Resume writing

14A_8366 - webI. Resumes and their importance

A resume is an advertisement of what you have to offer. It is often the first form of contact you will have with a perspective employer. You must portray yourself as an asset to the employer – an offer that can’t be refused. Have you ever bought something because the commercial was so enticing it aroused your curiosity? That is the effect you are trying to achieve with your resume. Its purpose is to distinguish you from others and get you an interview. It also serves as a reminder of you after the interview.

Resumes are necessary when applying for law clerk as well as attorney positions. For this reason, you will want to compile one early in your law school career and update it as you establish additional credentials or acquire additional relevant work experience.

A resume is designed to summarize you and your attributes in a manner which the employer can easily and quickly absorb and convey your uniqueness in a way that will make the employer want to know more about you.  Avoid the trap of providing so much information on your resume that the employer can decide about you without an interview. A resume is a summary of your academic history and your experience and skills, not an autobiography.

II. Writing your resume

Approaches to resume writing

  • Chronological – telling about yourself (education, employment history and relevant accomplishments) in the order in which these events occurred in your life
  • Functional – Grouping relevant skills together as the focus.  For example, list your entrepreneurial abilities or your demonstrated legal-related skills  and competencies. This approach aids in eliminating redundant entries reported in similar positions with different employers
  • Combination – A combination of the two above in a customized format

Resume formatting

  • The left-margin format features headings down the left margin, but the centered format features centered headings.
  • Standard categories on the legal resume (select those most appropriate for your personal resume): personal information (required), admission to the bar, education, work history/experience,  publications, activities, and honors.
  • Use caps, bolding, underlining, spacing, white space and balance to establish eye appeal for your resume.
  • Length: one or two pages.  Most employers strongly prefer a one-page resume when you are applying for law clerk positions. If you can fit all relevant information on one page, leaving enough white space to make it readable, do so. However, use a two-page resume if the alternative would force you to reduce the print to an unreadable size, to leave little white space, or to eliminate information that an employer might consider relevant. Individuals with substantial work experience MIGHT need a two-page resume. In most cases, the Assistant Dean can assist you in editing to accomplish a succinct, descriptive, one-page document. Email law-careers @ualr.edu to request an appointment.

Content

For your first draft, put yourself in the place of the employer and decide what you would look for. Write down everything you want to say about yourself, emphasizing the positive information and minimizing facts you think are negative. Weed out the least important facts.  Remember, some prospective employers will receive hundreds of resumes, especially for summer clerkships and professional positions.  They will scan these quickly to select very few people to interview. You may not have more than 30 seconds of these readers’ attention, so you must use it wisely and arrange your resume so that the relevant points can be absorbed within those 30 seconds.

Do not include false or misleading information or pad or exaggerate any of the content. If you list yourself as a law clerk for a firm when in fact you are a secretary, you endanger your credibility. When interviewers question you or your former employer about your specific responsibilities, they will learn the truth and you will then lose the possibility of a position.

This advice also refers to academic attributes such as the Dean’s List. If you have been on the Dean’s List only one semester, be sure to list it in that way on your resume rather than just using the general statement, “Dean’s List.” The latter will be interpreted as an achievement for each semester in school. Of course, GPA and class rank must be absolutely accurate. State your grade point average to the hundredth decimal point – don’t round it off.

Resume Outline:

Education

List the schools you attended in reverse chronological order with UALR William H. Bowen School of Law first. For your law school entry, list your expected date of graduation and additional relevant information. Class rank and GPA are obvious selling points if your GPA is 3.0 or higher. Not listing GPA indicates the probability that your GPA is less than 3.0. If you’re borderline (2.9, 2.8), you may want to list it. For undergraduate and other graduate degrees, be sure to include the month and year these degrees were conferred and the specific degree received.

If you have a  top paper, or your grades in a few specific courses are strong, list these courses and the grade you received. If your Legal Research or Reasoning, Writing and Advocacy grades have been consistently high, indicate that. If you are applying in a specialized area of law practice, list the relevant courses to show an employer that you have studied in this area.

List academic honors, such as Bowen Fellow, and extracurricular activities such as Law Review or Moot Court, and indicate your capacity. When listing student organizations and associations, always list the full name, not initials (i.e., Student Bar Association (SBA) and office(s) held). This not only fully identifies the organization, but looks more impressive. Be sure to list honors and activities under the school at which they were achieved. In general, list these items rather than write them in paragraph form.

Legal experience

Legal positions should also be listed in reverse chronological order. Include all jobs that are relevant to your legal training, including volunteer, externship, and internship positions. Give the name of the firm or company, city, and state. State your job title – Law Clerk,  Research Assistant, Judicial Extern, etc. Briefly describe your activities/accomplishments. Use action words  as much as possible to describe your accomplishments (e.g., supervised, interviewed, analyzed, researched, drafted, organized). This is preferable to saying, “Responsibilities included…” Avoid using the word “duties.”  List substantive areas of law with which you have dealt, types of legal documents which you’ve drafted, and your relevant accomplishments.

Dates of employment may either be stated at the end of the description or in the left hand column of the resume. Do not state salary or reasons for leaving.

Experienced attorneys – Remember that this section should be first on your resume. Your legal experience is of prime importance in future job considerations.

Additional professional experience

This category can be used if you have had a previous non-legal career or you are presently employed as a professional in a non-legal field. Listing these types of jobs separately allows the employer to note at a glance your legal versus non-legal experience. These positions should be listed in the same manner as the legal jobs. Dates of employment should be listed in a consistent manner with those under Legal Experience. Keep in mind that listing dates in the left hand margin highlights them, which may not be an asset if the experience dates back too many years or there are significant gaps in your work history. Again, use action words  to describe your accomplishments. However, be as concise as possible.

Other work experience

This category includes employment, other than legal, that is not at a professional level.  Part-time and summer jobs such as waitress, store clerk, camp counselor, etc., can be put in this category but only if you lack other work experience. You should use your judgment as to whether this adds anything to your resume. First-year students in particular may want to use this category because some lack significant job experience in the legal arena.

Publications

If you have written a law-related article that has been or is about to be published, list it immediately after the experience section or .  Be sure to use an accurate citation.

Language proficiency and/or special skills

Be sure to add any foreign language proficiency to your resume. Those in high demand, like Spanish, should be placed higher up in the resume after Education.

III. Final Steps

Papers, printers, and copying

Proofread your resume, have others proofread, and stop by Career Services before emailing or printing your resume for jobs.

Paper:

  • Use white, eggshell or light gray.
  • Use good quality resume paper.
  • Match your resume paper and your cover letter paper and envelope.

Printers: The Law School computer labs are both equipped with laser printers.  Career Services in Room 116 also provides printing access and resume paper.

You are also advised to bring or email a draft of your resume to Dean Walker for review before uploading it to HIRE Bowen. Of course, you are free to visit the office at any time, but you may want to make an appointment so you are assured of the time you need.

Always save your resume in a PDF format before you upload it to HIRE Bowen or send it via email to potential employers.

Resume samples

Generic resume template

Sample resumes

Action words for legal resume