Resume Strategies for Legal Professionals

Whether you are a seasoned corporate attorney, a law student hoping to land a Big Law internship, or an entry-level paralegal, your resume needs to MAKE YOUR CASE that you are the best candidate for the role.

And in the legal field, your resume also serves as a writing sample. It shows your ability (or inability) to communicate clearly and concisely. An employer might choose not to meet with you if your resume is poorly presented, even if your work experience is strong. And your resume must be completely free of typos and grammatical errors. 

Your legal resume should have a professional appearance with a simple, consistent design. And it should communicate your value succinctly.

Start with a summary paragraph.

Your resume summary section is like an opening statement. Summarize who you are and what type of law you practice, then highlight your accomplishments.

Be sure to include keywords.

Keywords and keyphrases from the job description are essential for your resume (as long as they actually apply to your experience). This is especially important if you’re applying for a job at a larger firm, which is more likely to screen applicants with ATS. Here are some important skills/keywords you’ll see in many legal job descriptions:

Category Skills
Legal Skills Tort Law, Contract Law, Corporate Law & Governance, Probate, Family Law, Criminal Law, Property Law, Administrative Law, Constitutional Law, Transactional Practice, Commercial Litigation, Civil Litigation, Intellectual Property Law (patents, copyrights, trademarks), Mediation, Trials & Appeals, Regulatory Compliance, Labor & Employment Law, Risk Analysis & Mitigation, Legal consulting
Hard Skills Project management, Planning, Foreign languages, Document management, Legal procedure, Legal research, Case research, Data analysis, Coaching & mentoring, Writing & editing, Drafting motions, briefs, contracts, resolutions, legal opinions, Written & oral Communication, Dispute resolution, Presentations, Negotiation
Technical Skills Practice management (Clio), Case management (Summation, Relativity, TrialDirector), eDiscovery software (Concordance), Legal research databases (Westlaw, LexisNexis)
Soft Skills Interpersonal skills, Relationship building, Conflict resolution, Analytical skills, Attention to detail, Time management, Teamwork, Collaboration, Adaptability, Conflict resolution, Leadership, Critical thinking, Problem solving

Use STRONG VERBS to showcase your accomplishments. 

Focus on concrete, positive outcomes. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • If you created something: Formalized, conceptualized, orchestrated, created, customized, developed, defined, drafted, generated, or researched
  • If you led people and/or projects: Mentored, collaborated, directed, spearheaded, advised, advocated, coordinated, monitored
  • If you improved something or solved a problem: Overhauled, devised, rebuilt, expedited, accelerated, achieved, advanced, analyzed, enhanced, ensured, executed, implemented, maximized, negotiated, optimized, reduced, resolved

Use these verbs to highlight accomplishments, as in the following examples:

  • Executed litigation strategies leading to X% case resolution
  • Negotiated terms resulting in X complex contracts
  • Advised on intellectual property law matters resulting in X
  • Drafted corporate legal documents resulting in X
  • Managed risk…

Special considerations for legal resumes:

In the education section, include all honors and activities, such as law review, moot court, trial advocacy, clinics, fellowships, scholarships, committees, student organization membership, and academic awards. Don’t include LSAT scores. And don’t include your GPA unless you’re at the top of your class and applying to Big Law.

Include your bar membership, even if your status is pending. Be sure to update this as your status changes. For example:

  • Bar Admission: Texas
  • Eligible for July 2024 Texas bar exam
  • Candidate for July 2024 Texas bar exam
  • July 2024 Texas bar exam (results pending)

Include memberships or affiliations with alumni, law, or special interest groups.

Include foreign language skills (and proficiency level) if you have them. Language skills can be valuable in law, depending on the community served by the role.

Demonstrate your commitment by including extracurricular activities, internships, clinics, pro bono, and other volunteer work. This is especially true if you are applying for a public interest role.

If you choose to include hobbies, be sure they showcase leadership and self-discipline.

It should go without saying that a resume should be 100% honest. In the legal field, exaggerating or misrepresenting your experience or education can have serious consequences.

If you’re a legal professional looking for assistance with your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile, reach out to the experts at Upword Resume. We’ll match you with a resume expert who specializes in the legal field.