By Andy A. Edited by Lemon Law School
As a law student, your legal resume should provide your interviewers with a quick one-page overview of your past experiences and qualifications. Thus, along with the content of your resume, the format of your resume is pretty important. Let’s take a look at how you should write your resume. I’ll also include a download link below with a resume template.
1. Formatting Your Resume
Keep your resume clean and simple with your name in large text at the top of the resume along with your contact information. Your resume should never exceed one page.
The photo below is an example of a law student’s resume.
2. Education Section
This section is straight-foward. List any post-secondary education in reverse chronological order with the most recent starting at the top. You don’t have to put your undergrad or graduate school GPA on your resume, unless a firm specifically requests it. As for your law school GPA, include both if your career office tells you to. Some top law schools like NYU don’t rank their students or give them GPAs (although they still receive letter grades), so NYU Law students don’t need to include a GPA or rank on their resumes.
Include any honors you received from your schools.
As for school organization and board positions, include them only if you have enough space or if you think those experiences are really relevant (e.g., did you have some experience in one of these organizations that taught you a new skill?).
If you’re on a law journal, you should put that on your resume.
If you are a transfer student, the general rule is that you need to keep your previous law school on your resume until at least you graduate from your new law school. Once you graduate, you can just list the law school where you received your final diploma. No one cares that you were a transfer student after graduation.
I’ve read contrary advice online before, so if you really want to take your old school off of your resume while you are in law school, consult your law school’s career services. This advice may vary from school to school.
3. Work Experience Section
In this section, you will list your past work experience in reverse chronological order with your most recent work experience starting from the top.
List only the most relevant experiences. While your undergraduate research project with a law professor could have inspired you to pursue your legal studies, working as a cashier in a local diner during high school likely does not say much about your professional capabilities as a young attorney.
There’s a lot of debate about whether you should use bullet points or a sentence format (separated by two spaces between each sentence). My law school career office had us use the sentence format. In the end, I think either method is fine, but you can double-check with your law school’s career office if you want a second opinion.
When writing the description of your duties or accomplishments underneath each work experience, start each bullet point or sentence with strong, active verbs. For instance, if you were in charge of a project at work, you should write something along the lines of “Led a team of software engineers to implement our firm’s new SaaS platform.” Try to keep the number of sentences/bullet points to 3 or less.
We created an infographic with a list of 87 strong, action verbs that you can use to describe every situation.
4. Additional Information
You can add any languages you speak here along with your level of fluency in each. You can also include hobbies (if you have space), and other miscellaneous, but tangible information you think your interviewer should know about you.
Do not make up stuff. If you claim to be fluent in Spanish, you better be fluent because the firm may set you up with an interviewer who is actually fluent in Spanish to verify this claim.
Do not put something as general as “hard-working” or “good work ethic” here. These two are entirely unhelpful to your interviewer because everyone in law school has both of those characteristics.
As for adding your hobbies, you should include activities that 1) you are actually passionate about and 2) make you look good. Your description of your hobby should be more detailed (yet concise) than not. If you enjoy traveling, don’t just write “travel” as a hobby. Write something more specific like “backpacking through Europe.” In my case, I had traveled extensively, so I actually listed all of the countries I had visited up until that point (“visited Cyprus, Italy, Puerto Rico,…..”).
The point of including specific hobbies is to potentially spark conversation with your interviewer if they choose to ask about it. Having genuine conversations about your hobbies can show your interviewer that you are a reasonable and interesting person, especially if they share the same hobbies. I would often have great conversations with partners or associates who had visited a country I had visited.
If your hobbies have led you to give back to the community or take on leadership positions, you should definitely include it on your resume. Here’s a great example of one of those hobbies (from a user on TLS):
5. Resume Dealbreakers
- Use a professional email address. In fact, use your law school email address. Don’t use something ridiculous like [email protected]
- Exclude anything related to high school.
- Do not use anything less than size 11 font.
- Do not list college minors. It’s a complete waste of space and no one cares.
- Do not repeat yourself anywhere in your resume.
- Be consistent with punctuation. If you place a period after one bullet point, use periods after all bullet points.
- Proofread your resume multiple times. Have multiple people look at it. Having any typo or error on your resume is inexcusable and will speak volumes about your lack of attention to detail. Good luck getting a job with “Cornell Law Scool” on your resume.
In the end, your resume should provide your interviewer with a quick overview of your background. It gets your foot in the door. The bulk of your evaluation as a candidate will occur during your interviews. Many students look great on paper, but are unable to clearly articulate their experiences or meet the expectations their resumes created.
You can download a copy of our resume template here.
We wrote an in-depth article about how you can prepare for firm interview questions here with sample responses. I also wrote another article about how to properly research a law firm here so that you can leverage your background to fit the characteristics these firms are looking for.