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Creating your Resume
The first rule of resume writing is that there are no hard and fast rules. Your resume is your sales tool. You are the one who ultimately decides how it should be organized and what information it should contain. Depending on how long you have been out of law school, and how many other career transitions you have made in recent years, you may not have worked on your resume for some time.
Whether your goals in updating your resume are merely to tweak a few details and to add your latest work experience, or to entirely revamp its format and content, here are some suggestions to assist you in getting started.
As you are well aware, your resume is very often your first opportunity to highlight your background and experiences in a way potential employers will find compelling. Because you have been in the working world for some amount of time, you no longer need to be concerned about your resume being more than one page in length. However, do not take that to mean that your resume should be an exhaustive biography. To the contrary, use your resume to describe those experiences relevant to the job you seek. Employers consider your resume to be an example of your work product. As such, it must be concise, accurate, error-free, well organized, clear, easy to read, and visually pleasing. Keep in mind that all information on your resume is fair game for employers to question during your interviews.
Before sitting down to revise your resume, reflect on your targeted audience. Are you writing to a law firm, a small nonprofit organization, a large government agency, or a 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, are your writing and research skills most important, or your communication and negotiation skills? Review your prior experiences to determine which ones best demonstrate the skills and attributes sought by the employer(s) to which you are now applying.
Decide whether to list your education or experience section first. Some YLS graduates always list their education section, and thus Yale Law School, first so that it is clearly noticeable to employers. This certainly makes sense if you are applying for legal jobs and are less than 10 years out of law school. If you are applying for non-legal positions and your work experiences are more relevant to the position you seek than your YLS degree, you may decide it is best to start your resume with your experience section. In addition, if you are more than 10 years out of law school, and you have relevant work experience to offer, consider starting with your experience section.
Before including scholastic honors and activities on your resume, critically evaluate them to assess their value to the position you seek. At this stage in your career, your experience section should comprise the bulk of your resume.
There is no need to separate your experience section into a variety of subsections (such as legal, non-legal, professional, other) unless you are trying to highlight an experience that is relevant to the position you seek and not one of your more recent experiences. In that case, you may wish to separate out that category of experiences and give them prominence on your resume. If your law school summer experiences and pre-law school experiences are neither geographically nor substantively relevant to the position you seek, consider excluding them if you are many years out of law school.
Write descriptions of your prior experiences with the potential employer in mind. Highlight projects you have worked on that are most relevant to the work you seek. Provide a description of your judicial clerkship experience. It is fine to make this brief, though if possible use it to highlight those substantive areas of law in which you were most involved that relate to the work of the prospective employer. Be mindful of your responsibility to maintain the confidentiality of your work in chambers.
Provide your bar status if you are applying for a legal position for which the bar is required, but keep the information to one line on your resume. List publications if the subject matter is relevant to the position you seek and/or your ability to write is important and not otherwise reflected on your resume.
For additional general resume advice, consult CDO's Introduction to Career Development. For resume advice specifically geared for academic positions, consult CDO's Entering the Law Teaching Market (YLS Version). Please contact our office at 203-432-1676 for password information.
You are also welcome to schedule an appointment with a CDO counselor to discuss your resume draft and to gain feedback on it.