Towards the end of Q1, you may feel uncomfortable with the unstable economic climate, including layoffs at Biglaw and across the tech industry. With the recent collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, you may also be nervous about the unknown changes in the startup world. It’s important to note that recruiting has been taking place in the legal market throughout Q1. Yes, legal recruitment is still going strong.
If you’re considering exploring what’s out there, your first step should be updating your legal resume. Writing your legal resume is a daunting task, especially since you’re looking inward from a subjective perspective, as opposed to the 30,000-foot view that readers see objectively.
As someone who is trained and specializes in legal resume writing, I want to provide clear guidance and actionable steps you can take to help attract top-selling assets, great deals, and differentiating value. If you’re applying for a role but listening to the crickets, your legal resume may not contain enough insight and examples of your skills. It may also require some major changes from a strategy and formatting perspective to help improve its readability and digestibility.
Choose Your Most Salient Area of Competence To Discuss On Your Legal Resume
First, in order for your legal resume to effectively market you and differentiate your unique values, filter your legal experience by area of competence. Think about the main focus areas or specializations you have concentrated on throughout your legal career and what you consider to be your expertise — do you focus more on M&A transactions, contract negotiations, or litigation?
For example, if you are focused on litigation, what types of cases do you usually handle? Are there any particular areas of concentration or recurring issues that your litigation experience touches on? What is your largest (assessment) case to date versus your smallest? Did you take the case to court or strategically negotiate it in mediation? What role do you play in litigation? Do you oversee internal or external litigation teams? What types of clients in what industries do you usually represent?
Are you a specialist in workforce and employment, data privacy or intellectual property? Or are you more of a corporate generalist with extensive exposure to multiple practice areas?
As you can see, it’s important to get details because your legal resume has one goal: to get a job interview. While your resume is a snapshot of your career, you want to establish enough context so that an authorized recruiter, hiring partner, or senior executive team member can easily understand the breadth of your experience and what you bring to the table at first glance.
Review Job Postings Before You Begin Writing Your Legal Resume
As I’ve mentioned before in my column, you should know the target role you’re looking for before you start writing your legal resume. Your legal resume should be narrowly tailored and focused on the specific competencies of the role and how you excelled in those competencies. Analyzing job postings is helpful because you’ll see patterns of skills for a particular role. You will be able to better identify which skills are most important, and draw connections between your experience and the needs of the company. Be prepared to explain what results and outcomes you have done for the company and what the company expects from you in the future. Alignment is key.
It may be helpful to create a spreadsheet and customize the target skills with examples from the background of your important transactions and other accomplishments that you will use as factual support and proof of those skills. It is also an excellent interview preparation for your upcoming job search.
Important Facts And Evidence In Your Legal Resume
There are specific hard and soft skills you’ll want to consider including on your legal resume. But also think beyond job responsibilities and functions. What points would you like to make to the reader about your experience? What facts and evidence do you have to support that you are the right fit for the role? Remember, without proof, it’s just nonsense and hyperbole.
If you have mixed law firm and in-house experience, state that early on in your legal resume. If you’re applying to a public company and you worked for the SEC for a number of years in the early part of your legal career, it’s definitely a rewarding experience that should be mentioned in your professional summary.
Your Legal Resume Should Be Easy And Simple To Digest
Finally, your legal resume is not an opportunity to try out a creative look. Legal resumes like simple, modern designs without graphs, tables, and charts. Drop the Times New Roman font and choose a font like Calibri which is modern and easy on the eyes. If you cause readers to move their eyes too much between columns or use templates sold on Etsy, your resume is an eyesore, not something easy to scan. When in doubt, consider what my research professor and author always says: “Simplicity, clarity, and brevity.”
Ultimately, it’s important to keep your legal resume clean, concise, and concise.
Wendi Weiner is an attorney, career expert, and founder Writing Teacher, an award-winning executive resume writing service company. Wendi creates strong personal and career brands for lawyers, executives and C-suite/Board leaders for their job search and digital footprint. He also writes for major publications on alternative careers to lawyers, personal branding, LinkedIn storytelling, career strategies, and the job search process. You can contact him by e-mail at [email protected]connect with him on LinkedInand follow him on Twitter @thewritingguru.