A resume is a factual document that presents your qualifications-your education and experience-to a potential employer. It's the first substantive contact between you and a potential employer, and it's the first piece of work that you produce for a potential employer. Its purpose is to get you an invitation to a job interview.
Effective resumes are those that communicate your qualifications in clean, short bursts of information. Employers often receive dozens of resumes; those with an uncluttered layout, highlighting, captions, and consistent formatting will receive more consideration than those that make the reader search for relevant information. We strongly recommend that you do not use one of the default resume templates included on your computer. These templates are intended for business resumes rather than legal ones, and they include complex layers of formatting that make them extremely difficult to update and/or adapt as necessary.
Effective resumes are:
- Readable. Laser-print your resume in 10- or 11-point font, using black ink on white, off-white, or cream-colored paper; consider using bullets or asterisks; include adequate white space.
- Decipherable. Use a consistent layout (e.g., all employment entries headed by employer name, then employment dates, or vice versa) and consistent terminology (e.g., Juris Doctor and Bachelor of Arts or J.D. and B.A.).
- Succinct. Include only relevant information (i.e., why would this be important to this employer?).
- Flawless. Run spell check, then check for misspellings or grammatical errors, then check again the next day; re-read your resume starting from the last item and working toward your name and address; give your resume to someone else to proofread.
Review the Skills and Experience Inventory* and make a list of everything that might possibly be included on your resume. Use that list as a reference while you are drafting your resume and cover letter. You may include things in your cover letter that are not listed on your resume and vice versa, but the two documents should cover fairly similar territory.
Drafting your Resume
Your resume should be one page. If you have been out of school for ten years or more or you have very significant professional experience between college and law school, come talk to someone in CPD to determine if you should go over a page. We will help you decide whether two pages are necessary or where to cut unnecessary information.
Two sample resumes are included below. Note that there are many appropriate formats for a legal resume beyond those used here. Consider that other students are using these samples as models as well. While it is OK to use a standard format used here, make sure to spend the time required so that the wording and descriptions that you use on your resume are unique.
* Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to view items marked with an (*). If you do not already have Acrobat Reader installed on your computer, you can download it free of charge.