Resume Tips for Attorneys
How are things? Anything new on the career front? Are you feeling content, or unchallenged? If you’re looking for your first legal position, if you’re coming back from an absence or if you’re feeling that it’s time to move on from your current job but you don’t even know where to begin, you’ve come to the right place. Building a resume is important at any level in your career. No matter if you are a recent graduate or a senior partner, a resume can be the difference between getting the job and being stuck on a career path that doesn’t excite you.

Overall, resumes are probably the most important thing for hiring partners at the beginning of a relationship. After all, resumes are the first impression that any hiring partner has of you. Please, please make sure that it’s spell-checked and accurate. Also, even though you’re an attorney and not a graphic designer, you will want to make sure that the format is appealing and easy to read. (Don’t worry about this one – we’ll give you a few pointers.)

Tips for all attorneys

1. Spell check. Seriously. Do it at least twice, read it three times and let someone else read it at least once. (Having two additional readers is preferable.)

2. Leave them wanting more. It’s obvious that you’ll want to include relevant work experience. However, you don’t have to include details about every motion you’ve ever written or every case you’ve ever tried. Show a little restraint and leave something for the interview.

3. Format with clarity in mind. Make sure that the format for your resume is clear. Stick with one font (two if you must, but that’s it). Stick with only two font sizes – one for headings and one for everything else. Make sure that all of your contact information is clear on EACH page of the resume. Heaven forbid someone would lose the first page, you want to make sure they can still contact you.

4. Personalize the content. If you know that the hiring partner is looking for someone who has appellate experience, make sure that you elaborate on your years of appellate work. To save space, maybe eliminate the six-month stint doing family law. Did the hiring partner go to the same undergrad as you? I’d highlight your undergrad a little more than normal.

Tips for new attorneys (0-5 years of experience)

1. Mention everything that’s important. It’s critical to highlight experience you had in law school or during internships. If you were on the winning trial ad team or editor of the law review, go ahead and mention these accomplishments. You’ll also want to delve into your experience as an attorney (if any), but relevant experience before you passed the bar is OK, as well.

2. Show off your skills. Make sure that you highlight any special skills or knowledge you may have to set you apart. Do you have three years of Westlaw research experience? Can you speak Japanese? Obviously, Westlaw experience is crucial. Many firms love foreign language proficiency – particularly in international firms.

Tips for senior associates (6-12 years)

1. Put your work on top! You’ve been practicing law for awhile, so it’s fine to put your education toward the bottom of the resume. Hiring partners are more interested in your recent work experience than your undergrad and law school. It’s still important, but it’s not top-of-the-resume important.

2. List practice areas. Make sure that you indicate the types of practice areas in which you have experience. (Keep in mind that you’ll want to emphasize the work most related to this particular job.) For example, if you’ve gained experience in antitrust, labor and employment, M&A, private equity deals, so state.

3. Describe your clients. Make sure that the hiring partner understands the type of clients with which you have worked in the past. Were they fortune 500 companies or family-owned businesses? Also note, if relevant, what the industry is, i.e., health care, technology, etc. Describe these clients with some specificity, and be sure to point out the clients that may have some relevance to this job opening.

4. List your real world experience. Here’s where you get to brag about what you’ve accomplished. Note if you’ve taken and defended depositions, drafted and argued, any trials that you’ve worked on, second-chair experience, etc. On the transactional side, note if you’ve handled due diligence, handled securities or M&A work, etc.

5. Incorporate a list of speaking and writing accomplishments. Be sure to include list of public speaking you’ve done on your practice area or publications you’ve written about your area of expertise.

6. Include extracurricular activities. Make sure that you list all professional associations to which you belong. Listing other professional or community involvement can be important, as well.

Tips for partners (13+ years)

1. List your managerial and administrative abilities and contributions. You’re more than just a mere attorney, you’re one of the bosses. The other bosses want to know how you can perform in that role, as well.

2. Brag about your success. The firm’s hiring partner will definitely want to know, with some detail, about your client development and your revenue generation abilities. Be sure to be as thorough as possible here. This is a very important part of your resume.

3. Attach relevant lists. If you’re a litigator, attach a list of representative cases you’ve handled. If you’re on the transactional side of things, be sure to attach a representative corporate transactions list.

4. Prepare and have a general business plan at the ready. The attorneys at the firm will want to know how you can help grow the business. Include a brief business plan for how you will contribute. (Not sure about this? Glad you asked. We’ll be writing a post about this soon. Check back for details.)

So, go forth and interview! Did we leave something out? Please do not hesitate to contact us. We’re happy to help get your career on the right path.
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