Resume Content

Heading
Job Objective
Education (For Law Students & Recent Graduates; For Transfer Students; Honors & Activities; GPA; LSAT Score)
Experience/Employment
Professional Certifications
Foreign Languages
Military Service
Publications
Skills
Personal Information
Outside Interests & Activities

HEADING

Your Name - Decide how you wish to be known professionally. Your name appears at the top of the résumé and serves as the title. It should be typed in larger point than the rest of the résumé, but not too large, since some employers have been critical of that. Note: the word "Résumé" should not appear on your résumé.

Your Address(es), Telephone Number(s), and E-Mail - Provide your current address, telephone number and, if you check your e-mail regularly, your e-mail address. If your permanent address is outside the Madison area, you may want to include it if you are seeking employment in that region of the country. Make sure your answering machine message is professional and brief.

JOB OBJECTIVE

This section is almost never appropriate on a legal résumé. It is more effective to tailor your résumé to a particular position and discuss your specific career goals in your cover letter and during an interview.

EDUCATION

Law Students & Recent Graduates

For law students and recent graduates, the name of the law school, academic performance, and achievements in law school are usually the most important elements of a résumé.

  • Outline your education in reverse chronological order: (1) legal education, (2) graduate education, if any, and (3) undergraduate education.

  • Begin with the name of your law school, the degree expected, the month and year you anticipate graduating, and the city and state. Indicate your anticipated law degree as: "Candidate for Juris Doctor" (or "J.D.") or "Juris Doctor anticipated."

  • Following your degree, list any honors you received, such as cum laude. Latin phrases should always appear in lower case letters and be italicized.

  • Secondary education should be excluded unless you are applying for jobs where your school or hometown establishes important geographic ties.

Transfer Students

Transfer students may include information about their first-year studies as part of the UW Law School entry. For example you could write "Completed first year of studies at New York University Law School, 2001-2002". Alternatively, you may list your previous law school as a separate entry. This method is more effective if you want to highlight significant positions, activities or honors you achieved during your first year of law school.

Honors and Activities

Under each school you have attended, detail your academic achievements and organizational memberships in that school. You may use separate subheadings such as "Honors", "Awards", or "Activities".

  • List significant law school activities, including journal participation, clinical programs, memberships, committees and teams.

  • Differentiate staff membership from membership on an editorial board.

  • Highlight your leadership roles in organizations (i.e. President, Founder).

  • Indicate if you have a distinguished record in competitions (i.e. finalist, quarter finalist, best brief).

  • If you had quite a number of collegiate activities, consider listing those that are significant to you or the employer.

  • List major honors received, including scholarships, elected offices and awards.

  • If any of the honors or activities you include are not self-explanatory by title, include a brief description.

  • If relevant, include "Worked 20 hours per week to finance education" or "…to defray cost of education". This will tell potential employers a great deal about you and your commitment to education.

G.P.A.

  • It will be necessary for you to calculate your own G.P.A. or ask the Registrar's Office to calculate it for you.  To calculate your GPA, disregard any courses in which you received a grade of S or U.  Those courses do NOT factor into your cumulative grade point average.  Next, multiply the numerical equivalent of the letter grade you received in each other course you have completed, times the number of credits that you earned in the course.  (For example, if you received a B in Property, which is a 5 credit course, you would multiply 3.0 times 5, and the result is 15.0 GPA "points").  After you have multiplied the number of credits times the numerical equivalent for the grade you received in each course, then add all your GPA "points" together and divide it by the total number of credits represented by your letter-graded courses.  The resulting quotient is your GPA.  It should be rounded to the second decimal place, using conventional rounding methods; e.g., a 3.2489 becomes a 3.25; whereas a 3.24489 becomes a 3.24.  

  • Although the Career Services staff encourages employers to consider many indicators of competence, recruiters often focus on G.P.A.s when selecting students to interview. This is more likely to be the case with large, well-known law firms and organizations than with smaller ones. It is, therefore, important to present yourself in the most favorable light.

  • First-year grades may not yet have been computed when you are applying for jobs next summer, so employers will look at your undergraduate G.P.A. as an indication of your academic achievement.

  • As a general rule, if your G.P.A. places you in the top 50% of your class, include it. Otherwise, omit it, but be prepared to discuss it in an interview.

  • A statistical chart of approximate percentile ranks based on students' grade point averages is available by clicking here.

  • If you received an outstanding grade in Legal Research and Writing, you may want to include that on your résumé.

  • If there is a significant improvement from one semester to the next, you may want to list your semester G.P.A.s separately.

  • For a detailed discussion on the Law School's grading system and computing G.P.A.s, read section 2 of the Career Services Handbook or the "Grading System and Class Standing" section of the Career Services web site.

LSAT Scores

LSAT scores should not be included on your résumé. Remember, LSAT scores were relevant in evaluating your potential as a law student. They are not a predictor of your success as a lawyer.

EXPERIENCE/EMPLOYMENT

  • The heading "Experience" or "Employment" can be used, but "Experience" offers the advantage of encompassing paid, volunteer, intern and clinical positions. List jobs in reverse chronological order.

  • This section can be divided into "Legal Experience," "Related Experience," "Professional Experience," "Work Experience," or "Other Experience" categories. This is particularly useful for students with extensive work experience prior to law school.

  • For each position, list the name of the organization, job title, city and state and dates of employment. Note that it is easier to read "Summer 1998" than"6/98-8/98" or "June 1998-August 1998".

  • When describing your employment experience, include more details for jobs that involved legal responsibility. Other employment can be summarized briefly to avoid leaving large gaps in your employment history.

  • If your experiences are not directly applicable to the position for which you are applying, then describe transferable skills that you have acquired in different subject areas that demonstrate similarities with the employer's work.

  • Common legal skills that almost all organizations look for include research, writing, client interviewing, and evidence of analytical, organizational, interpersonal and leadership skills.

  • Use short phrases, not sentences, to describe employment. Begin each entry with a law-related action verb, such as "Coordinated", "Developed", "Drafted", "Oversaw", "Researched". For a list of action verbs suitable for your résumé , click here.

  • Review how an employer describes its work, and then convey that you understand the field by using similar language to describe your own job responsibilities and activities.

  • Use present tense verbs for current job(s), past tense verbs for past jobs. Omit articles "a", "an" and "the" whenever possible. Omit personal pronouns.

  • List the most substantial responsibilities and achievements first. Be brief but specific, including numbers, dollar amounts and percentages whenever possible. For example, "Supervised staff of 15," "Managed $45,000 budget," or "Increased sales by 15 percent."

PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATIONS

If you have earned any other professional certifications, such as a CPA or real estate license, you may include this information, along with the date and state in which you were certified.

FOREIGN LANGUAGES

If you are skilled in a foreign language, this should be noted on your résumé. You may be asked to demonstrate your skills during an interview, so be sure to accurately convey your level of proficiency. You can use these descriptions: "fluent," "proficient," "conversant," "working knowledge of…".

MILITARY SERVICE

Having served in the military is impressive to many employers and should be listed as employment.

PUBLICATIONS

Including publications on a résumé indicates previous research and writing experience.

SKILLS

Do not list personality attributes such as "able to work with minimal supervision." Only list computer skills if they are extraordinary. Most lawyers and law students have word processing and Westlaw/Lexis skills, so listing them is unnecessary.

PERSONAL INFORMATION

Information such as health, weight, age, marital status and number of children should not be on your résumé. It is not relevant and it is illegal for an employer to ask questions related to this information during an interview.

OUTSIDE INTERESTS AND ACTIVITIES

  • This category is optional, but can show that you are a well-rounded individual. It often provides good topics for conversation during an interview.

  • Only include accomplishments or unique interests and hobbies that highlight a strength, significant accomplishment or passion.

  • Avoid general terms such as "enjoy reading, movies and sports." Instead, be specific about the type of literature you like, the fact that you studied classical piano for 15 years, and the time you ran the Chicago marathon.

  • You need not have achieved outward recognition of your interests and activities in order to list them. Thus, "crime novels, swing dancing and the Chicago Cubs" is an appropriate list of interests if, in fact, you can discuss them knowledgeably and with enthusiasm.

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