Technically, this is resume writing advice, but I hope that you take this advice as something much deeper in terms of how lawyers view their skills and value.
The questions I get so often are whether someone’s formatting is right, whether they are using the right terms of art, whether their language is similar to the language other candidate’s use to describe their practice. Those are valid questions, to be sure, but it occurs to me that the fact that these are the most frequently asked questions indicates that there is a lot more form than substance.
The most important thing about your resume is what it SAYS. I’m a stickler for resumes that have perfect form–no misspellings, no distracting formatting, no unnecessary information. Having an impeccable LOOKING resume is vital. But it’s not the point of your resume. I get the question “what do I say about myself?” but I can’t answer that question on anyone’s behalf.
That’s where you should start with your resume. Write down all of those things that only you know about the extent of your background.
Every attorney should be thinking critically about what they do and every single transaction, deal, negotiation and case that has made up their experience. Obviously, it is never appropriate to inflate your experience, but if you are content to just touch on the major points of your experience, you are doing yourself a disservice. I recommend to my candidates that the first step is to ignore page lengths, font, and format. Simply get on paper all of those things that you do–all of those things that would be relevant to a potential employers.
Have you taken the lead on a transaction or file?
Have you originated clients?
Are you published?
Have you handled a novel issue?
What industries are your clients in?
These are just a few places to start.
Your resume not only reflects what you can do — it reflects your enthusiasm for what you do. Think about that carefully. Does “write and research memorandum regarding various issues” sound like someone who loves what they do? Have you proven that you can articulate sophisticated issues of law or define complex transactions? If you can’t soundly answer those questions with a yes, start over again.
Sit down in a moment when you can think and review your experience carefully. Bring energy to the project, and be detailed. Let the formatting and tightening go, just focus on your individual experience and what drives you professionally. It will be worth it.