Creating a professional résumé is the initial step in the job search process. There is not a single correct résumé form. There is, however, an expectation and preference within the legal profession that a law student’s résumé should include certain information, and that the information is presented in a uniform order. Within this general structure, a résumé can be personalized to highlight particular qualities and convey an individualized summary of experience. Typically résumés should be one page. Two page résumés are acceptable in some cases where a student has significant past experience and accomplishments relevant to the positions sought. Three page résumés are not acceptable. If you think your experience warrants a two page résumé , please see a counselor for clarification and advice.
Regardless of the particular format and style, a résumé has certain essential characteristics that will positively influence any résumé reviewer. To create an effective résumé, keep in mind the guidelines outlined below:
Keep your audience in mind. Who are the people who will be reviewing this document (such as lawyers, public advocates, corporate executives, etc.)?
"A résumé is a promotional piece. It should present the most attractive, albeit true, picture of you. It’s supposed to pique someone’s interest enough to get you through the door, where you’ll sell yourself for the position." (Alayne Walton, Kimm, Guerilla Tactics For Getting the Legal Job of Your Dreams, The BarBri Group, Chicago, IL ©1999; quoting Debra Fink, Case Western Reserve Law School.)
Design a well-organized, uncluttered, easy-to-read résumé. Choose the résumé style and format that works best for you and that you would feel comfortable presenting to these individuals. Examples of acceptable layouts are included in this Manual.
Print the résumé on good quality paper--professional traditional stationary (plain, laid, or linen weave paper, of very pale gray, ivory, or white color). Avoid darker gray or tan paper and paper that has any speckles or flecks in it. Often an employer will make a copy of your résumé for a colleague to review and these papers copy poorly. Cover letters, thank you letters, reference lists and envelopes should match your résumé.
Use indentations, boldface type, underlining, and upper- and lower-case lettering interchangeably to create a clean crisp format that is easy to read. Use italics for magna cum laude, and for publications (i.e., Maryland Law Review, The Business Lawyer, or the titles of your own publications such as a senior thesis, law review note, and article). When you are using these tools, be sure to be consistent throughout the document.
Many résumé formats exist, but only two are generally accepted in the legal profession. They include a reverse chronological (historical) format and a functional (qualitative) format. The chronological format is more common.
A comprehensive résumé includes the following components:
Name, address, and home telephone number(s), and optionally fax number and e-mail address.
You should include your current local address. You should include your "Permanent Address" (when it is outside of Baltimore or Maryland) if, and only if, you want to convey to a prospective employer that you have ties to your permanent address area and are interested in returning to it.
Expected degree and other earned degrees, presented in reverse chronological order (from most recent to oldest position). You should also consider including grade point average (GPA), class rank, as well as other education-related experiences.
It is appropriate to write out Juris Doctor, Master of Arts, Master of Science, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts, etc., or to abbreviate J.D., M.A., M.S., B.S., B.A., respectively. Be sure to use a consistent format throughout the résumé. Include all important academic honors, awards, extracurricular activities and community service. Leadership activities related to school should be grouped under each respective school listing.
You may choose to report your GPA and/or class rank on your résumé. If you choose to do so, you must abide by the GPA and class rank reporting policies of the law school. Any inaccuracy regarding your grades or class rank may be construed as a misrepresentation of your credentials, which may result in an Honor Code violation.
University of Maryland School of Law, Baltimore, MD
J.D. Candidate, May 2008
GPA: 3.01 Class Rank: Top 25%
The Journal of Business and Technology Law
Moot Court Executive Board Member
Awards: American Jurisprudence Book Award for Contracts
Activities: Environmental Law Society
Include all professional work experience, including paid and volunteer positions as well as legal clinics, internships and clerkships.
Job descriptions should be concise and written in short phrases beginning with strong, clear, action verbs.
Describe past experience using past tense verbs, and current experience using present tense verbs. Describe the level of responsibility and, if applicable, the extent of experience with specialty areas of law, legal writing and research. If relevant or significant, include specific awards.
It is unnecessary to include job descriptions for all jobs, such as those for which the responsibilities are likely to be clearly understood from the title. Do include, however, a job description where your responsibilities differed from the norm. Also, include job descriptions for senior-level jobs, and for all jobs related to specific positions for which you are applying.
Sample Experience Descriptions:
Certified Public Accountants, Licensed Real Estate Brokers, Medical Doctors, Architects and other professional licenses and certifications should be identified in this area. You must include the year of licensure or certification, as well as the states in which you are licensed.
Publications should be listed in reverse chronological order based on the publication date. Citations of such articles, books, etc., should be in proper Blue Book form.
Because your résumé will need to be updated regularly, do not spend a lot of money on résumé printing. Laser printers produce excellent quality résumés. Type-setting is unnecessary and expensive. Copy services such as Kinko's, Office Depot, and Staples are inexpensive resources for résumé photocopying.
Résumés and cover letters should not be photocopied on law school copiers. The copies are generally not sufficiently clear and do not appear professional.
As you gain more experience you will find it increasingly difficult to get it all on one page. However, making the font tiny and the margins small is not the best way to make it all fit. In fact it makes it hard on the reader and they are less inclined to spend time reading your résumé . In this section we will provide some valuable editing tricks and tips to help you make it all fit and still have an excellent and readable document.
Prioritize– Eliminate or shorten less relevant jobs or experiences. The most recent, most relevant experience, should have the most space.
Re-organize– Try to present the information in a different manner. Use bullets instead of narrative paragraphs, put headings in the middle instead of on the side.
Use word processing editing tricks– Microsoft Word has many fonts, spacing and other functions that can be used to fit the same information in less space (beyond just smaller margins and fonts).