Drafting Your Resume
Building Your Resume
Some students enter law school with extensive previous experience, which may include paid employment, volunteer work, writing, other certifications, etc. Others do not yet have an extensive work history. Regardless of which group you fall into, you will be able to assemble a strong resume on the basis of what you have achieved so far. If you have difficulty seeing how to present your accomplishments, make an appointment with a counselor so we can assist you.
While you are in law school, there are many opportunities for you to engage in substantive activities which you can include on your resume. For example, you may get involved in a bar association project, volunteer to work with a committee that is drafting a response to a specific piece of legislation, or help plan a conference on a topic of interest to you. You can participate in one of our student-run legal service clinics, where you can make a contribution to the local community and also gain valuable experience and receive credit for part of your pro bonorequirement. You can also join a student group at the law school and organize a panel discussion on a particular subject. These kinds of experiences may help you to build your resume and provide you with opportunities to evaluate your interests and career goals.
Creating Your Resume
The main purpose of your resume in the legal setting is to give employers a vivid picture of you functioning as a lawyer in their particular environment. To create that picture, you will present your skills, experiences, and accomplishments in a way that is specific, dynamic, and appropriate for that particular employer.
You have distinguished yourself in your undergraduate career, in prior work experiences, and in extra-curricular and community activities. Analyze these accomplishments and present them in a way that highlights your abilities and your potential as a lawyer. Thinking about your skills in order to prepare a strong resume will also help you in your interviews, where you can reinforce and elaborate on the picture of yourself created by your resume.
Addressing Your Resume to a Specific Employer; Creating Multiple Resumes
When an employer reads a resume, that employer is evaluating the candidate’s potential for the specific kind of work required by that organization. Certain skills and experiences you have may be especially relevant for a particular position or organization. For this reason, it’s often useful to tailor your resume for particular situations. You can either create several different resumes for different types of employers, or have one basic resume which you modify on a case by case basis as you apply for specific positions.
Some examples of information you might want to include for specific employers:
- Permanent address. If you have a permanent address in the employer’s city, consider having two resumes, one with the address in the employer’s city and one with your current address or include both that local address and your school address. Note that it often looks cleaner to have one address only.
- Details of past experience. Certain experiences may be especially relevant for a particular kind of employer. For example, if you’re applying to a tax firm, and you’ve done some accounting work at a past job, you would be sure to emphasize this. If you’re applying to a public interest organization that does environmental work, and you’ve raised money for Green Peace in college, that should be included. If you’re interested in a prosecutor’s office and you’ve volunteered in a Victim’s Assistance Project, you can highlight that experience in your resume and possibly in a cover letter as well.
- Altering description of duties to attract certain employers. Some students may have a wealth of experience in the public interest arena and yet want to explore career options with corporate law firms. To be an attractive corporate law candidate, this student would describe his or her former experience focusing on the skills developed on the job, as opposed to the clients served. For example, “Established music enrichment after school program for children with emotional and behavior problems” becomes “Established music enrichment after school program. Hired, trained and managed 15 specialists, volunteers, and paid staff.” Likewise, students seeking public interest jobs would focus on and emphasize any relevant volunteer activities and their commitment to social concerns and the people served as well as on the skills gained. Please consult the Public Interest pages for further information.
Resume Brainstorming Assistance
We have attached a list of Action Verbs, Resume Worksheet, Functional Skills Worksheet, and Resume Dissection sheet for you to use in drafting your resume. As you proceed, we encourage you to make use of the guidelines above and the sample resumes.
“Performed legal research. Drafted memoranda for the clerks. Attended court hearings.”
“Researched various areas in criminal law, including deviations from the sentencing guidelines and a challenge to the RICO statute. Drafted memoranda on these issues for the review of the clerks and the judge. Observed court proceedings, including a drug possession trial, a motion to dismiss conspiracy charges, and several sentencing hearings.”
A summer with a firm:
“Researched legal issues and drafted documents. Organized deposition materials and trial materials. Used LEXIS and Westlaw.”
“Researched legal issues. Drafted memoranda and other documents, including proposed jury instructions regarding divided liability in a multiple defendant litigation. Reviewed and analyzed depositions to prepare summaries. Prepared exhibits for trial, including organization of a chart of damages amounts.”
An internship with a legal services organization:
“Assisted attorneys with legal research. Performed intake. Attended court proceedings.”
“Performed legal research and drafted memoranda for attorneys dealing with denial of social security benefits to disabled children and their families. Met with clients, analyzed their legal issues, and referred cases as appropriate. Attended social security hearings and parental rights hearings.”
Adding a Journal
Finally, upper level students often ask how to add their Journal to their resume. After the Journal Competition, should you be selected as an editor, you may list your entry as follows:
Honors: Associate Editor, Journal of International Law.