How to Craft a Law School Resume – Some Key Considerations
The truth is that there is no standard law school resume. Resumes differ in terms of style and substance. Express your creativity and unique history, while keeping the following considerations in mind:
Four Main Categories of a Law School Resume
Because law school is an academic undertaking, your education should be the first section. List the name of the institution you attended, location (city and state), degree earned and the year you earned it and your major(s) and minor(s) (if any). Include any study abroad experiences in this section as well. You can include your overall GPA and/or your major GPA, but only if it is exceptional. Remember that you will be providing a transcript as well.
Do not include high school education. In fact, high school should be completely excluded from a law school resume unless there is some truly remarkable experience from that time in your life to highlight (on the level of an Olympic medal or performance at Carnegie Hall, for example, which belong in another section). Note that a perfect SAT score or status as a high school valedictorian would not be worthy of inclusion.
Include also key extracurricular activities, unless you decide to move extracurricular activities to an experience or “skills, interests, and activities” section.
Honors and Awards
This section is common in law school resumes, but it is not an absolute must. You could also break out the honors and awards under Education, particularly if the content relates to your academic experience. If you don’t have any honors and awards, do not despair. Instead expand any professional or extracurricular experience.
You could name this section in different ways, including, for example “Experience,” “Work Experience,” “Professional Experience” or “Employment.” Capture any paying jobs, internships and volunteer experience within organizations. Instead of merely listing job titles and dates, explain your roles and responsibilities for each experience. Think about your day-to-day responsibilities and how you contributed to longer-term projects. Use crisp, concise and powerful words to describe your roles, and lead with strong action words, such as “directed,” “developed” or “managed.” Be precise and truthful about your roles and avoid exaggeration or mischaracterization. Don’t, for example, claim to have worked in the capacity of an attorney.
Skills and Interests (or something like it)
Use this section to showcase your well-roundedness. I have found that interviewers often start interviews with an “ice-breaker” from this section.
Some ideas for content include: foreign language proficiencies; community involvement; artistic or musical abilities; interesting hobbies. Ask yourself whether your hobby is truly “interesting.” Many people like to travel or cook, for example. But “adventure traveler and hiker” or “avid pastry chef” are both more interesting and less common. Steer clear of general interests that don’t make you stand out.
Technical proficiencies are only compelling if they are unusual. It’s not worthy of a line in your resume to note your prowess with the Microsoft Office suite, for example.
Pay Attention to the Look
Length, formatting and overall appearance matter. Most resumes for law school should be no more than one-page. If you have extensive post-graduate work experience or have other unique circumstances, such as significant research projects or publications, a second page is fine.
Make sure to use one font throughout. Choose a classic font like Times, Arial or Calibri, and use 11 or 12 point font.
Be consistent. If you right-justify dates or left-justify headings, do so throughout. If you use bullets for one job, don’t use dashes for another. Aim for a look that is professional, straightforward and polished. Ask yourself: Is my resume visually pleasing? If it isn’t, fix it! In your legal career, you will find that employers and courts care very much about the appearance of documents, so polishing your resume for law school is excellent practice.
No matter how many times I see grammatical or spelling errors in law school resumes, I am always shocked. People: PROOFREAD YOUR RESUME. And then? Have someone else proofread it. Producing a resume with no errors will not be a feather in your cap, but I assure you that producing one with mistakes will not serve you.
Apply these tips to help you craft a strong law school resume. Though your resume is one of a myriad application components, be sure it fits in with your application as a whole. Avoid unnecessary redundancy, and consider that your resume provides opportunities to display key experiences and accomplishments that you may be unable to showcase elsewhere.
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