Are you writing a resume for your first job out of law school? Resumes and cover letters submitted for entry-level attorney positions are generally far more conservative and concise than resumes for most other professions.
In other career fields, companies often use online job application and applicant tracking systems that give preference to resumes that contain relevant keyword phrases. By contrast, many law firms will immediately screen out resumes that are verbose, repetitive, or provide too much non-related personal information.
To impress the hiring team and get the interview, you’ll need to write a lean, targeted resume that shows off your skills and abilities without wasting time.
Tips for Writing an Entry-level Law Resume
Less is more. As a graduating law student, you should stick to a single-page resume—typically the standard even for experienced lawyers. Remember that attorneys are trained to read critically and to pinpoint and challenge ambiguous or superfluous details. Don’t open yourself up to immediate criticism by “padding” your resume with unrelated information—things like descriptions of non-legal jobs you have held or the awesome things you achieved as an undergraduate.
Avoid providing too much personal information. Because of the conservatism of their profession, attorneys are expected to be as objective and low-profile as public-school teachers are, avoiding controversial associations at all costs. For this reason, dodge the temptation to provide links on your resume to a personal blog or social media pages (with the exception of LinkedIn), or to offer personal details like your race, gender preferences, political leanings, or religious beliefs.
Be selective when highlighting your interests. While it’s a good idea to provide an “Other Interests and Activities” section at the end of your resume to demonstrate that you are a well-rounded and versatile individual, these “interests” need to be those that would contribute directly to your being an outstanding lawyer. Do not include activities like extensive political activism or travel that might distract you from your work obligations at a law firm.
Use a conservative font and resume formatting. Good fonts to use for your resume include Times New Roman, Courier New, or Verdana.
Use a narrative-only format for your cover letter. Cover letters for other professions will often include a bulleted section where professional achievements and qualifications can be showcased. Law firms, however, only want to see narrative text in cover letters, since this gives them a better idea of how well their job candidate can communicate in writing. Write in complete sentences, avoiding comma splices and sentence fragments.
Meticulously proofread the text of both your resume and cover letter to catch and correct spelling and grammatical errors.
Law School Student Resume Example
The following is an example of a resume for a current law student. This resume includes the student’s academic accomplishments as well as his professional achievements. The job seeker also mentions some personal interests that might help him stand out to a law firm, such as his knowledge of Spanish and his debate awards.
Download the law school student resume template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online).
Law School Student Resume Example (Text Version)
123 Main Street, New York, NY 00000
Law school graduate looking to apply knowledge of laws, legal codes, and court proceedings and precedents to an attorney position.
- Four-time 4A State Police Debate State Champion (2015-2018).
- Two-time National Tournament Qualifier, 4A State Police Debate (2016, 2018).
- Outstanding Performance in Oral Advocacy Award, Spring 2017.
U.S. COURT OF APPEALS, NINTH CIRCUIT, San Francisco, CA
Extern to Honorable Judge Johnson, September 2018-November 2018
Externship consisted of researching and writing bench memos.
- Drafted opinions and orders.
THOMAS & SMITH, P.A., Phoenix, AZ
Summer Associate, June 2018-August 2018
Worked extensively on commercial, criminal defense, and pro bono matters.
- Assisted with pro bono constitutional standards for conditions of confinement research
- Assisted with arbitration over LLC dispute, fiduciary duties, and non-compete agreement.
OFFICE OF STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL, Executive Office, Phoenix, AZ
Special Projects Assistant, November 2016-January 2016
Coordinated community services program.
- Oversaw elder affairs hotline, internship program, and participated with the Executive Office.
Juris Doctor (2018); GPA 3.675
XYZ University College of Law, Springfield, California
Dean's List Fall 2017, Spring 2018
Bachelor of Arts in American Government (2016); GPA 3.8
ABC University, Los Angeles, California
Honors, May 2016
Err on the Side of Conservatism: Your resume and cover letter should be laser-focused on the job and what you bring to it.
Be Concise: Stick to a one-page resume and highlight your most relevant skills, experience, and qualifications.
Keep It Professional: Avoid including too much personal information or interests that seem like they might detract from the job.
Proofread Your Resume and Cover Letter Before You Send: Consider asking a trustworthy friend to review your materials, as well.