How to craft a top-tier legal resume
As a legal professional, your resume is one of the most important tools you have to sell your skills and experience to potential employers. Whether you’re an attorney or a law clerk, your resume is the first impression you’ll make on a hiring manager or legal recruiter.
A well-written and professional resume is the first step toward the next opportunity in your legal career. The legal industry is meticulous and detail-oriented and your resume should reflect that, highlighting your skills and experience while helping you stand out from any other potential candidates.
To help you navigate the legal hiring process, we’ve rounded up some tips on how to write a legal resume that will help you get noticed. (But for all the right reasons.)
1. Make your legal resume experience section stand out with examples
A legal resume should be more than just a laundry list of all your past job duties and responsibilities. While it might feel more impressive to list out all the things you’ve done, a few specific legal examples will make a better impact.
Unspecific examples of resume points include phrases like, “Wrote emails and coordinated appointments” and “Filed and organized documents.” These are tasks or skills that could be related to any industry or role.
Instead, use specific examples of the legal work you have done and the results you have achieved. If possible, include the impact and the relevant practice area. The more details you can include, the better.
Here's a strong work experience section from a legal resume
Associate Attorney, XYZ Law Firm, Anytown, USA
- Conducted extensive legal research and analysis on complex cases, providing valuable insights to support strategic decision-making.
- Drafted and reviewed legal documents, including contracts, pleadings, and briefs, ensuring accuracy and compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
- Assisted in all stages of litigation, including case preparation, witness interviews, and trial support.
- Collaborated with a team of attorneys to develop legal strategies and arguments for various cases.
- Participated in client meetings and effectively communicated legal advice, ensuring clients' understanding of their rights and legal options.
- Negotiated settlements and mediated disputes to achieve favorable outcomes for clients.
However, make sure you’re not disclosing any confidential client information.
2. Include action verbs in your legal resume
When describing your legal experience and accomplishments on your resume, use action verbs. Active verbs are powerful and clearly communicate your successes and skills on your resume.
Action verbs are effective at helping your resume tell a story. It also conveys a level of confidence in your skills to the reviewer. This is particularly important in an industry, like law, where being able to deliver successful results is incredibly valuable.
Consider some of the following action verbs when drafting your legal resume
This will not only make your resume more interesting to read, but it will also help to demonstrate the impact you have made in your previous roles.
Workers in the legal industry need to be professional and have an eye for detail. So make sure to use the correct tenses when using action verbs in your resume.
Need more action verbs to help you write your resume? Here are 222 more you can use.
3. Demonstrate knowledge of legal trends
The legal landscape is constantly changing. This includes everything from legal information to the technology used by legal professionals.
In order to be the most effective at your job, it’s essential for any attorney, law clerk, or legal assistant to keep up with the latest legal trends. Whether you have 2 or 30 years of experience, staying up-to-date can help you better serve your clients.
If you’re taking relevant courses or seminars to upskill yourself, make sure to mention them in your resume. Adding these educational opportunities demonstrates to potential employers that you are keeping up with the latest developments in the legal industry.
Here's an example of how to effectively list courses and seminars on your legal resume
Courses and seminars
- Intellectual Property Law Seminar, Anytown Law School (2021)
- Contract Negotiation and Drafting, Legal Institute (2020)
- Legal Writing and Research Workshop, Bar Association (2019)
- Trial Advocacy Skills Training, Trial Lawyers Association (2018)
- Corporate Law Essentials, Continuing Legal Education (2017)
4. Highlight any unique or specialized legal skills in your resume
The legal industry is an incredibly specific area of employment that requires special education. However, you may be surprised to find that there are many additional skills (outside of the legal sphere) that can make your application stronger.
Take the time to tailor your resume to the role you’re applying for. If you have any unique or specialized skills that would be relevant to the position, highlighting these will help a hiring manager take notice of your application.
Here are some examples of specialized skills or experience to include
- Proficiency in foreign languages – It can help you attract a larger client base.
- Experience in specific practice areas – from family law to insurance law
- Educational background – For example, a background in science or medicine would be beneficial if working in a healthcare legal practice.
- Client services experience – This will be helpful if your role is client-facing.
5. Format your legal resume properly
Not every legal resume is equal. The expectations and roles vary, and so do your own experiences and skill set. It’s important that you’ve chosen a resume format that highlights your strengths.
In fact, the layout and format of your resume is just as important as the actual content. If the reviewer is unable to easily parse out the most critical information, it’s unlikely that they’ll review it in depth.
Display the most relevant information prominently and use clear headings so that potential employers can easily find the information they are looking for.
For example, if you’re a new graduate looking for their first role in the legal world, you may want to highlight your relevant education and academic accolades. If you’re a legal professional with over 10 years of experience, you will likely want to highlight the times and roles where you’ve made the biggest impact.
Writing a new resume can feel overwhelming but it’s easier than you might think. To help you land your next job in the legal industry, we’ve put together some legal resume templates and samples that you can easily adapt to your own skills and goals.