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Resume Tips

The purpose of a resume is to telegraph your value to a prospective employer. You should include in your resume only that information which demonstrates why you would be an asset to the particular employer. Resumes should not be an autobiographical expose of your life, but rather a highlight of those skills and experiences that are relevant to the employer's needs.

Structure and Format:
Once you write your resume, edit it vigorously, eliminating all details that are not essential to the message you want to convey. Also proofread it thoroughly, as a typographical or grammatical error is the surest way to get your resume into the employer's trash bin! A useful proofreading technique is to read the document backwards so that you are just reading words, and that will help you see errors. Have friends and colleagues review your resume as well.

Research suggests that employers spend 30-45 seconds reviewing a resume before deciding whether they wish to interview the applicant. Therefore, format your resume so that it catches the reader's attention. Make it clear, and avoid a dense or cluttered appearance. Moreover, in choosing how to organize and arrange the information, be consistent throughout the document. Consistency creates a neat appearance and enhances overall presentation.

Your resume should generally be limited to one page. Two pages are acceptable if you have many relevant experiences to highlight, but if you use two pages, make sure every entry is salient.

Your name, address, telephone number and e-mail address should be at the top of your resume. You may also wish to include your permanent address, especially if you intend to move back to that geographic area.

You should list languages in which you are fluent and/or proficient, and highlight your publications. You may also wish to list military service.

In writing a resume for a legal position, avoid stating a career objective. Also, do not list your computer skills; most lawyers and law students have word processing and Westlaw and Lexis skills, so listing them adds nothing to distinguish you. Finally, do not waste valuable resume space by stating that references and/or a writing sample are available upon request. Employers will ask you for these if they need them, whether or not you state they are available.

You should list your education and experiences in reverse chronological order.

  • Education
    The education section should highlight your law school and undergraduate education, including study abroad and schools you transferred from, but usually not high school. You should also include academic awards, including scholarships, honors and activities for which you were competitively selected. Also, you should list relevant activities during your schooling.

  • Experience
    The description of your activities and experiences is the real meat of a resume. It is your opportunity to demonstrate that your abilities qualify you for the position to which you are applying. Most importantly, while you must be scrupulously honest, you must also be an advocate in emphasizing your accomplishments.

If you have many experiences that you wish to highlight, especially if you have been out of law school for several years, you may choose to break your experiences into several topical sections, e.g., law firm experience, public service, legal experience.

You should list the name and city of past employers, as well as the years of employment. It is not necessary to state the months you worked there, unless the position was only for a term or for the summer, at which point you may simply note Summer, Winter or Fall 20__. Again, your resume is not a biographical sketch; include all relevant experience but do not worry about documenting all time periods. However, if there are significant employment gaps, be prepared to explain them during interviews.

Do not list only full-time compensated work. Relevant clinical work during law school, externships, and part-time work should also be included and listed in the experience section. Identify them as such so as to avoid any misrepresentation of them as full-time work. You may wish to state the position that you held (other than identifying yourself as a volunteer). Following that, you should include a description of the work that you did and the skills that you used; use short phrases led by active verbs--"analyzed," "conducted," "advised"--more like sound bites than lengthy prose. Bullets are often helpful. Use buzzwords from the employer's own literature.

Tailoring Your Resume:
To demonstrate that you have relevant experience may require that you tailor the information you provide in your resume to the employer's needs. Consequently, if you apply to more than one employer, you may find it necessary to create more than one resume, highlighting information most applicable to that particular employer. You need not create a different resume for every employer to whom you apply, but rather have resumes tailored for different practice areas or type of work. See below for a discussion of multiple resumes within the Symplicity framework.

Resumes can be prepared in many different formats and uploaded into Symplicity. After you have drafted your resume and uploaded it, be sure to doublecheck that its appearance is satisfactory. If you find that you have an extra page with a few lines of text, revise your resume (in the word processing program in which you drafted it) by decreasing the top and/or bottom margins. If you find you find that you have an extra blank page, you probably need to delete unnecessary hard returns from the bottom of the document.

Symplicity allows you to use multiple resumes by offering you the option of attaching a specific resume to a specific employer in the "bid" screen. You will, however, be limited to one "general" resume in the resume section of the program.

Resources (in OCP library):
Complete Job Search Kit for Attorneys
Presenting Your Credentials Effectively
Sample Resumes of Past Students

Michigan Law Wordmark Print View