Professional Legal Resume Writing Guide
We’ve put together a guide on how to write a professional legal resume and included some important tips on how to effectively write, structure and format your legal resume.
In such an ultra-competitive legal jobs market, it’s crucial that your legal resume captures the attention of the reader in those first few seconds.
You’ve probably spent the past four years at law school, so it’s expected that you can write clearly, persuasively and concisely. Your legal resume is often the first glimpse a potential employer will have of your written skills, which translates directly into your base level ability to draft well written correspondence and other forms of written documents.
If your legal resume doesn’t read well, is poorly formatted and lacks persuasiveness, then you’re severely limiting your chances of obtaining an interview.
Legal Resume Format
The format of your legal resume should resemble that of correspondence produced by a law firm, so it should include basic formatting and professional black text (no colour, borders or fancy styling).
Legal Resume Content
The content will vary depending on your level of experience. If you are a student or graduate with limited professional experience, when writing your legal resume, you should place more emphasis on your skills and pay special attention to conveying how those skills will transfer into practice.
If you are an admitted lawyer with a level of professional experience, your emphasis will be on the practice areas you have worked in, including a break down of the matters and legislation you are familiar with.
Regarding past matters listed on your resume, it’s understood there are issues of confidentiality, however if you include as much detail as possible (while maintaining confidentiality) it will assist greatly. This is because employers are looking to see if you have worked with similar clients, matters and values, and are assessing how easy you may transition into the firm.
We suggest you list information such as:
- The types of clients you have worked with
- What industries those clients operate in
- Estimated values of matters
- What case law or legislation applied
- The issues solved / outcomes
It is also expected that an experienced lawyer place a summarised tabled chronology of their employment experience at the top of their professional experience section, followed by the detailed chronology which dates from the most recent position to the oldest position held.
- Ensure your resume has your admission date and state, or if you are a student, your expected admission date
- Ensure you list your phone, email and LinkedIn profile details
- If you list references, ensure you state at what stage they can be contacted
What you should avoid
- No fancy styling, formatting or colour
- No photos
- No mission statements or career objectives
- No breaching confidentiality when listing details about past matters
Legal Cover Letter
Don’t fall into the trap of using the same legal cover letter for each position you apply for. Your legal cover letter should be tailored to each new position/law firm and needs to be highly relevant to the position you’re applying to.
The basic format should follow:
- Contact details
- Date and greeting
- Where you saw the position advertised or how you came to hear of it
- Why you are attracted to the law firm and position
- How your skills and experience make you a suitable candidate (Ensure you draw parallels between your skills and experience and how they will make you effective at fulfilling the responsibilities of the role)
Ensure your cover letter is addressed to the correct person, if you do not know, it’s fine to use ‘Dear Sir/Madam’, or ‘To whom it may concern’. If you are an admitted lawyer, you can use ‘Dear Colleagues’. Ensure you always sign off as ‘Yours Sincerely’.
If you need a hand getting started, you can download our FREE Professional Legal Resume and Cover Letter Templates.
Need Professional Advice?
Our experienced legal resume consultants can review your resume and provide you with expert advice. As part of this service, we conduct a 30-minute phone consultation with you, complete a detailed review of your resume and provide you with a detailed report on how your resume can be improved.
We have affordable pricing options for students and graduates – see below.