Many lawyers who have not prepared a resume since they were in law school may not know where to start is they are looking for another job or have been impacted by a decision of their law firm or legal department.
The steps for writing a resume are relatively simple because the rules have not changed over time. So, here’s a refresher.
EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE
Your educational attainment, and where you have worked and the matters you have worked on are the highest priority for a resume and should be bulleted so that employers can see your practice area and your skill set. This is how a potential employer can make a very quick assessment and give you second look. Youi might be in a stack of ten to 100 resumes and you want to stand out based on who you are and what you know how to do.
Your experience should be captured in your job history. The skills you have built over time are going to be the most interesting to a new employer. One thing that has changed is lawyers are no longer hired only for their intellectual capacity. Increasingly they are hired for their specialized skills. You need to describe the complexity of the cases you have touched and the amount of risk or financial exposure that was involved in a transaction. There is not a need to describe your “portable book of business” at this point in the process but it will be a critical factor for lateral moves. We will talk more about that in a future column.
If you have been out of law school less than four years, you don’t need more than a one-page resume. If you have been out five or more and you’ve handled complex matters, you’ll probably need more description of your prior roles and critical cases or deals.
Keep your resume clean, concise and simple. In the words of Sergeant Joe Friday from “Dragnet,” “Just the fact’s ma’am.” There are too many times when applicants have embellished a credential or experience and when it turns out to be false they are disqualified as candidates. Some even start their employment and then get dismissed when it is discovered that they falsified their application. Background checks are very serious business now for all employers.
LAW SCHOOL EDUCATION
Some consideration, even if you are a more experienced lawyer, will depend on the law school you attended and how you performed. It’s always important to note if you served on law review or won a major moot court competition. A large regional or national firm is going to be very focused on whether you have the baseline credentialing the firm would have included if you had been recruited through their summer program
In-house law positions are becoming extremely specialized. Companies focus on the immediate needs they are facing their bottom line or future plans.
For example, if a corporation is in an acquisition mode, they are looking for someone who has significant M & A experience. In that case, your resume should include a deal sheet that will list the complexity of the transactions you may have touched during your law firm experience. Similarly, if you have litigated complex matters, and a particular company has a lot of product liability work, they are evaluating if you can manage that kind of litigation.
JOBS NOT POSTED
Some legal jobs never get posted. Our company has a lot of long standing relationships with a wide variety of law firms and corporations throughout the Carolinas who come to us when they have a specific need or expecting a new challenge. We try to keep enough talented individuals in our database to respond quickly to the job order.
We provide a confidential way to take a look into the market or get your resume ready for a job change in the future. Perhaps we can take away some of the of mystery about where to take your skill set or find the best move for your legal career. John Lassiter