Your resume forms an important part of your application to law school or later, law firms. Though easy to disregard its importance, the resume is one of the few aspects of your applications which will allow you to stand out from other applicants. Taking just a few hours to create a new resume, or spending a few minutes to update and polish off your existing resume can ultimately be the difference between a successful application to law school and a failure.
Here are our most important tips for your law school resume.
Make sure your resume is not too long. Some colleges may specify the length of resume they require and where they do you should naturally comply with this request. Generally speaking, 2 pages is an ideal length. Depending on how much work or volunteer experience you have this may be relatively easy to fill out. If you find yourself filling your resume with paragraph-long lists of interests, hobbies and other assorted feel-good junk, stop. Of course its nice to have a few dot points that cover these, but do not use these areas in a curriculum vitae to compensate for the more traditional, and important areas — like work experience, education and volunteer experience.
If it is too late to run out and get a job or three before applications close (and if you find yourself contemplating it at this stage, then it probably is too late) then a one page resume will suffice. Just ensure it is succinct and to the point.
While there are many designs available out there for your resume it is important to pick one that is simple. You no doubt have some idea of the schools or firms you wish to be applying to, so this should help to guide you in the overall design of the resume. Make sure it is something suitable to the type of school or firm you are applying. Nothing too flamboyant, flashy, or tacky. You wasn’t it to be memorable, but for the right reasons.
Because Microsoft Word (any other office suites) come with basic resume templates, you may consider using one of these. Keep in mind however, that because these standard templates are so widely available chances are the person sifting through all the applications will have seen the one you use a few times. This naturally makes a resume and application not just harder to remember, identify and locate, but it also makes it harder to differentiate your application from the others.
If you have some basic skills with Microsoft Word, you might consider building your resume from scratch. Start with a blank piece of paper and a pen, and design a basic layout before recreating it in your office program and inputting all your details.
Alternatively, a number of more unique resume templates will soon be available on this site.
This probably goes without saying, but be certain the font you are using is readable. Generally a fancy font is a no no, or anything outside of your basic and most widely used fonts. These include Times New Roman, Ariel, Veranda and perhaps a few others. If you have however found a special font that you want to use in your resume just be cautious. If you are submitting your resume online at all (as a .doc) file and the viewer does not have the same font(s) installed, they will have difficulty viewing your application. To get around this you may alternatively submit your resume as a PDF file which will preserve the fonts used.
If you are printing your resume on paper, or will be submitting it non-electronically just use normal copier paper. Now is not the time to display your creative side and utilize those hand-made letterheads you made, or pull out the wax and family seal for the envelope. Your application should stand out because of content, not because of the cleverly watermarked paper on which you printed it.
Order & Headings
There are several ways in which you can traditionally order a resume. For your law school application, however, it is best to focus your resume on primarily on two areas.
- First, any legal-related work experience you have had – whether paid or volunteer work.
- Second, any legal-related education experience – including things such as legal studies classes (High School or Unviersity)
Following these two areas, which should be the primary focus or your law school resume, you may wish to use some of the following resume categories and areas to help you:
25 Your AddressCity etc.
Awards & Achievements
Extra Curricular Activities
References & Referees
Make sure that each section stands out from the others. If the reviewer remembers seeing something interested in a particular section, they should be able to find that section and jump to it easily.
Now you know what to include in your college law school resume, it is still important to present the information in each section in such a way that that it is both memorable and easy to digest. Dot points may be utilized throughout your resume, and are a good idea when summarizing activities or responsibilities under work experience, or subjects and area of study under education. They are also handy in relation to your interests, but remember to keep your interests brief and where possible related to the law.
Be poetically honest. That is to say, that while you want to be absolutely honest in your application, things may be presented in a range of ways and you want to pick the one that sounds the most attractive. For example, if you previously worked at a small law firm, where you primarily made coffee, answered phones and did the photocopying, this may best be summarized and presented as ‘Various legal clerical duties’ and you may or may not wish to include an ‘…including answering phone calls and dealing with clients.’
If you cleaned the cells and toilets at your local police cells, perhaps the toilet is best left out of your resume in favor of a phrase like ‘police cell maintenance.’
Have somebody else read it
It can be very difficult to edit your own work and notice various typos or grammatical errors. Because you wrote it, or were (hopefully) very involved in the process of writing your resume and are familiar with its content, you may find you skip over words that are misspelt, or sentences insufficiently punctuated. Have someone that you trust (that is, someone you have faith in the grammar and spelling abilities of) to proof read your resume. Having them also proof-read other aspects of your application is of course a good idea. They should be able to identify a few things that can be fixed up – whether it is just a design issue or not. If possible, have several people you trust review and proof read your resume and application.