Having a great resume is essential to the legal job search, and choosing the right resume format is essential when it comes to presenting your education, areas of practice and any accolades you have received within the legal profession. There is no single answer to the question of how to format a resume for a lawyer because the best format varies depending on your length of practice, skills and other qualifications.
1. Create a Compelling Summary Statement
The summary statement is somewhat different for lawyers than it is for most professionals because there are some specific skills and accomplishments related to legal practice that need to be highlighted. Mention any notable cases you have been involved in as part of your summary introduction, followed by an organized paragraph that lists your soft skills and areas of professional practice. Keep in mind that your summary statement provides you with the perfect opportunity to demonstrate expertise in a specific area of the law, such as personal injury claims, criminal law or divorce.
2. Include the Right Information
When figuring out how to format a resume, knowing which information to include about your legal career is key. While most jobs do not focus heavily on your education once you have work experience, your legal education and bar exam results remain relevant long after you begin practice. If you attended a prestigious law school, consider placing your education section above your work history section. Include all previous legal positions you have held unless your work experience is so extensive that it exceeds two pages. If this is the case, select the most prestigious positions as well as those most relevant to the specific legal job for which you are applying. For example, you should include any experience you have working in the energy industry if you are applying for a job in environmental law.
3. Use the Right Wording
Avoid using personal pronouns, such as I, me and my, when formatting your resume. Likewise, avoid referring to yourself in the third person, such as, "An experienced 1L graduate who seeks an entry-level position at a family law firm." Instead, maintain a first-person tone without the use of personal pronouns throughout your resume. For example, "Experienced 1L graduate with extensive experience in custody arrangement negotiation dedicated to family law practice." When learning how to format a resume, word choice and consistent use of first person are details that are often overlooked.
4. Emphasize Accomplishments
If you find yourself stuck as to how to format a resume in a way that is concise yet fully demonstrates your abilities, emphasize your achievements, such as awards for practice and cases won. Law firms are interested in the number of cases you have won, so include this information upfront if it is favorable. If you do not have a solid case history to describe yet, focus on your education, volunteer experiences and other accomplishments instead. Include any journals or other publications you contributed to while in law school, and emphasize how you have engaged with local and national legal organizations. When formatted correctly, a legal resume showcases how these non-traditional work experiences transfer to legal practice.
When discovering how to format a resume for a lawyer, always stay focused and emphasize the most positive aspects of your career.
You may find the advice on LiveCareer helpful when formatting a resume that showcases your legal education, job experience and other accomplishments.