How to Write a Perfect Law School Resume

Writing a great resume is the key to getting a good job and standing out to employers. The purpose of a resume is to get you an interview. It is a marketing piece an often your first point of contact with potential employers. Employers often look at resumes for less than one minute, so you need to make every word count. Your resume should be appealing to the eye, easy to read, and contain information a legal employer wants to read. Put yourself in the shoes of the reader do not assume the reader will know what you mean, so be specific and be clear.

How to Get Started
Make a list of the following:
- Everything you have done since high school graduation, including your education, jobs, volunteer work, achievements, awards, internships, hobbies, and language skills
- Any legal experience you have acquired prior to or during law school
- Any research and writing skills you have acquired prior or during law school
- Other skills you have acquired such as:
(1) leadership; (2) work ethic; (3) attention to detail; (4) teamwork; (5) organizational skills;   (6) public speaking skills; (7) ability to handle multiple tasks; (8) ability to meet deadlines (e.g. if you were a reporter for your undergraduate school’s newspaper, this experience can be used to highlight your research and writing skills and your ability to meet deadlines)

Style, Paper, Font Style, Font Size & Length 
Create an easy to read, organized, and error-free resume. 
- Use a simple font such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Century Schoolbook nothing fancy.  Font size should preferably be 12 for resume content and 14 18 for your name
Use bold, italic, or underline commands to emphasize information in your resume. 
- Do not use personal pronouns such as “I did this and I did that.” 
- Length should not exceed one page, unless you have extensive pre-law experience that is relevant to the practice of law. 
- Margins should be 1” on all sides and no smaller than 1⁄2” if trying to fit everything on one page. 
- Spacing double space between schools, jobs, and headings. 
- Use high quality, resume bond paper in white, off white, or pale cream with matching envelopes. 
- If the employer requests that you email the resume rather than mail a hard copy then do so and send it asa PDF document. When emailing multiple documents, put them all in one PDF before emailing them. 
- When emailing your resume and other documents, label them clearly to make it easy for employers to find them later. Include your full name, name of document and date in the label. 

Resume Format 
Your name, address, phone number, and email address should appear at the top of the page and can be centered or located anywhere at the top that makes sense. Don’t include a separate permanent address and phone number unless you are planning a move to that location. Your email address should be professional and one you check often. For phone messages, use a voicemail with a professional sounding message. As for the rest of your resume, sections should include Education and Experience and may include Volunteer Activities and/or Personal Interests.

Law students and recent graduates should list education first, then experience, etc. This section should be written in reverse chronological order (most recent first) beginning with your law degree. List the city and state, degree received (or to be received), the month and year of graduation, and major field of study for each school. 
  • Ensure that the names of the schools you have attended are titled accurately
  • Include your study abroad, paralegal, or graduate degrees
  • Your degree is a “Juris Doctor” NOT a “Juris Doctorate”
  • Time period: Include only your graduation date (not when you began law or undergraduate school).
  • Graduation dates are either May or January.
  • Grade Point: Your official GPA from our registrar will include 3 digits to the right of the decimal. We recommend that you use this entire GPA on your resume (i.e. do not round it). 
  • Class Rank: Your rank is calculated after the fall and spring semesters only and can be obtained from the registrar’s office. Never estimate your rank. To convert a rank to a percentage, divide the top number by the bottom number (12/258 divide 12 by 258).
  • Honors, scholarships, and school activities & organizations: List directly below the educational institution where you performed them, rather than in a separate section (e.g. Scholarship at Entrance; School Law Journal; Moot Court; Black Law Student Association (BLSA), Vice President; Law Related Education, and include leadership positions). Honors such as summa, magna, or cum laude should be written in italics, lower case, located next to your degree (e.g. Juris Doctor, cum laude, May 2008 or Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, May 2014). Also include your major, minor, or area of concentration.
  • Dean’s List honors should include the time period (e.g. Fall 2015 or Fall 2015 Fall 2016).
  • Publications: A published paper in a legal journal or other publication should be cited completely.
  • Consider wording your entry for CALI awards as “CALI Award for highest grade in [class].
  • Coursework is generally not necessary. However, if you want to highlight an area of emphasis in order to appeal to a certain practice area, feel free to list relevant courses. 

Work Experience
  • List all paid and unpaid work in reverse chronology, with your most recent job listed first.
  • Include all relevant full-time and part-time legal jobs, clinical work, externships, internships, research assistantships, volunteer legal work, and any non-legal but relevant work experience.
  • Include the employer’s name, city, state, your dates of employment, title and job responsibilities.
  • Use bullet points when listing responsibilities to make reading easier.
  • Lead with your most impressive achievements not necessarily what you did most often.
  • Use active, not passive language (See list of action verbs on the last page of this chapter).
  • Be specific: Discuss specific areas of law you researched and specific motions you wrote (e.g.“Conducted legal research and wrote legal memoranda in a complex litigation case involving breach of contract” rather than “Responsible for preparing and writing legal memoranda” and “Conducted intake interviews to determine scope of abuse and appropriate services to provide. Drafted initial reports for client files” rather than “Responsible for client intake reports”). Be specific about the legal issues you addressed in the memoranda, the practice areas in which you worked, and the actions that you took. 
  • Include skills applicable to the practice of law such as: writing, analyzing, researching, organizing, arguing, advocating, public speaking, coordinating, creating, persuading, delegating, editing, assessing, estimating, planning, and supervising.
  • Gear your resume to the responsibilities the employer lists in the job description. If the job requires that you research and write highlight your research and writing skills/experience and provide specific examples such as “Wrote two motions for summary judgment, a motion to dismiss, three complaints, and discovery requests including interrogatories and correspondence.”
  • If you did not come to law school directly from college, you need to account for the time period in between, if possible. When describing what you did, highlight any law-related transferrable skills.
  • Describe your current job in the present tense. Describe past jobs in the past tense.  If you held several positions with the same employer, list the employer name and location once and underneath list each position with descriptions for each. 
Volunteer Activities
These activities may communicate aspects of your talents and personality which may not be apparent in your other resume information. They may show leadership qualities, social awareness, community involvement, and other attributes important to legal employers. This is especially important for government and public service jobs. 

Personal Interests
This section can be a good ice breaker in an interview. Include interesting activities, and again, be specific. Instead of listing “Sports,” list “Volleyball.” Or, instead of “Reading,” list “American Poetry” or “Stephen King novels.” The more specific you are, the easier it will be for the interviewer to ask about it. 

Licenses & Professional Association
  • For new graduates, include whether you have been admitted to a state bar as follows: Bar Admissions: Member of California Bar, November 2017 
  • If you passed a bar exam but have not yet been formally admitted, state your status as follows: Passed July 2017 Ohio Bar Exam, To Be Sworn In November 2017 
Include a foreign language and describe your proficiency. Terms to use include “Fluent in...,” “Proficient in...,” or “Conversant in...” Don’t overstate your proficiency – you may be tested in an interview. 

What NOT to Include on a Resume
  • Typos: Be sure to have several people read your resume to uncover grammatical, spelling, punctuation, or typographical errors.
  • Marital status, date of birth, age, height, weight, religious affiliation, etc. do not belong on your resume. They are not relevant to legal employment, and employers are often restricted from discussing these issues.
  •  An Objective, Miscellaneous, or Other section.
  • “References Available Upon Request.” Employers will ask for them if they want them.
  • Inconsistent formatting.
  • Abbreviations, acronyms, symbols, and terms of art do not assume employers know what you mean.
  • Computer skills unless directly related to the job you seek. 
Political & Other Sensitive Information
Include this information only after careful consideration. Although hiring decisions should not be based on this type of information, the first person who sees your resume at a law firm is a receptionist, secretary, or recruiting coordinator, and if s/he disagrees with your politics, your resume may never reach the hiring chair’s desk. In other words, the decision to not interview you may not be the hiring committee’s decision.

Tell the Truth
Be certain that all information on your resume is true and accurate, including dates, names, organizations, and titles. Employers may verify any point raised. Inaccuracies can lead to lost offers, lost jobs, and disciplinary action by the law school or the character and fitness committee of your state’s bar. 

Need something to go off of? Check out our resume templates here.