Writing a Legal Resume That Showcases Your Practice Area Expertise

A partial image of an employer looking over a candidates legal resume

Since today's legal job market favors specialists over generalists, highlighting in-demand practice area expertise on your legal resume may help you grab a prospective employer's attention.

Your legal resume should call attention to the specific skills and experience that make you the ideal fit for a legal position. That way, prospective employers will see that you can hit the ground running.

Here's how to highlight key information and give your legal resume a boost:

Tailor your resume to the job opening
A one-size-fits-all resume is rarely effective. If you plan on approaching employers in different practice areas, consider creating separate resumes that reflect the most relevant information specific to each practice area. For instance, it makes sense that your legal resume for a position in a business law practice would be different from one targeting a firm specializing in real estate law.

Customizing your resume to emphasize different practice areas is sometimes as simple as reordering bullet points or dropping certain work or law school details and adding more pertinent ones.

Be sure to also take into consideration a legal organization's corporate culture when tailoring your resume, which might influence how you prioritize items on your resume, as well as the tone of your resume and any accompanying correspondence. You can glean information about a firm's corporate culture through its website and from the wording of the job posting.

Integrate keywords
Further tailor your legal resume by including specific keywords and language from the job posting. Incorporating words from the posting that refer to the required experience and capabilities can boost your odds of making the cut. Why? Due to the high volume of resumes generated by a single legal job posting, more companies are now using automated software that seeks out keywords the company deems most important.

Don't make the reader dig
After the electronic review, your resume may get only a cursory scan by a hiring manager. Make it easy for the reader to quickly grasp the nature of your past legal employment. For practice-specific resumes, list the practice area, along with the employer's name, in the first part of your work history section.

Go deeper
Don't expect your job title to do all the talking. For instance, "litigation attorney" doesn't really explain the nature of the work you've been involved in or the impact you've had in your role. Describe succinctly your accomplishments and key projects and responsibilities. Be sure to highlight notable cases or rulings associated with your current or past roles.

Anything you can do to selectively organize and emphasize your qualifications to different prospective employers should help give your legal resume a boost. And it doesn't take significant time or effort to tailor your resume to a particular position, firm or practice specialty.

The only downside to having multiple versions of your resume is that you open up the possibility of introducing typos or errors each time you make changes to your legal resume. Be extra careful of this potential pitfall when making revisions.