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23 Resume  Cover Letter Basics
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23 Resume Cover Letter Basics

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  • 1. Law Career Services Presents: Resume & Cover Letter Writing Workshop November 2007
  • 2. Resume Introduction
    • Your legal resume is your personal marketing tool.
    • It provides a snapshot of your professional and educational experiences. (It should not list every job you have ever worked)
  • 3. 30 Seconds!!!
    • Most employers spend about 30 seconds scanning a resume, so it must be error free, pleasing to the eye and concise.
  • 4. Resume Guidelines
    • The legal community is conservative and legal employers expect to see a traditional legal resume.
      • For example, an eye-catching resume you prepared to market yourself in the advertising field would be ineffective when sent to a legal employer.
    • It may be desirable to create more than one legal resume depending on the types of employment you are seeking.
  • 5. Length: One Page
    • A law student’s resume should be restricted to one-page unless the student’s relevant experiences and accomplishments warrant continuation onto a second page.
    • More is not always better.
  • 6. Style
    • Select an easy-to-read typeface. Avoid using a font that looks like you typed your resume on a typewriter (like Courier ), script, ornate, or overly decorative styles.
      • Commonly Used: Times New Roman , Book Antiqua , Ariel .
    • Use capital letters, large and small caps, bold or italicized typefaces for sections, to add interest and enhance readability.
  • 7. Type of Paper
    • Use white, ivory, or pale cream resume paper. Pastels, patterns, bright colors and pictures are unacceptable.
    • The paper for the resume, cover letter and reference page should all match.
      • Your writing sample does not need to be printed on resume paper.
  • 8. Content of a Traditional Legal Resume
    • Identity and Contact Information
    • Education
    • Experience
    • Things that May be Included:
      • Skills
      • Interests
      • Community Involvement
      • Licenses
      • Military Experience
  • 9. Identity and Contact Information
    • On your resume, include your name , current address , email and a telephone number where an employer may reach you or leave a message.
    • A permanent address may be included along with your current address if you wish to show ties to the geographic area of an employer with whom you are applying.
  • 10. Mary A. Smith Current Address: Permanent Address: 123 Elm 4356 Arbor Ct. Toledo, OH 43606 Columbus, OH 43083 419-902-4873 [email_address]
  • 11. Objective
    • This section should be omitted for 97% of all law students. The only times an “objective” is recommended on a legal resume is when the individual is pursuing a second, totally disparate career.
  • 12. Education
    • The law school resume typically begins with the Education Section (whereas the resume of an alumnus often begins with the Experience Section).
    • Everything in Reverse Chronological Order (i.e. most recent first)
  • 13. Education: Should Include….
    • The name of the school, city and state where the school is located, your degree , and the date your degree will be completed.
    • The University of Toledo College of Law , Toledo, OH
    • Juris Doctor Anticipated, May 2010
  • 14. Education: Academic Performance
    • Law school grades can be central hiring criteria for many legal employers. (especially large firms)
    • The presumption is that your GPA is less than a 3.0 unless it appears on your resume.
  • 15. Education Issue 1: Low Grades
    • If you have less than a 3.0, anticipate that you will be questioned about your grades, and take the time to formulate a positive response:
      • For example: “Although Civil Procedure has been a difficult class for me, as evidenced by my first semester grade, I have put in extra time and work this semester and anticipate a positive final result in the course.”
  • 16. Education Issue 2: Transfers
    • If you attended more than one undergraduate institution (or law school), we suggest the following:
    • The University of Toledo , Toledo, OH
    • Bachelor of Arts , May 2007
    • Owens Community College , Toledo, OH
    • Completed 30 credit hours toward Bachelor’s degree.
  • 17. Education: Honors & Activities
    • List honors and activities under the school to which they relate.
    • Honors include academic achievements, such as graduating cum laude , scholarships, awards, moot court, trial team and any other club participation.
    • The activities section demonstrates your interest, leadership potential, and “well roundedness”.
  • 18. Example: Education Section
    • The University of Toledo College of Law , Toledo, OH
    • Juris Doctor Anticipated, May 2010
    • 3.24 GPA
    • Honors: Dean’s List, Fall 2007
    • Activities: Public Interest Law Association (PILA), Environmental Law Society
  • 19. Experience: Should Include…
    • The name of the employer, city and state , your title , dates of involvement and a description of the areas of responsibility.
    • Legal Aid of Western Ohio, Toledo, OH
    • Volunteer Intake Clerk , Summer 2007
    • Screened individuals at walk-in clinic.
    • Conducted intake for new clients by assessing needs and making referrals to appropriate agencies.
  • 20. Experience: Transferable Skills
    • Identify transferable skills that highlight "lawyerly" experiences & responsibilities.
    • Stress tasks and responsibilities that relate to the position you are seeking.
    • Use action words to describe skills gained from previous employment.
  • 21. Skills Legal Employers Desire:
    • Ability to Communicate
    • Ability to Handle Conflict
    • Leadership Skills
    • Willingness to Accept Responsibility
    • High Energy Level
    • Interpersonal Skills
    • Flexibility
    • Intelligence
  • 22. Experience Issue 1: Non-Legal Job
    • If you have no legal experience, you are not alone.
      • Emphasize traits legal employers desire.
      • Use Action Words in your descriptions.
        • Instead of “Responsible for managing client files for Medical Office” (Passive), write “Managed client files” (Active).
  • 23. I work as a Bartender….how do I make that relevant to a legal employer?????
    • Instead of:
      • “Mixed and served beverages”
    • Try:
      • “Anticipated customer needs, communicated effectively with clientele, and resolved pressing situations in a responsible manner.”
  • 24. Skills
    • Include skills that may be of interest to a potential employer.
      • Technical writing
      • Language Proficiency
      • Specialized computer skills (not word processing skills or legal databases such as Westlaw or Lexis unless certified)
      • Business/Accounting Background
  • 25. Skills: Language Skills
    • If language is particularly important to the employer, a separate category called Language Skills may work best for you.
    • If you list a language be specific about your proficiency such as fluent in Spanish, conversant in French, read and write Latin, translate Chinese.
  • 26. Interests
    • The Interest section enables candidates to demonstrate that they are well-rounded and have interests valued by an employer.
      • Can be perceived as assets in networking or business development as well as good conversation starter.
    • Utilize as space allows.
  • 27. Community Involvement
    • Demonstrated commitment to public service is very important to public interest employers and a plus to many others.
    • Extensive volunteer work that demonstrates transferable skills may be described under Experience or in a Community Involvement/Service Section.
      • List the name of the organization, your title and tenure.
  • 28. Licenses
    • List professional licenses and certificates, such as RN, Certified Financial Planner, Professional Engineer, CPA or Real Estate Broker.
    • List legal and non-legal affiliations, including the name of the organization and state of issuance.
  • 29. Military Experience
    • Some government employers give preference to veterans, so listing service involvement is a plus.
      • **Note: If military experience includes transferable skills, such as research, journalism, management etc., it should most likely appear in the Experience section.
  • 30. References
    • It is an ineffective use of valuable space to include the phrase, "References or Writing Samples Available Upon Request.”
    • You should provide your “ References ” on a separate sheet of paper that has the same heading as your resume.
    • Reference Norms: who, how many…
  • 31. Cover Letter Introduction
    • The cover letter is a written introduction to your resume, professional characteristics and attributes, enabling you to elaborate on your most relevant skills and explain your interest in the position.
    • A cover letter should accompany every resume you send out unless the employer specifically requests otherwise.
  • 32. Cover Letter Content
    • Salutation
    • Introductory Paragraph
    • Second Paragraph: Why Them
    • Third Paragraph: Why Me
    • Closing
  • 33. Salutation
    • Make your cover letter personal.
    • A cover letter should not be addressed to a generic entity such as “Hiring Partner” or “To Whom it May Concern”.
    • Instead, call the firm or entity and ask to whom you should send your application materials.
  • 34. Introductory Paragraph
    • If you have a connection to the employer, identify the connection in your opening sentence.
      • “ At the request of Professor Davis, Professor of Law at The University of Toledo College of Law, I am writing to……..”
    • State your intent.
      • “ I am writing to submit my resume for the purpose of obtaining a Summer Associate position with…….”
    • Introduce yourself briefly.
  • 35. Second Paragraph: “Why Them”
    • Express your familiarity with the employer and identify reasons you are applying for employment.
    • Draw attention to qualities you possess or experiences that you have had that would make you an asset to the employer.
    • Identify any geographic connection you have to the employer.
  • 36. Geographic Connections
    • Acceptable Connections:
      • Home State (resume should indicate a permanent address in the state)
      • Family in the area
      • Spent time in the area and/or have detailed knowledge of the area
    • Unacceptable Connections:
      • Girlfriend/Boyfriend in the area
      • It would be a “cool” place to live
      • No demonstrated knowledge of the area
  • 37. Third Paragraph: “Why Me”
    • Highlight relevant work experience and/or coursework and demonstrate how your specific experiences translate into transferable skills which will be of use to the employer.
      • “ My experience in various legal settings, including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. District Court, has provided me with a broad understanding of federal litigation which will be particularly useful to your Litigation Team.”
    • Demonstrate why you are the best applicant for the position.
  • 38. Closing Paragraph
    • Close the letter and thank the reader for their time.
      • “ I would be pleased to have the opportunity to interview with you for ___ position. Thank you for your consideration.”
    • Let the employer know that you intend to follow-up with them.
      • “ I will be calling within the next two weeks to ensure your receipt of these materials and to discuss the possibility of arranging an interview.”
  • 39. Cover Letter: Final Pointers
    • Your cover letter should provide a brief highlight of your qualifications and accomplishments.
    • It should never be longer than one page.
    • Be brief, get to the point, and then move on.
  • 40. Cover Letter: Final Pointers
    • Reference language used by the employer in the position description in your cover letter. Give the employer exactly what they are looking for.
      • For instance, if the firm has indicated that it seeks someone with litigation experience, make sure you specifically mention your litigation experience and/or training.
  • 41. Cover Letter: Final Pointers
    • A cover letter allows you the opportunity to showcase your writing & editing skills.
    • It is judged as your first writing sample.
    • Throughout the typical law firm hiring process, a cover letter may be reviewed by several members of the firm, as well as by pre-screeners and human resources staff. Any errors will be found and will undoubtedly work against you.
  • 42. Thanks For Coming!
    • Any Questions???