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Resume Advice & Samples

At the initial application stage, you will send an employer just your resume and cover letter, unless the employer specifically requests additional materials. Applications via email and mail are acceptable. When applying via email, convert your documents into PDF to avoid conversion problems. Ideally you should attach only one PDF file that includes both your resume and cover letter in one document.

In most cases, your resume is your first contact with a potential employer. It shows not only your experience thus far but also your accomplishments. Resumes should be concise, accurate, error-free, well-organized, clear, easy to read, and visually pleasing. Keep in mind that the reader of your resume will probably spend no more than 30 seconds reviewing it. To be effective, it must be brief while still offering enough information to interest the employer. Most law student resumes should be one page in length.

The first step in the resume drafting process is to attend CDO’s resume advice program and to reflect on your target audience. Are you writing to a law firm, small nonprofit organization, large government agency, or judge? Find out as much as you can about the types of projects in which you would be involved if hired. Based on that information, determine which skills you should highlight. For example, is your writing and research skills most important, or your communication and negotiation skills? You may choose to have a few resumes geared toward different types of employers.

Legal resumes are structured with 3-4 sections, each of which is briefly discussed below. Students are encouraged to refer to Chapter 4 of the Introduction to Career Development Guide for a more detailed discussion on each of these sections, and review the sample legal resumes. After drafting your legal resume, please schedule an appointment with a CDO counselor to discuss your draft and any questions you may have.
  • Heading: The heading should include your name, mailing address, telephone number, and email address at the top of your resume.
  • Education: List your degrees in reverse chronological order. Include in the education section honors and activities under the appropriate school entry. Keep in mind that the honors category is reserved for the activities that you were chosen to participate in through some type of selection process.
  • Experience: The experience section should list in reverse chronological order, all relevant employment. The name of the employer should be listed first, followed by the location, and dates of employment. Volunteer or unpaid employment may be included in this section along with paid employment. Feel free to include work performed as part of your scholastic experiences in your experience section, including legal clinic experience, research for a professor, a pro bono project, and extensive work for a student organization. Use active verbs in your job descriptions. For example, state “researched and wrote memoranda on issues of jurisdiction and venue,” not “involved in assisting attorneys in the researching and writing of…” Appendix B in the Introduction to Career Development Guide (link) includes a list of action verbs. Provide enough description so the potential employer learns something about the projects you worked on and the skills you developed.
  • Additional Sections: Following the experience section, many students include an “interests” section listing a few special interests that may matter to an employer. It is not mandatory; however, if you have interests that are not already reflected in your application, then you may wish to include it. If you have a particular language ability that may be relevant to an employer, you can include a “skills” or “languages” section with that information.