How to build a jaw-dropping attorney resume

Roles in the legal industry are extremely competitive. The very nature of the job attracts extremely high-performing and intelligent individuals – all of whom have gone through extensive education.

So when it comes to job applications, it’s no surprise that the competition is stiff. Your resume is the first opportunity to make a good impression on a partner or legal recruiter. So how can you ensure your resume makes it to the top of the pile?

Whether you’re looking to join a new firm or land your first role as an attorney, we’ve gathered some of our top tips to help you write an attorney resume that will get you hired.

1. Start your attorney resume with a professional summary statement

A strong summary statement is essential for catching the eye of potential firms. It’s the first thing they see and can be the deciding factor on whether or not they review your resume in further detail.

In just a few sentences, a well-crafted summary statement can highlight your most relevant experience and skills and set you apart from other candidates. Even if you have years of experience as an attorney, a weak or unfocused summary statement can make you look less qualified.

Attorneys make strong arguments, so use your summary to make an argument for why you’d be a great hire.

Here is great example of a summary statement for an attorney resume

An enthusiastic and detail-oriented attorney looking for a new challenge as a senior associate. Adhering to a client-first approach, [Name] is skilled in litigation and legal analysis.

It's also possible to include a "Highlights" section if you need to spotlight any other achievements or skills.

2. Spotlight your education in an attorney resume

For your attorney resume, an education section is one of your biggest assets.

Your resume should include your law school education and any relevant undergraduate degrees. 

While experienced attorneys should still indicate where they went to law school, it’s even more important for new and junior professionals. Early on in your career, your GPA and degree can help make your application stronger.

Plus, most states require that you be licensed to practice law. Clearly stating your credentials and affiliations on your resume means that there aren’t any doubts regarding your status as a legal professional.

If you’re early on in your career, your education section is a great place to highlight any experience gained or accolades received during your time in law school. These can help you stand out from other applicants.

Here are some examples of things to include in your education section as an attorney

  • Scholarships – specifically those that are merit-based.
  • Academic awards – some examples include Valedictorian, Dean’s List.
  • Moot court results – if you had high performance in any mock legal experiences.
  • Legal clinics – if you participated in any law school clinics that provided you with legal experience
  • G.P.A - only if higher than a 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.
  • Continuing education – if you’ve taken any courses to help you upskill as an attorney.

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3. Tailor your attorney resume to a specific practice area

Most attorney job postings are geared towards a specific type of legal practice. This can be because the firm only offers certain specialized services or because they require attorneys in a specific practice area.

For example, if you're a criminal defense attorney, your resume should highlight your experience in the courtroom and with negotiating plea deals. On the other hand, if you're a corporate attorney, your resume should focus on your experience with mergers and acquisitions and contracts. 

Even if a posting is more generic, it’s helpful to highlight your ideal legal practice areas. Your resume will be more effective and also apply more of your unique characteristics as a lawyer.

If you’re looking to make a switch to a different practice area, you should tailor your experience to match that desired legal practice. By showing that you have the skills and experience that are most relevant to the job, you'll give yourself a much better chance of landing the position.

4. Keep your attorney resume format clean and professional

Resumes can look drastically different from industry to industry. In some industries, you’ll see elaborate designs and even images within resumes. When it comes to resumes for an attorney, it’s best to keep it clean and professional. But that doesn’t mean you need to send in a page filled with lines of Times New Roman font. (Unless this has been specifically requested). 

Your attorney resume can still have sections and be formatted with design in mind. Some minor pops of color and clear sections can help your resume stand out.

You should still choose a simple and professional font for your attorney resume. 

A well-designed resume can also be easier on the eyes and help guide a recruiter to the details that you want to highlight. Employers should be able to quickly see what you have to offer, so make sure your skills and experience are prominently displayed.

For example, your education and academic achievements may be higher up on the page for a recent law school grad. While an experienced attorney may want to put their legal awards front and enter.

We know resume writing can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. If you need help getting started, be sure to check out these attorney resume templates and examples.

Published on Sept. 20, 2022

Julia is a professional writer, translator and graphic designer. She holds degrees in translation and interpretation, and has international work experience from a number of different countries in Europe as well as China and Panama. Julia formerly taught academic writing and as a graphic designer contributed to outlets such as The Business of Business. She has a passion for lifelong learning and good coffee.

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