6 Keys to a Stellar Law School Resume
You don’t need to be the proverbially brilliant Philadelphia lawyer (yet!) to know that the law school admissions process can be formidable. You will likely need to submit LSAT scores, college transcripts, letters of recommendation, and perhaps even a personal statement. However, there is one secret weapon that can help you further stand out from the competition: a consummate law school resume.
A law school resume varies from a career resume in that it is not geared toward a potential employer or position. Instead, it tells your personal and professional story for law school admissions officers by highlighting your skills, experience, achievements, and the features that distinguish you from other applicants. An exceptional law school resume can provide a predictive glimpse into how you will excel in law school.
Here’s how to write yours:
1. Incorporate substance and style.
What you have to say is most important, but just as you would wear an appropriate suit for a job interview, your law school resume is often your first impression for admissions officers, so you want to make the right one. Set one-inch margins all around your page and put your name in a 14- to 20-point font at the top. Try a professional-looking yet easy-to-read typeface, like Book Antiqua, Calibri, or Helvetica. Just below your name and slightly smaller, use the same font between 10 and 12 points for all your contact information—email, phone number, and mailing address—as well as for the rest of the document text. The other section titles can be slightly larger and bolded.
2. Just say no to an “objective” or “summary” at the top.
Education comes first for a law school resume. Include any colleges or business schools you have attended, with their locations, your major or courses of study, and any degrees or certifications, as well as distinctions like Dean’s list or summa cum laude. Next, create a listing for Scholarships/Awards/Honors. Then, launch into the Experience section, where you’ll list jobs and internships you’ve held with title, employer name, location, and dates. Lastly comes Activities or Additional Information. Here, you’ll itemize any community service or conversation-sparking special skills, including additional language competencies and your technical toolkit.
3. Be honest—but never undersell yourself.
While humility is a virtue, now is not the time for modesty. Why did you receive a certain award? How is it emblematic of your gifts, talents, and goals? Whenever you can, utilize quantifiable results (such as Helped reduce case backlog by 11%) in crafting your law school resume. Put your most recent experience first with the rest following in reverse chronological order. Use up to three bullet points under each section to highlight your achievements, beginning each one with a robust verb: navigated, coordinated, delivered. Also, spell out any acronym on its first mention; if it is used later, it can then be abbreviated.
4. Know that any passion is a perfect passion.
Naturally, it looks wonderful for a law school candidate to have served as president of the forensics team or to have held a reputation-dazzling public policy internship. But there’s no single perfect journey to law school. Playing guard on the basketball team, volunteering at a hospital, or even delivering pizzas to help pay your tuition all matter. The time and dedication athletes demonstrate reveal loyalty, giving back is a sign of compassion, and working while juggling your education shows initiative and responsibility—all innate qualities for a lawyer. Think “big picture” and highlight these leadership and commitment accomplishments on your law school resume.
5. Communication is king.
One element that nearly all law school deans of admissions agree is necessary for success is the demonstration of sophisticated analytical communication skills. Wherever appropriate, describe your written and verbal abilities. This may be research, writing, or tutoring and mentoring experience during your academic career or any job. Also include the titles and a brief description of any thesis, major research project, or public speaking engagement; you might even want to have a separate “Selected Notable Publications and/or Presentations” section.
6. Remember that being detail-oriented is a hallmark of attorneys.
It could be helpful to consult with your particular institution before applying to note what exactly they prefer, but in general, the optimal length for a law school resume is one page, or no more than two. Give it a little white space between sections, too; since officials will likely scan your resume before diving into the rest of your materials. You want to make it easy on their eyes. Finally, you’re only human, so running your resume past someone to proofread before sending it off—or even hiring a professional editor–can ensure your spelling and grammar are cogent and consistent and your formatting impeccable, placing you on a solid path toward making your dreams of becoming a J.D. a reality.
And if you want every advantage in your application, consider getting help from a professional resume writing firm.