Five Tips for an Effective Legal Resume: By Amy Savage, Esq.

Good news! We’ve seen an increase in attorney hiring in most markets and in most practice areas. Even with the surge in openings, however, competition remains fierce. The most prestigious positions often attract upwards of 100 applicants. In practical terms, that means a small number of recruiting coordinators will be reviewing a large number of resumes.

The goal of your resume is to survive this storm of submissions and secure an interview. Here are a few key rules to follow to make your resume stand out while dodging common pitfalls. These tips may seem like common sense, but as with many principles in life, they are easier to articulate than apply. No candidate, no matter how talented, can get away with submitting a resume that is bloated or riddled with grammatical errors.

Maximize your chances for an interview by using these five tips:

1. Keep It Concise. As a general rule, keep your resume to one page unless you have strong pre-law experience or more than four or five years of legal experience. A recruiting coordinator who is reviewing hundreds of resumes does not have time to read a five-page resume. Focusing on your relevant skills makes the best use of that limited time, and it also keeps the reader’s interest. Once you have winnowed your resume to those skills that best match the position, keep your description of earlier experience succinct. Remember that you can always provide more detail in the interview.

2. Include Concrete Achievements, Not Broad Platitudes. Stand apart from the crowd by describing your unique experiences and achievements. Did you argue an appeal in a law school clinic? Are you a junior associate who has already done a $1 billion deal? Did you handle a high-stakes white collar criminal investigation? Did you secure summary judgment in a big case? Providing concrete details that prove that you are a top performer can make all the difference to employers.

3. Sell With Confidence. The business of law requires you to sell. You will need to persuade clients to hire you, and your supervisors need to be convinced to promote you. Showcase your ability to sell the experiences and talents that make you perfect for the position. Too often candidates understate their achievements. Your resume is not the place for false modesty. While you do not want to come across as arrogant, firms expect your resume to highlight your accomplishments.

4. Format Matters. You have less than a minute to make that all-important first impression – make it count! Your key qualifications need to be featured front and center, not buried in a dense paragraph of text. You have worked hard to earn your credentials and build your expertise – use a format that makes it clear to employers what you bring to the table.

5. Errors Kill. Few things leave negative impressions like bad grammar and spelling, yet close to a third of resumes contain mistakes. Ask a trusted colleague to proofread your materials. Common errors we see include “trail” instead of “trial” and “pubic interest” instead of “public interest” (yes, really).

Follow these tips as you draft your resume to improve your chances of getting interviews. Fair or not, often the best resumes – and not the best candidates – generate interviews


Amy Savage is a Director in the Washington, DC office of Lateral Link Group, LLC and can be reached at

Lateral Link Group LLC is a legal recruiting attorney placement firm and networking forum founded in December 2005 and is the Exclusive Legal Search Firm Sponsor for Ms. JD. The company provides free career services to "Members" in the form of an online job database as well as traditional off-line recruiting and networking services. Lateral Link works with both law firms and in-house legal employers in the United States, Asia, Western Europe, and Middle East

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