In the legal field CVs adhere to many of the same guidelines as for CVs in other areas – using a neat, clear structure and avoiding irrelevant ancillary information. However, there are some nuances to be aware of that will help you to particularly focus your CV on the legal sector.
CVs in the legal sector can be longer than the usual 2 pages. Employers in the profession are often keen to see more detail on the work you have done and therefore you can afford to elaborate with relevant information. A CV of up to 3 – 4 pages is perfectly acceptable with up to three quarters of a page for roles lasting 2 years or more.
Detail your seats and practice areas – one section per area e.g. Torts, intellectual property or employment law. Under these sections give examples in bullet format of case files you have handled to provide an insight into your experience. Relevant details to include are: Type of client and other parties involved, value, key issues, procedural steps taken, documents produced and the case outcome. The best cases to use are those where you made a substantial contribution, where cases were high value or the matters at hand were complex.
Firms are usually keen to employ individuals with highly developed soft skills. If client interaction is a strong suit of yours or you can deliver a winning presentation, you should include positive details of your experience. Particularly useful are any activities relating to client relationships, presentations, marketing events, team working and business social activities. Have you given any internal talks on legal matters or contributed to client presentations? Have you represented your organisation at any industry roadshows or client events?
Lawyers at the beginning of their careers are generally advised to show their commitment to the profession through work experience, voluntary work and research into the field. It can also be useful to emphasise transferrable skills gained through work experience and voluntary work. Possible examples can include working in a high-pressure environment, demonstrating good judgment or interacting with clients.
For more experienced lawyers, networking often becomes increasingly important and it will strengthen your CV if you can provide relevant examples of networking activities. Have you been involved with or led any business groups or associations? Have you developed relationships with clients outside the firm? It will also stand to you if you have increased your profile within the industry or are viewed as an expert in your field. You can demonstrate this in a separate section by listing articles you have written on legal issues.
Attention to detail:
Although important in all CVs, attention to detail is absolutely crucial for resumes in the legal sector. Future employers will expect your contracts and casework to be flawless and the same holds true of your CV. If a hiring manager sees grammatical or spelling errors, or the structure is sloppy and disorganised it will undoubtedly cause alarm bells to ring. Therefore when you have completed your CV read it over and then read it again. At this point ask someone with a high standard of English to try to identify errors – preferably this will be a person from a legal background, as they will understand the terminology.