Career Services: What should you put in your resume?
Your resume is a personal statement. The final decision about what you include in your resume rests with you. However, there are certain kinds of information, organized in a certain way, which legal employers expect to see. To the extent that your resume conforms to the employer's expectations, the employer will be comfortable with your resume, and, by extension, with you. If you deviate from what is expected, recognize that you are doing so, and do not do so without a good reason. You want employers to remember your resume because of its content, not because it is weirder than any they've seen.
The CHRONOLOGICAL format is generally the preferred form for the legal profession: education and work history are set forth in reverse chronological order. However, if you have extensive or impressive work experience, you may prefer to use another style. Do not follow a resume form if it does not present your experience and qualifications in the best light.
Legal employers are accustomed to seeing information set forth in the following format:
Name, Address, Telephone Number
Always, always, without exception, put your full name, your current address and telephone number at the top of the page for easy reference. Since e-mail addresses are becoming more common, you may choose to list your e-mail address if it’s appropriate (i.e. don’t list email@example.com). You might want to list your home or permanent address as well, if:
(a) You are originally from another state, and want to return to that state;
(b) You are looking for work anywhere outside Pennsylvania and you are from a state other than Pennsylvania;
(c) You are from Pennsylvania and you know that the firm likes to hire people from Pennsylvania; or,
(d) You are from Pittsburgh or Philadelphia and are looking for work outside Pennsylvania.
List in reverse chronological order (law school, other graduate or professional programs, undergraduate college). If you have many graduate degrees, or attended a number of undergraduate schools, you should consider listing only those which are significant (e.g., degree conferred), or relevant to the position you're seeking (e.g., graduate degree in foreign language if employer is multinational).
Relevant Work Experience
Usually listed in reverse chronological order, but exceptions should be made if an earlier job was more impressive, professional, or relevant. Focus on the work experiences you have had which required the exercise of managerial, professional, communication, leadership or other law-related skills. In relating your responsibilities, emphasize writing ability, supervisory experience, counseling skills, case management, negotiating skills, public speaking experience, research skills, regulatory knowledge and analytical skills. It is not necessary to list every job you ever had; many can fit under the general heading "Part-time and summer work to finance education." It is important to employers that you have worked; it is not important that you worked at McDonald's.
Awards and Honors
Do not put these at the top of the page. List these near the environment in which they were earned, e.g., academic awards under the "Education" heading, following the relevant school data; professional awards and honors under the "Experience" heading. This section of your resume is important because it demonstrates that others have valued your contributions. Do not, however, go overboard and list every nomination for every office your fraternity/sorority had. The positive impact of impressive awards is diluted by indiscriminately mixing in awards which only thrilled your parents.
Because the practice of law requires good written communication skills, evidence that you write well is invaluable. Virtually any publication, including those outside the legal field, is impressive enough to command room on your resume.
Special Abilities or Skills
The practice of law is complex and changing. Being a good lawyer requires more than just a thorough grounding in legal principles; it requires everything you have to offer. If you have particular skills which enhance your abilities as a lawyer, reveal them. Such skills might include professional certifications or licenses or proficiency in a foreign language. If you can't decide whether a skill should be listed, ask yourself if it is job related, e.g., does it demonstrate transferable or substantive skills.