The Under-Utilized Law School Application Resume
January 28, 2014
While your personal statement is generally touted as your best or only chance to shine in law school applications, other components are just as important in crafting a compelling narrative about the kind of candidate you are. A meticulously written and edited law school application resume can not only help you stand out from the rest, but can also help augment the strength of other parts of your application. For instance, if you really wanted to mention your experiences at your job/ internship or in an extra-curricular activity as a formative experience that shaped your interest in law but decided to focus on something else in your personal statement, you can do so quite effectively in the resume. The resume is an under-utilized means of granting you critical airtime. On the flip side, a poorly written and edited (or even poorly formatted) resume can land your application firmly in the reject pile.
Unlike most jobs or internships you may have applied to in the past, most law schools allow you to exceed the traditional single page requirement for resumes (one-and-a-half to two pages is probably ideal). There are some critical differences between the two. In a job application resume, you would want to gear you experience toward the industry or field in which you are seeking employment. On the other hand, the law school resume is an opportunity to provide a vivid “laundry list” of your jobs, experiences, awards, honors, extra-curricular activities, community involvement, leadership, skills, and interests. Creativity with your headings, where appropriate, is often an effective strategy. For instance, if you were the president or officer of three student organizations, and merely a participant in a few others, you might consider having a separate “leadership” and “activities” sections. Another example is how some students like to separate “responsibilities” and “achievements” under each job entry description.
Admissions officers can and should be able to glean a lot of information from your resume. Your task is to facilitate this process by presenting yourself in the best light possible. Not surprisingly, the organization and formatting of the document can be just as important as the content in achieving that goal. While it is important to pack as many relevant experiences and descriptions thereof as you can into your resume, you want to capitalize on this opportunity to showcase your ability to clearly and concisely convey information. Admissions officers often turn to the resume first when evaluating a file because it is the best snapshot of a candidate. This makes it all the more important to put your best foot forward here to make sure you pique their interest or impress them in some way.
Be proactive with your resume. It is your canvas on which you should paint yourself in the best possible light. If you have a gap in your employment history, or did not do anything one summer, identify that gap and cast it in as positive of a light as possible. Anticipating and addressing questions that you think will inevitably arise after reading your resume will facilitate the smooth evaluation of your file and impress the reader.
The skills that go into the resume-writing process—clarity of expression, conciseness, organization, precision, and presentation—are some of the most highly valued skills in the legal profession. So, show off.