Though sharing much in common with other professional resumes, a legal resume presents some unique challenges. It must cover essential cases and rulings from a lawyer’s career without violating the privacy and confidentiality of clients.
And as lawyers are generally specialists, their resumes must reflect their areas of specialization. The title itself is not nearly specific enough, as there are criminal lawyers, entertainment lawyers, civil lawyers, employment lawyers, tax lawyers, etc., all with unique qualifications and practices. When someone uses the term “lawyer,” a variety of images come to mind, not all of them positive.
In order to communicate your brand to HR as well as other attorneys, it is important that you craft your resume differently from the way you craft your legal briefs, while at the same time maintaining the flavor of your litigating style. Just as you may argue a point in court by offering examples and defenses, in a similar way, your resume is a sort of opening argument in the job process.
Here are a few of the essential features that must be included on a lawyer’s resume:
Summary: The opening of a legal resume isn’t much different from other professional resumes and should present a quick synopsis of your qualifications, experience, fields of study, and practice.
Recent Graduates: Competition among recent graduates for the best jobs is intense. To stand out, focus on academic results, internships, research work and simulation exercises, and seminars, webinars, and other special training attended.
Areas of Specialization: The professional experience section of the resume is similar to other resumes but more important for a lawyer, as you must clearly spell out your skills in a particular specialty (e.g., Mergers and Acquisitions or Project Finance or Industrial Amalgamations or Arbitrations, etc.).
Your profile should include a brief snapshot of your portfolio, research papers, and actual case summaries (while maintaining client confidentiality). Particularly significant results that have since become case law should be emphasized and details provided. Senior lawyers should keep in mind that academic qualifications matter but generally only during the first few years of employment.
Articles, Publications, and Awards: It is appropriate for senior lawyers to incorporate details of their citations and research work. Areas of research, contributions to public interest litigation, pleas, special citations and commendations, certifications, and special areas of study should all be included.
General Skills and Personal Strengths: The legal profession requires a number of intangible skills and these should be highlighted in the resume, including analytical, communication, and negotiation. As with other professional resumes, broad and vague statements should be avoided. Instead, provide examples and weave these intangibles into the wider scope of your accomplishments where applicable.
Additional Details: Lawyers can mention their number of billable hours and any honorary assignments that they have undertaken for community and social benefit.