Tag Archives: resume tips

Resume Suggestions for a Senior Litigator and for the general public

I am currently working with well-credentialed eight year litigator who has never moved law firms. This person has everything it takes to make partner but for various political reasons, he is unlikely to make partner. While this person has not been asked to leave the firm, this person knows now is the time to begin a search. It takes time – at least 6 months. Having never left the firm, the job search process is intimidating. I made the following suggestions for the resume:

1) If possible, limit your resume to 1 page -even at the senior level. The most information should be under your current employer.

2) Your resume should have the following in this order: Work Experience, education, professional credentials, publications, etc.

3) Create a thorough case history on a seperate page. If the case is public, put down the parties involved and then write a brief summary of the case and what you did. Any successful results obtained you be noted.

4) Get your law school transcript (there are some firms who ALWAYS require this – even at the partner level).

5) Get a writing sample. Motions that are 10-20 pages long are best.

6) Cut out the fat of a resume. It is not necessary to list law school externships, internships and clinics if it puts your resume over a page.

7) If you have an interests section, make sure they are either unique or show an important aspect in your personality. Saying you enjoy reading and watching movies doesn’t really add much. However, if you enjoy running or participating in a marathon or play an instrument, the reader immediately knows you have a competitive spirit and are somewhat disciplined. Keep out things like “spending time with my family” as this only makes the reader think that you do not want to spend much time with the law firm family. And, keep out oddball interests such as competitive hot-dog eating.

8) Political groups and interest – I really prefer to stay away from this all together. Unless you happen to know an organization or law firm you are applying to is well-known to support a particular group, just stay out of it. You could interview with someone who is a staunch democrat and you list you were the president of the Young Republican Organization in college….that really isn’t going to make the interviewer feel connected to you. If anything, it may start a fight.

9) Do not put your picture on your resume! No matter how good-looking you are, law firms poo-poo this. Many times, people are laughed at for putting their picture on the resume – even if it a good picture and a good resume. It makes you look vain. If you are emailing your resume to a law firm, you could put a link to your firm biography if it happens to have a picture, but do not do anything more!

10) List your cell phone number instead of your home phone (unless your cell phone is a work phone). You want to be able to answer your phone immediately in case a law firm would like to set up an interview or ask you a question about your resume.

A Resume Must Tell the Whole Story

I think it’s instinct–we all know how important it is for a resume to tell all there is to know about our qualifications. When it comes to attorney resumes, it goes one step further. Not only must we adequately summarize our qualifications; we must also include certain pieces of information that law firms will undoubtedly want to know. The following are just a few examples of special information that is appropriate to include on attorney resumes:

  • Practice Description: In addition to a description of your day-to-day responsibilities and maybe some highlights from specific cases/deals; it is crucial for the person reviewing your resume to immediately spot the substantive areas in which you have experience. Thus, the first line under each position you have held should include this information. Example: “Primary areas of focus include real estate, land use, and environmental.” Keeping in mind the number of resumes law firms receive for a single opening and the fact that the person doing the initial screen is not always an attorney, including such basic information in an easy-to-spot manner can make a dramatic difference.
  • Firm Description: When moving from one geographic region to another, it is often helpful to include a short description of your current firm. This especially applies when you work at a firm that is well-regarded or highly ranked in your particular region but may not be as well known in the region of your job search. Examples: “XYZ’s litigation practice is routinely ranked as a top practice by ______.” or “ABC Firm is one of the largest firms in Small City and is known for its corporate and finance practices.”
  • Reason for a Move: When a candidate leaves Firm A to join Firm B with a partner or group, it is common practice to list the two firms as separate and distinct entries on the resume. Now consider the fact that one of the most common reasons firms have for passing on a candidate is “too many moves.” Having said this, moving because a partner recruited you or because your entire practice group moved is quite distinct from making a move for any number of other reasons. Thus, in such situations, it is proper (and helpful) to note that the move occurred under special circumstances. Examples: “Moved to Firm B with partner from Firm A” or “Practice group left Firm A to start the Big City office of Firm B.”
  • Bar Admissions: Most attorneys know to include their bar admissions on their resume. However, if you are moving to a different region and have definite plans to sit for that state’s bar exam or, you are eligible to waive into the bar, you must let the firm know. Example: “Admitted in Massachusetts and New York; Sitting for February 2008 California Bar Exam.”
  • Summer Associate Offers: If you summered at a firm and received an offer but did not elect to accept the offer, it must be clear that you did receive the offer. Many times, attorneys will include the summer position in their work history but will not indicate whether or not an offer was extended. This likely leads the firm to believe that an offer was NOT extended. If that is the case, fine. You can’t go back and change that. However, it is absolutely crucial to indicate if that was NOT the case. Example: ABC Firm, Summer Associate (offer extended).

Applying for a lateral position at a law firm is a unique experience because law firms place a huge emphasis on very specific aspects of your career history and qualifications. These are just a few examples of information that can make a difference in the consideration you receive from a law firm. A good legal recruiter should always go over your resume with you and be ready to advise on whether these and other modifications are appropriate given your particular circumstances.

Show, don’t tell

In reviewing hundreds of resumes a week, I have developed a couple of pet peeves. People who know me know my distaste for an ‘interests’ category on a resume that brags of hobbies that include reading, travel, and fine dining. (As an aside, I too love reading, travel, and fine dining. Dining of the not-fine variety, as well). In a nutshell, I don’t think that anyone should take up valuable space in a resume in a way that doesn’t really define and distinguish who you are. Reading, while a noble past-time, just doesn’t set you apart.

My new pet peeve is these qualitative narrative resumes. Somebody is spreading the word that a resume that contains a lot of adjectives is the way to go. Often, it contains a sentence at the top that might read “Results-oriented attorney with 15 years of experience in sophisticated practice.” I respectfully disagree that these descriptors add value. A resume might tell us that you are hardworking, that you are detail oriented, that you are bright. This isn’t really a resume, though, it’s just fluff (even when its true). Describe what you do–what you have done. This is what will define your ability to take on a new role. Law firms want to see the substance of the work you’ve performed–they do not, in my experience, respond to descriptions of the ‘intangibles’ that you bring to the table. At least not when set out in a resume format.

Instead of a line that tells us that you are someone who ‘enjoys responsibility’, why not attach a deal sheet that describes your tasks as the lead associate on a transaction? I think you’ll see a better response. If you MUST tell us that you are experienced, or conscientious, at least make sure that there is substance in the resume that supports that. I can’t tell you how many cover letters I’ve read extolling the virtues of the author’s ‘attention to detail’ that had one or more typos.

Sometimes *those* resumes really make the rounds, but not in a good way.