How to write an outstanding lawyer resume in 2021: a checklist

How to write an outstanding lawyer resume

Looking for a new job? The first step to landing a dream job in law is creating a strong resume. The phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” doesn’t work during the hiring process, and the resume is the first document that presents you. Resumes became even more important in the light of the recent huge uptick in virtual recruitment. 

Take it from Edith Pearce, a personal injury lawyer, who shared her insights into the role of resumes in 2021: 

“I think resumes have become slightly more appealing potentially because more time and effort has been spent on them during the pandemic. Also, I see more experienced attorneys applying for jobs because of being let go due to a slow down during COVID”

Edith Pearce
Edith Pearcea Founding Attorney at The Pearce Law Firm, Personal Injury, and Accident Lawyers P.C.

This trend means that lawyers now need to work on their resumes more to make them stand out. What makes hiring managers read your resume? Why are expressions like “a top-notch lawyer” better to avoid? Which hard and soft skills are essential to include in 2021? With the following checklist, you can find the answers to these and other questions to secure a safe flight in the hiring process in 2021. Read it before the take-off.

1) Writing a winning lawyer’s personal statement

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  • Start with your key strengths, not just in the legal field.
    One of the trickiest things about resumes is that you have just a few lines at the beginning to impress your readers. Don’t waste the chance. Showing you are an all-around professional from the first lines is a powerful motivator to continue reading your resume. To stand out among others candidates, you need to show that you have the strengths needed to function at the intersection of law, technology, and business. Let hiring managers know that you are ready to meet the demands of the market and deliver the transformative legal services clients demand.
  • Think deeper and research the law firm you’re applying to.
    Are you applying for a law firm, small nonprofit organization, or large government agency? Create a targeted resume by adding keywords – words or short phrases that relate to particular requirements for a job offer you apply for. Take a profound look at a job offer and, after that, read about the history, values, and goals of your potential workplace. The 2021’s competitive market requires a more personalized approach to resumes. Miranda Yan, a founder of VinPit, illustrates what has changed in terms of resume reviewing: “We get more resumes for single posts now since digital interviews are convenient, and candidates send as many resumes as they want to end up in the most prestigious firm.” To stand out from such a crowd, make sure you emphasize those aspects of your personality and experience that the employer is seeking. Stay yourself, but present your individuality in the most effective way. After all, it’s always better to send five highly tailored CVs than a hundred generic copies to get to the desired destination.    
  • Stay to-the-point — no over-promises and exaggerating adjectives. Expressions like “I am a top-notch lawyer” or “self-motivated” sound far-fetched rather than persuasive. These phrases became so overused that they ring hollow today. Miranda Yan also explains why such cliches don’t work anymore:

“When it comes to the skills part, candidates just add generic ones like- problem solving, communication, language proficiency, etc. As much as these skills are relevant, I see the exact keywords in every other resume, which feels like a copy-paste, to be honest.” 

Treat your resume like a product – it should be unique, with no cliches, to make sure customers (in this case hiring managers) choose it. Instead of saying that you are “hard-working,” provide concrete results and achievements on your resume. Well done is always better than well said.

2) Presenting your soft & hard skills

  • Emphasize your public speaking skills. Public speaking is key for the legal market since in any high-stress environment, especially in courts, you need to be comfortable presenting your case and speaking confidently. Beyond this, lawyers need to be good communicators in smaller meetings with clients and other attorneys. John Berry, CEO of Berry Law, told Loio about the significance of this skill in 2021:

“Since the pandemic, the remote hiring process has not only allowed for a wider range of talent due to a hybrid setup but also shown us that those with an ability to persuade and appear confident within the virtual conference setting have become essential.”

John BerryCEO of Berry Law

Make hiring managers know that your presentation abilities can bring a number of benefits for a law firm by including information about how effectively you articulate your client’s intentions to other parties and attorneys.

  • Highlight your legal design thinking abilities. Design thinking focuses on improving the quality of client life with the services a firm provides. It helps not only to deliver legal services at the moment but consider an approach that brings more benefits in the long run. You can prove your legal design thinking by letting hiring managers know that you concentrate on understanding the clients’ needs at the start and keep them in mind throughout the process.
  • Show your technology-oriented approach to practice. Miranda Yan explained the significance of mentioning expertise in technologies as one of the hard skills:

In the era we currently exist in, remote culture has become the need of the hour, and even law firms are using modern digital tools to manage a virtual workspace. A candidate who mentions his ability in dealing with technology stands out the most for me.” 

Show that you’re a candidate ready to make benefits from the digital transformations and optimize your work by mentioning the technical tools and software which you use in daily practice. For example, mention your word processing skills, expertise in presentation software and different management systems, or highlight your ability to work with online databases. 

  • Talk about your sensitivity to the client’s needs. Increased focus on the client experience may reach a tipping point in 2021. Remember that every dispute, every legal case is all about people. Let the firm know you are sensitive to the client’s needs by adding to the list of job responsibilities such achievements as managing to explain complex matters in an understandable way or securing emotional engagement with clients.

3) Creating a strong work experience section

  • Demonstrate your legal experience first, adding concrete examples of your achievements. Although this statement is kind of self-explanatory, still, you need to remember that your experience in law is one of the most important sections. Make it impeccable and add concrete examples of your achievements and responsibilities. Hiring managers examine this section to find specific characteristics and keywords useful to the role you’re applying for, especially reviewing your recent working places. For instance, it is not enough for them to know that you worked as a litigation associate for a firm from 2016 to 2018. They need to know what your job duties were and which key achievements you accomplished at this workplace.
  • Include experience gained while studying or volunteering.  Legal hiring managers will appreciate your passion for law if they see you had some supervised practice while being a student 0r had some practice as a volunteer. Any experience proving your interest and motivation in the legal field counts.  You never know which experience may work out. The only thing to remember is to include only relevant volunteer experience. Although animal care activities make you a good person, they will not help you to get the desired position. Good examples are volunteering in a community legal center or joining a law student committee.
  • Highlight customer service experience if any. Worked in a call center or as a market consultant? This experience can be more valuable than you think since it is all about delivering customer service and working with people. Fully consider any customer-related working experience.
  • Tell only the truth about your previous experience. No doubts —  legal hiring managers are great investigators. These days, it is much easier to do background checks on potential candidates thanks to checking social media profiles or contacting a company mentioned in your resume through LinkedIn. Being caught lying is definitely not how you’d want to start your interview.

4) Optimizing education section 

  • Not much experience? Put the education section first. Start with the details that express your strengths best. Education background can become a true game-changer if you are new in law, especially in the modern inclusive legal environment.
  • Include any cross-sectional courses that might come in handy. Remember that it’s not enough to have hard skills in legal practice to be in demand in the market. The more diverse your educational background is, the more likely you are to get the desired position. Include information about any courses in legal tech, business studies, and other spheres to show that you are an all-around professional.

5) Final touches: structure & style

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  • Less is more – keep it to two pages or fewer. Did you know that, on average, hiring managers spend just 7.4 seconds skimming through a candidate’s resume? The chances of being noticed, especially in big and reputable law firms, are extremely low.  No point in writing pages of how brilliant you are. Set yourself a length limit and stick to it. 
  • Add some creativity but stay minimalistic. It’s 2021, resume doesn’t have to be dull. Make your resume a pleasure to read by using simple design tools or templates. Tools like CV Compiler, Canva or CV-builder Zety can make your CV design more appealing. However, be careful with using different colors, fonts, or designs. Remember that you are looking for a job in a legal field, not in a fashion agency. Law firms do serious work and prioritize factual information, and they want your resume to be simplified and easy to read to digest quickly. Here is an example of the template you might use that is clear and concise. 
  • Treat it like a contract where every mistake matters. Remember that your resume is a document that should be impeccable, with no mistakes and irrelevant data. While the quality of a contract determines whether it is valid, your resume is what defines whether your candidacy is worth considering. 

When you’re done – enhance the power of your resume through social media profiles

Social media profiles, such as LinkedIn, have the power to connect you with your potential employers. Alan Harder, a Mortgage Broker at AlanHarder.ca, says that aside from a strong resume, it’s necessary to create strong social media profiles:

 “To choose the most suitable candidate, it is important to examine LinkedIn pages to learn more about the candidate’s background. Examine the recommendations that other LinkedIn users have made about a candidate, as well as the content that he or she has published on the platform. Social media profiles provide you a glimpse into an attorney’s perspective and experience.”

Alan Hardera Mortgage Broker at AlanHarder.ca

Check out our LinkedIn guide for lawyers to make sure your LinkedIn profile generates career opportunities and valuable connections.

Now, you’re ready to create a resume that is more likely to bring you a job interview in 2021. With a sounding personal statement, soft and hard skills review, optimized education section, and perfect style and structure, your resume will show that you’re just a perfect suit for a job interview. 

We wish you an enjoyable flight to the job of your dreams!

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