Writing Resumes: 4 Repair Tips for Legal Professionals


All resumes are not created equal. Hiring managers at law firms and corporate legal departments who receive hundreds of applications for job openings may dismiss many of them after just a quick scan. Writing resumes is both a science and an art, and you need to know how to make elements of your background that a hiring manager is looking for jump out at first glance.

Here are four repair tips on writing resumes for legal positions that could help you land your dream job.

1. Connect the dots for the hiring manager.

Every job you apply for will likely be unique to that firm or company. So your resume should be, too. Tailor it to each position. Use keywords from the job ad when writing resumes whenever possible. And choose strong, specific action verbs that relate to the legal field when listing your skills (“systematized,” “analyzed” and “arbitrated” come to mind) to more precisely show the hiring manager how your skill set fits the job and company.

2. Emphasize education.

Take note of the specific technical skills the hiring manager requires. Does the firm use Summation or Trial Director? Are they looking for someone with significant eDiscovery experience? If you're lacking experience in these areas, emphasize your education and training. Maybe a conference keynote you attended discussed eDiscovery trends, or perhaps you attended a workshop on choosing the right trial software for your company. Including these experiences on your resume demonstrates to the hiring manager your willingness to learn and your ability to discuss these topics despite lack of experience. 

3. Pick the optimal format.

Most employers prefer the traditional, chronological resume format when hiring legal professionals, which makes it easy for them to spot employment gaps and other career detours. However, there is some flexibility within this format, and knowing how to best organize your information is an important part of writing resumes. If you have five or more years of experience in the legal field, it’s best to lead with the experience section of your resume. If you recently graduated, changed careers or have only a few years of experience, lead with the education section.

4. Openly address your career detours.

Most hiring managers won’t be fooled by attempts to hide gaps, and any period of unemployment or irrelevant work is likely to come up during your interview. However, you can address these issues while simultaneously strengthening your resume by including information about how other activities helped you developed relevant skills. For example, mention any freelance or consulting work, volunteer activities, conferences or workshops related to the legal field that you attended in your experience section. You can also talk about transferable skills. Employers are looking for flexible legal professionals, and candidates who have worked in other industries may be able to use this to their advantage by highlighting applicable skills on their resumes.

Excelling at writing resumes requires keeping up with key trends in your industry — the creation of hybrid roles that combine the duties of the paralegal and the legal secretary, for example. Whether you’re interested in a first-year associate position at a law firm or a paralegal job at a company, you’ll find the latest hiring trends and salary data in Robert Half's Legal Salary Guide. No matter what ups, downs or unexpected turns your career has taken, you can craft an effective legal resume by highlighting your relevant and transferable skills.

What tips have you found most effective for writing resumes? Share your experience below.

Tags: Resume