Tiffany Farber is a solo practitioner who has been practicing law since 2008. As someone who has been through transition in her career, she understands the challenges lawyers in this situation face.
Resumes are ever evolving creatures. The more experience you have, the longer they become. The more jobs you apply for, the more versions of your resume you collect.
Try not to think of a resume as a worthless piece of paper. Instead, look at it as an opportunity to provide a snap shot of who you are and what you have accomplished. Here are some resume writing tips you may find helpful:
Change it up: A resume should be a fluid, ever changing thing. You shouldn’t write it once and send the same one for every job you apply for. Chances are, you will apply for several jobs and each of them will be a little different from the next. Depending on the job you are applying for, you should highlight certain experiences over others. I recently reviewed a resume for an attorney who has a great deal of litigation experience, especially in real estate. I told her that if she applies for positions at real estate firms, she should move her real estate specific experience up to the top of her “work experience” section. If she applies for a position at a general litigation firm, she should move her courtroom, motion writing and negotiation experience to the top. Your resume probably won’t change dramatically with each job you apply for, but you should definitely move certain things around based on the job requirements.
The basic components: There are many different resume formats, but all legal resumes should include the basic information: your name, mailing address, phone and e-mail. Mine also includes my website address. You should have an “education section” and a “work experience” section. I also suggest an “admissions” section and a “skills and interests” section.
The order of things: My preference is to put the “work experience” section above the “education section” in a resume. If you have been practicing for a firm or as a solo practitioner, this experience should be the first thing the potential employer sees. It is the best way for the potential employer to see what practical skills you have. If you are a new graduate, try to highlight the great experience you had as a law student and as a summer intern. Practical experience is always going to impress a potential employer. Of course, you should definitely highlight your law school accomplishments in the “education section” of your resume. I think this section should follow your work experience. Next, I suggest that you include your bar admissions and other licenses in an “admissions” section. Potential employers want to know if you are able to represent a client in federal court or not. Finally, I would include a “skills and interests section.” This section shows that you are a real person. You have hobbies outside of the practice of law that contribute to who you are as a person. The person interviewing you may also have a similar interest or, one of your interests could spark a conversation that helps move the interview along.
Remember, a potential employer may not read your whole resume. Try to highlight the actual experience you have and make sure to tailor your resume to the job you are applying for.
This week’s challenge is to create two working resumes to have on hand. Be prepared to alter them according to the job requirements.