1.800.973.1177CAREER COUNSELOR’S CORNERPAGE 1 continued on backI. IntroductionA good resume is an extremely importanttool in the job search process. Because firmsare inundated with resumes, your resumemust be able to get the attention of the hu-man resources manager and create a good,strong impression at a brief glance. Yourresume is your sales pitch to the employer.It is not merely a recitation of your life’schronology. You need to make your value tothe employer clear and, since your resumewill likely only get about thirty seconds of theemployer representative’s time, you needyour value to be emphasized and evidentfrom a quick scan and cursory examination.There are two styles of resumes: functionaland chronological. Chronological resumesare useful when outlining your accomplish-ments and experience in relation to yourpast employment. Functional resumesbreak your accomplishments into areas ofexperience and are more useful when youhave had many jobs or large gaps in youremployment history. If you have had manyjobs, all of which are relevant, the employeris likely to assume that you were unhappy orunsuccessful at your past jobs. Constant jobmigration is never a good indication to anyemployer. By emphasizing your knowledgeand set of skills while downplaying yourjob-hopping, you can sometimes eliminatethe stigma that employers will associate withyour employment history. However, becausemany legal employers are interested in see-ing a resume that paints a chronological pic-ture of your advancing career through yourpast employment, the functional resume willappear confusing and will make the employersuspicious of your intentions. This articleis designed to help both experienced andinexperienced job seekers design a resumethat is effective and sure to leave a favorableimpression with any potential employer.This article consists of two sections that offerspecific tips for improving the content andappearance of your resume. Two appendicesfollow the article. Appendix I contains a listof several hundred Action Verbs - words thatwill energize your job descriptions and em-phasize all your accomplishments properly.II. Content of Your ResumeTell the truth. Lying on your resume will nothelp you. Employers are very familiar withemployment verification and reference-checking services, and they do use them. Donot lie, or stretch the truth on your resume.Don’t even think about it. Absolutely everystatement on your resume should be theabsolute, verifiable truth. No exceptions.Be proud of your extensive career. If you havebeen working for many years and have manyaccomplishments under your belt, you do nothave to be limited to a single page resume.If your resume spills onto a second page, itshould fill at least a half of a page. Be sureto put your name and contact information onthe top of the second page as well.Eliminate excess language. Someone who hasalready scanned a hundred resumes that dayand will still have to read a hundred morebefore the day’s end will scan your resume.Saying “Currently I am actively involved inthe day-to-day decisions regarding manage-ment of the document management systemof my firm” will make the decision-makersick of reading it. Instead you can say, “Su-pervised all daily decisions regarding docu-ment management” or “Made key decisionsregarding document management system”.You are not writing an essay. There is no needto use “I” or “my”, and you should eliminatearticles where appropriate. A better phrasingof “I reorganized the firm’s billing practices,reducing our errors by 35%” is “Reorganizedbilling practices, reducing errors by 35%.”Short phrases and sentence fragments arethe most efficient and effective methods formaking your point.Your accomplishments are more important thanyour “responsibilities.” ” What sounds moreimpressive - the fact that you were “Respon-sible for filing and storage of case records“ or that you “Structured system for filingand storage to minimize cost and maximizeavailability of documents?” “Responsibilities”implies passive activity, which won’t excitethe person thinking of paying you. UsingAction Verbs (see Appendix I) will revive theactive voice and energize each job’s dutiesand accomplishments. Several importantAction Verbs to keep in mind are “enacted”,“performed”, “supervised”, “maintained”,“organized”, and “developed”.Avoid irrelevancies. It is important to excludeall irrelevant information, including experi-ence, employment and superfluous informa-tion. If you worked as a waiter during college,How to Write a Law Firm Resume[Law Firm Staff]The experts give some advice on what speciﬁcally “legal” resumes need to focus on -- and what will make it jump out at hiring organizations.
1.800.973.1177CAREER COUNSELOR’S CORNERPAGE 2 continuedit is not necessary to list that job. However,don’t attempt to fill the gap by stretching yourrelevant employment dates. Instead, makesure you can give an honest answer if askedabout it during an interview. Include yourobjective on the resume at the top so that youremployer will understand why you are apply-ing and have context for understanding yourexperience.Personal information other than your name,address, phone number, and email address isunnecessary. The employer does not need toknow your birth date, height, weight, maritalstatus, or hair color. This is a general state-ment that may have exceptions; if, for exam-ple, your spouse is the manager of a client orpotential client of the firm, you may considerdisclosing your marital status and spouse’sname (but do not be boastful). No matter howgorgeous you are, the HR manager does notwant a photo of you. Unless requested, youshould not include a salary history, refer-ences, thesis, or other superfluous materials.With the amount of time given to each resume,do you want it spent gazing at your photo orreading your many accomplishments?Give attention where attention is due. If yourresume describes your most recent positionwith a law firm in only one line, but describesthe paper you wrote for your thesis in four,you need to reassess your priorities. Ac-complishments and experiences should getattention proportional to their importance.Generally, your current job is more importantthan your summer internship in college, un-less that internship gave you more relevantexperience and skills.Use job descriptions wisely. Because your jobtitle may mean different responsibilities andskills to different employers, you should usedescriptions to eliminate doubt and clarifyyour position. The responsibilities of a “LegalAssistant” at some firms may be close to theduties of a “Paralegal” at other firms, andto the duties of a “Legal Secretary” at otherfirms. While your job title may seem moreimpressive, employers may find it misleading.Explicit descriptions of your duties, respon-sibilities, and achievements can clarify theextent of your experience.Be creative and professional at the same timeThis is possible to do. If you have a particularinterest or hobby that may not parlay into askill used in a law practice, but it makes youstand out in a crowd, use it. Your resumeneeds to create an image of a person, not justa series of jobs and education. Your interestswill let the employer know who you are as wellas what you can do. You can have a sectionon your resume for “Personal” or “Areas ofInterest”. Be specific, too. Instead of being“Interested in sports and reading”, you are an“Avid skier, and collector of Early AmericanLiterature.” Personal interests and hobbiescan be an excellent way to break the ice in aninterview. However, you must use discretion.Keep in mind that, if your resume makes itpast the HR Manager’s hands, it is likely tobe read by many eyes. While some may findyour interest in collecting “Dukes of Hazard”memorabilia to be interesting, others may findfault.Other categories that you can add could be“Professional Affiliations” or “CommunityActivities”. These sections are a good way toshow your level of involvement in the localprofessional or business community.There is no need to record those abilities theemployer will take for granted, such as abil-ity to drive or type, unless it is critical to theposition you are seeking. Every librarian, forexample, should have general computer skillsand know how to research online; therefore,by listing those skills on your resume, you areidentifying those as the most notable of yourabilities. This will make you look average,not exceptional. Other categories can include“Writing”, “Public Speaking”, or “Languages”.If you speak a language, include that languageand your level of proficiency. The employerhas the right to know whether someone wholists “Chinese Language” as a skill has takentwo years of Chinese or has lived in China forsix years.No grades are not good grades. Regardlesswhat the old maxim says about “no news”,the omission of your GPA or class rank onyour resume implies that your grades werevery likely mediocre to below-average. If youhave any honors or an impressive GPA orclass ranking, include them. As the years outof school grow, your grades may grow lessimportant; however, a highly experiencedparalegal that graduated in the top of hisclass still has an edge over a similarly quali-fied paralegal with poor grades. If you havemediocre or poor grades, omitting them willnot get you off the hook. You should always beprepared to discuss your grades.III. Your Résumé’s AppearanceDon’t use a scripted font. Scripted fonts maylook fancy, but straightforward, easy-to-readfonts such as Times New Roman and CourierNew are highly preferable.Avoid small type. 8-point font will make yourresume illegible. While it may seem betterto keep your resume to one page by using asmaller font, do you want the hiring partner tobe forced to squint to read your resume? Withthe abundance of resumes coming in the door,it is easier to throw yours out and move on tothe next one.Leave enough white space, but not too much.Margins that are .2” wide will make your re-sume appear crowded, while margins that are1.5” wide will present the impression that youdon’t have enough to offer to even fill a singlepage. You need to leave margins that are wideenough to eliminate a cramped feeling, whileat the same time keeping your margins smallenough to prevent the appearance of spacefilling. An effective margin width would typi-cally be around 1”.
1.800.973.1177CAREER COUNSELOR’S CORNERPAGE 3Use bullet points wisely. There is no need touse a bullet point for every job; instead, usethem to highlight important accomplishmentsof one or two particular jobs. Too many bulletpoints will eliminate their effectiveness inemphasizing aspects of your resume.Walk the ﬁne line between a slick resume and a“slick” resume. You many think that going to aprofessional printer and having your resumeprinted will guarantee an attention-getter. Youwould be right, but it would be the wrong typeof attention. Professionally printed resumeswill give the impression that you hired some-one to do your resume for you because youcannot do your own work - an impression youcertainly cannot afford to give. However, yourresume must look professional. You shouldprint your resume on professional, heavystock paper that is a muted color using a laserprinter.Emphasize your job titles and experience. Youronly priority where your resume is concernedshould be making your achievements obviousin a quick scan. While the dates of your pastemployment are very important, the employerwill not examine these carefully until youbecome a candidate for an interview. This onlyhappens after the hiring partner has initiallyseen what you have to offer and kept yourresume from the dreaded circular file. Do youreally need to have “Employment” and “May2001” in bold, or is it better to have “AssociateAttorney, Corporate Division” in bold instead?Proofread your resume. Spell check is a won-derful invention, but it cannot yet tell you thatyou meant to use “if” instead of “is”. Thereis a big difference between a “rabid” and a“rapid” typist. After spending all week writingyour resume, you will be tempted to skim it.Resist this temptation or pass the resume onto a colleague or friend who will carefully readevery word. The importance of language in thelegal profession only heightens your responsi-bility to send an error-free document.Keep it simple. With the popularity of the Inter-net, emailing a resume is very commonplace.If you have structured your resume usingcomplicated columns and tables with a uniquefont in Microsoft Word, what will happen whenyour potential employer uses WordPerfect andonly has three fonts? Keeping your resume asimple block of text with basic formatting andindenting will offer much better results withemployers who use different software.IV. ConclusionYour resume is not the key to a successfuljob. There are many components that worktogether, including the skill and credibilityof your recruiter, your job search, and evenbeing in the right place at the right time.However, you only get one chance to make afirst impression, and by following these tipsand avoiding the pitfalls, you can take onestep closer to your new job. At Legal Staff,Inc., our recruiters have been candidates likeyou, have reviewed resumes when serving onrecruiting committees and HR departmentsin major firms, and have advised hundredsof candidates in making sure their resumesaccomplish the intended purpose of creating agood, strong impression on the hiring partner.If you are candidate with superior academiccredentials and solid legal experience, pleasecall us.