extremely important.  This is not only a tool designed for you to sell your skills effectively, but it is also viewed as a representation of who you are.  Polished, professional, and conservative is what you want your lawyer resume to convey.  While most candidates follow this simple rule of thumb, too many still aspire to be “creative” and end up shooting themselves in the foot.

The most noticeable gaffe of trying too hard at being unique can be seen in the email addresses that candidates include on their lawyer resumes.  An acceptable email address should include some version of your name with a recognizable email provider, such as hotmail, gmail, yahoo etc.  When things are very competitive, don’t make it harder on yourself by including quirky email addresses.  Sure, they are fine when communicating with your friends, but when you are asking an employer to take you seriously, they can do you more harm than you realize.

Let go of the email addresses that make you look arrogant (i.e. SuperLawyer@address, PatentPro@address, LitManiac@address etc.), that are too cute for your own good (CutieAtty@address, SmartCounsel@address, HotLaw@address, etc.), that relate to your hobbies and activities (ScubaPro@address, MusicFiend@address, TennisDiva@address), that are family-related, religious, or political (Stacy’sMom@address, HolyCross@address, ProRepublican@address etc.), or that use any other type of cheeky references.  If you have to, create a new email address to include on your lawyer resume.  That should be easy as most email services today are free and very easy to set up. 

While there are times and occasions that benefit from a little creativity and individualism; email addresses on your lawyer resume are not one of them.  These humorous email addresses are not only distracting, but they can take away from what is really important in your resume: you skills and experience.  While you want your lawyer resume to stand out, you want to do so from its merit and substance, rather than through gimmicks that can easily backfire.   When in doubt, keep your contact information plain and simple.

By: Claire Bellon

Date: 07/19/18