How to Create a Strong Legal Resumé for Law School Applications
October 1, 2019
How to Create a Strong Legal Resumé for Law School Applications
Since you’re thinking about applying to law school, you probably have a resumé for internships and job applications already. However, when it comes to JD applications, it is important that you format your resumé in a manner that can help you stand out in the admissions process. Many schools will ask for your legal resumé, and it’s important to make sure your document makes a strong impression. Here are some tips as you format your legal resumé:
Law schools typically have very detailed instructions for how they want applicants to format their materials. Attorneys often have to pay attention to minute details. It is key that you review carefully what they are asking for in their application process. Some schools, such as the University of Chicago, request very specific information, such as how many hours a week and weeks per year you spent at a position. Make sure you go over school-specific requirements and ensure the information is readily available on your legal resumé if requested.
Stick to Traditional Formatting
Leave fancy fonts and unusual colors out of your legal resumé. The font should be traditional, such as Times New Roman or Arial in black - simple and easy to decipher. The font size should stay between the 11-12 point range.
Don’t Go On and On
Keep the legal resumé limited to 1-2 pages maximum. There should never be a case where your resumé surpasses 2 pages. Keep in mind that some places might prefer one page only. Figure out your most impressive accomplishments and relevant experiences, and avoid filling up your document with unnecessary information.
Don’t Repeat Yourself
Think of the legal resumé as a snapshot of your life so far. Law school admissions officers have numerous applications to read - they don’t have a lot of time. They scan your document quickly - just highlight information that is important to know as succinctly as possible. Information in the resumé shouldn't be repeated in your personal statement or other parts of the application - it should only be expanded upon.
Prioritize Latest Feats
Use reverse chronological order to list your activities, experiences, and awards so that the most recent ones are on top. For the education section, however, put your bachelor’s degree first.
Do not stretch the truth or exaggerate in your legal resumé – make sure everything is accurate. Law school acceptances have been rescinded due to mistruths or dishonesty! That’s the last thing you want.
Don’t Mention High School
Generally stick to accomplishments at the college level or later; leave high school or childhood in the past unless you had a super impressive and unusual honor such as placing at the Olympics or winning the Intel Science Competition. Plus, adding extra information will expand your legal resumé beyond the desired length, so only mention what’s necessary and impressive.
I have attached a sample below of a legal resumé that is appropriate for law schools.
Here are the basics to follow in creating a strong legal resumé for law school applications:
This one is pretty straightforward. Please use your birth name, save the nickname for the interview. I often recommend that you make your name bold or one font size bigger than the rest of your legal resumé.
This is standard to include; use the address that you can access most easily. They most likely will not send anything there except admissions decisions or if you are admitted, important documents. Most communication is done by email these days.
Use an email address that is professional. I have seen a wide range of email addresses in my work, and occasionally someone’s email confuses me. If it comes across as inappropriate in any context, then do not use it in your legal resumé. Perhaps a school email or a personal email that includes your name is better. An email address with your first name and last name is much more professional than [email protected].
Because law schools will mainly contact you via email, make sure you check it frequently for important messages. Add law school email addresses as contacts and look at your spam folder so you do not miss anything.
Whether you add a line after each section is up to you, but I generally feel it looks neater to not add lines between sections. This also depends on whether you have space or not. You should not be attached to the idea of spaces between sections if it feels like you’re crossing your desired limit of 1-2 pages.
List the school where you have earned your bachelor’s degree (or the school you attend now) high on your legal resumé. Also add any graduate level degrees. Include the date you earned your degrees and the locations of the schools, as well as majors, types of degrees, etc. You can add other information such as most important classes taken, the topic of your senior thesis, and any major awards in school if relevant. I generally would leave off your GPA unless they ask for it – law school admissions offices will see this on your transcript.
Law schools want to picture how you will contribute to campus! List at least 2-3 activities that you were involved in at the college level or beyond. Try to emphasize your leadership roles and specific contributions. If you were part of a college choir, don’t just say performed in concerts; mention the voice part you sing, whether you had to audition, and what kind of music you perform. If you were on a sports team, don’t just say played tennis and traveled to matches. Mention the position you play, how you prepared in practices, your overall record (if it was good), and if you won any championships! Use strong action words to highlight the impact of your role.
On your legal resumé, list any work-related experiences you have that might be beneficial to the admissions committee. There are many people who work at law firms before law school, but you don’t absolutely need this type of experience . For example, if you worked as a teacher, mention the age range or grades you taught, which classes you prepared, etc. Or if you are still in college and have only had internships, emphasize the skills you learned and the roles you had; so if you interned at a news site, talk about what kind of research you did, if you wrote any articles, and how you assisted the team.
Honors and Awards
You do not always need to add this section, but if you won any honors or awards outside your education or activities or work, you’re welcome to list them here.
Add this section if you have something to add that doesn’t fit elsewhere in your legal resumé. This is the portion to talk about languages you speak, software skills you have, and interesting or unusual hobbies. Think about what makes you unique. Most people like to read and travel, which is fine, but it would be more informative to emphasize your love for baking or playing on a softball team for fun.
The purpose of your legal resumé is to help you stand out to admissions officers. Capitalize on this component to highlight exceptional qualifications and experiences you bring to the table. Follow these tips, and sure to proofread carefully and have another set of eyes look at your resumé to make sure it looks good to go. Best of luck!