What to Include in a Lawyer Resume
No two lawyer resumes are identical. What you include depends on the position that you are applying for as well as your level of education, your certifications, your career path, and your experiences and skills. Even your interests and accomplishments come into play. For example, the accomplishments of a lawyer who is very interested in the legal aspects of real estate transactions differ greatly from one whose passion is prosecuting violent criminals.
There are, however, similarities among all lawyer resumes. When you look at lawyer resume samples, you will notice that each sample has the job seeker’s name and contact information at the top. In addition, although resume sections are not listed in the same order on every resume, all lawyer resume samples contain certain basics. Actual wording of the headings for each section may vary, but in essence the basic sections are as follows:
- Resume Summary
- Work Experience
There also are similarities in how sections are organized. There are two basic formats, chronological and functional. The third choice is to combine the two formats in a manner that highlights information thought to be of greatest importance to the prospective employer or law group.
Resume sections that are organized in chronological format list information by dates of occurrence, most recent dates first. This format, which is the most common approach to lawyer resumes, is easy to follow and easy to arrange. However, it tends to stress dates and timelines rather than skills and accomplishments.
Functional formats can be very useful if you want to group strengths according to areas of legal work or types of professional attributes that you possess. For example, skills and accomplishments might be listed in a single section that comes right after your resume summary. Within that section, you could include subheadings such as Technical and Professional Skills, Functional Skills and Personal/Adaptive Skills.
By thoughtfully reading lawyer sample resumes, you will be able to determine whether the functional format, the chronological format, or a combination of the two would be best in organizing your resume.
How to Write the Lawyer Resume Summary Statement
A bit like your opening statement in presenting a case before the court, the summary statement of your resume should outline some key facts and provide a general introduction to what’s to come. More specifically, it gives readers an overview of the reasons why you are the right person for the job, association or partnership. The rest of your resume will expound the summary statement to build your case. Remember, however, that not all hiring agents are familiar with legal jargon. Therefore, your summary statement needs to be worded so that the average person can understand what it says.
To be effective, your resume summary statement must be able to be read in under half a minute. It should be worded so that it holds the reader’s attention and makes him or her want to learn more. A good way to determine how to word your resume summary statement is to read the summary statements of several lawyer resume samples that apply to the service area in which you want to practice.
Below are examples that demonstrate how to write your opening statement:
Productive, versatile attorney with expertise in all phases of real estate transactions. Proficient in contract negotiations, water rights litigation, determination of road easements and rights-of-way. Excel in resolving legal issues regarding taxation of income from real estate exchanges. Perform extensive research and present dynamic oral and written arguments in court cases.
Winning defense attorney with more than five years’ experience representing individuals accused of criminal offenses. Excellent communicator and high skills in negotiations and court arguments. Enjoy helping clients present cases in a manner that results in the dropping of charges or case dismissals for the wrongfully accused. DUI, fraud and child abuse are areas of specialty.
- Computers & Technology
- Installation & Maintenance
- Real Estate
- Human Resources
- News & Media
- Food & Beverage
- Most Popular Resources
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How to Write the Lawyer Education Section
Even entry-level lawyer work requires a doctoral or professional degree as well as the passing of bar exams and admission to the bar in the states in which a lawyer practices.
Before you start writing this section, check to see if the job posting mentions anything about educational requirements or achievements. Chances are it does, and accordingly, you’ll need to draw up a list of information that describes your educational experiences as they relate do the posting, and then you’ll need to review lawyer resume samples to see how this information is presented. You want what you write to be brief but powerful, and you want to set it up in a way that makes it easy to read.
If you recently graduated from law school, place the education section before the work experience section of your resume. Provide the name and location of the school as well as the date of graduation and the degree obtained. If you graduated with honors or your cumulative grade point was 3.0 or better, include that information.
If you are a practicing attorney with more than two years’ experience, put the work or professional experience section above the section on education. List your law school education before listing information regarding the degree you earned through a bachelor’s degree program. Do not list high school education. Once you have several years’ experience as an attorney, there is no need to provide more than summary listings regarding the schools you attended.
No matter where you are in your career, you will want to include educational honors and activities as well as unpaid internships that strongly relate to the field of work for which you are applying. Listing paid internships here is optional because they also qualify as work experience. Add professional memberships and affiliations to this section, or put them under a separate heading.
How to Write the Lawyer Work Experience Section
The most common organizational method for this section is the chronological format. If you use this format, list each job you’ve held in order of employment dates, most recent dates first. If dates of employment for two positions overlap, list the job with the most recent ending date before the job that overlaps. Include the job title, years of employment, and the name and address of each employer. When formatting the dates, months are optional. If, however, you list the months for one employer, list months for all.
Use a worksheet to figure out what information needs to appear underneath the basic information for each job or position. On the worksheet, document all achievements that directly relate to the experience, skills and abilities mentioned in the job announcement. Divide the worksheet into three columns headed Problem, Action and Result. In the first column, list the problems, challenges or responsibilities you faced in your work. In the next column, tell the actions you took to reach each goal or solve each problem. List results or accomplishments in the last column. Use the information you jotted down to write statements that spotlight your major achievements. Quantify wherever possible, use bullet points when they are appropriate and start statements with action verbs.
Here is a comparison between a generic description of work performed and one using the problem-action-result formula.
Generic Conducted research and composed a response to a motion to dismiss. Problem-Action-Result Researched current laws, both state and federal, as well as pivotal rulings, to draft a successful response in opposition of motion to dismiss a case that later resulted in client award of more than $500,000 in damages.
Lawyer resume samples can be a great help to you in determining how you want to present such information.
Action Verbs to Include in Your Lawyer Work Experience Section
To get prospective employers and associates to take notice, use action verbs to describe work you perform. These verbs should be ones that resonate with members of the legal services industry. Listed below are a few of the many action verbs available. You can find other power-packed action verbs by perusing lawyer resume samples.
How to Write the Lawyer Skills Section
Diligently search the position announcement for clues you may have missed as to the skills most valued by the company or organization. Double-check your resume to make sure that you have emphasized those skills, whether in the education section, the work experience section or the skills section. Also scrutinize lawyer resume samples.
Bring attention to skills that give you an edge in getting the position you want. Include in your resume not only professional skills that directly relate to your industry but also your “soft” skills, those that make you an excellent employee and a person that coworkers and members of the public enjoy being around. Examples of soft skills behooving to lawyers include interpersonal skills, research skills and analytical skills.
If your resume already mentions important skills that are relevant to the position for which you are applying, the skills section on your resume may be adapted to include special skills that weren’t mentioned. Fluency in a foreign language, advanced skills in management, and skills as a professional sleuth are a few examples.
Should I Include References in my Lawyer Resume
Including references in a resume is outdated. If you do include them, or even if you write “References Available upon Request,” it tells the employer that you do not keep yourself well informed, which can make an extremely negative impression.
Instead of providing references in your resume, put them on a separate sheet. Wait to provide them until someone makes a request. Before you make your final decision regarding which references to use, ask for permission and verify addresses as well as phone and e-mail information. Practicing attorneys and immediate supervisors who know the quality of your work are well respected as references by hiring personnel.
When you begin preparing your list, head it with your name and contact information, formatted identical to the heading in your resume. Add a reference heading that is similar to the section headings on your resume. Use the same font and the same margins, and list references in one or two columns.
Lawyer Resume Fails: Mistakes to Avoid
- Avoid cramming so much information into your resume that it appears cluttered or takes too much effort to read. Resumes that look neat, clean and easy to read make a positive first impression. Look at lawyer resume samples to see styles that impress you. If you are impressed, others would be, too.
- Don’t turn your resume into an essay. Its sole purpose is to sell hiring managers on the possibility that you may be the right person for the position. An effective resume is one or two pages in length and has enough white space give it a crisp, clean appearance.
- Avoid sending the same resume to several companies or associations. Keep your resume updated, and tweak it to fit each new job announcement.
- Do not use fancy fonts or graphics in your resume. Many companies scan resumes so that they can be kept in computer files, ready to pull up at a moment’s notice. Scanner-friendly fonts include Arial, Calibri, Garamond, Georgia, Times New Roman and Verdana.
- Don’t rely on computerized spell checking programs to catch every error. Proofread carefully and have someone else double-check your work. If you send a resume filled with errors, it will go in the wastebasket.
Job Prospects in the Lawyer Industry
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’s Occupational Outlook Handbook predicts that there will be 74,800 more jobs for lawyers in the United States in 2022 than there were in 2012, when 759,800 people were working as lawyers.
In 2012, median annual wages were highest in federal government positions and in the finance and insurance industries. In these categories, median earnings were more than $134,000 per year. Among the top five industries, lawyers earning the lowest median annual wage were employed by state governments. Median pay for all lawyers came to $113,530 per year, or $54.58 per hour.
Because there are more law school graduates than there are job openings, competition is strong. This trend is expected to continue, and the willingness to relocate is becoming increasingly important. Accepting employment in another state usually requires passing the new state’s bar examination. Demand is expected to be highest in private law firms and large corporations.