Standing Out on Paper: A Guide on Perfecting Your Resume
Ah, resumes, they can be the biggest hurdle to starting a lateral search - or the best reason to procrastinate doing so. Reading resumes and helping attorneys craft more compelling ones is a large part of what I do. The internet is full of resume advice, but attorney resumes are a specific creature, so I want to share my top biggest bits of resume advice for anyone looking to explore the market in the fall or the new year.
TL;DR – Keep everything that benefits you. Take off everything that doesn’t.
If only it really were that easy. Here are my top four must-dos to help raise your resume to the top of the stack.
Your resume shouldn’t look like your childhood bedroom, filled with every trophy, participation ribbon, and project you ever worked on. You are presenting a slice of yourself to a firm that has the need for someone with a specific niche skillset. Your resume doesn’t need to showcase all the fantastic facets that make you, you.
2. Lead with Your Best Foot
If you attended a T14 law school and had a 3.8 GPA, no need to bury that achievement at the bottom of your resume, even if you’ve been practicing a few years. Whatever category of your resume is most impressive, lead with that. For some it’ll be Experience, for others it may be Education for a while.
Hybrid work has allowed a lot more flexibility for where people choose to live, but don’t try and make it look like you live everywhere. Putting multiple cities on your resume just causes confusion. If you have multiple addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, etc, just put down one. Better to have none even, than to risk confusing a firm.
It’s easy to take your knowledge and experience for granted. “I’m a litigator, everyone knows I take depositions.” Rather than assuming you can do something, firms will assume you cannot if they don’t see it. If you’re an L&E associate, and the firm doesn’t see the words “employment” or “labor,” it’s more likely they’ll be drawn to a resume that does. Take the time to specify what motions you’ve drafted and argued. Include both single-plaintiff and class-action work. It’s the same for the transactional folks.
Resumes are hard. You’re trained to be an attorney, not a resume writer. If you’d ever like a confidential review of your resume (even if you’re content at your current firm), AJW Attorney Search is filled with resume experts, and we’d be happy to lend a helpful eye.