It’s easy to give general advice about how to make your law school résumé the best it can be. It’s harder to actually do it, right?
Instead of talking generally, I thought it would be helpful to do a résumé teardown for a sample (fictional) law school applicant, so you can see how a humdrum résumé can morph into something pretty impressive!
Let’s get started. Take a look at Jane Doe’s resume below. It’s not horrible, but it’s basically just a list of all the jobs she’s ever had, with some basic information about her education.
Jane’s starting resume
Before we move on, what would you change?
Several things jump out at me:
- Her education is more relevant, and more impressive, than her work experience. Consequently, it should go first.
- I want to see more detail throughout. Jane mentions she wrote an honors thesis, for example, but doesn’t give the title or tell us what it’s about. Similarly, her job descriptions are weak and don’t provide information about what she specifically accomplished.
- She’s devoted way too much space to irrelevant jobs. While it’s nice that she’s had a part-time job in college, and that she worked several summers for the YMCA, this isn’t the most critical information to highlight. If it’s there at all, it needs to be consolidated dramatically.
- The formatting is dreadful. Jane’s résumé looks like what it is – a list of jobs. With a little creativity, it can look a lot more professional and will be easier to skim for highlights.
Here’s Jane’s revised résumé.
Jane’s revised resume
Without even clicking for the full-sized version, it’s apparent that this résumé looks more professional. It’s got clear hierarchy, and appears to be dense with information.
Why It’s Better
If you open it, you’ll see several changes:
- Jane’s education is now front-and-center, as it should be. She’s added more details about her honors thesis and academic achievements, and has fleshed out the descriptions of her extracurricular experiences. She’s expanded the section on her study abroad experience, adding law school-relevant coursework and information about the non-profit internship she did in London. Hopefully, by the time the reader reaches the end of the revised education section, he’ll be convinced that Jane is a credible law school candidate. Even if he only glances at the rest of her résumé, it’s done its job.
- Jane has beefed up her job descriptions, focusing on her specific accomplishments and giving the reader a sense of what she really worked on. She’s highlighted her leadership experience, noting where she supervised, organized, or taught other members of the organization.
- Jane consolidated all of her YMCA jobs into a single listing, and eliminated her barista and waitress jobs. With the space she saved, Jane highlighted a very significant volunteer project, which she founded and has worked on extensively for seven years. Initially, Jane didn’t think of this project as “employment” so she just mentioned it briefly under volunteer activities. This was a mistake! Non-paid employment is employment, and Jane’s involvement in the Prison Library Project is extensive, ongoing, and directly relevant to her law school application. It should be emphasized in her résumé.
- Jane reformatted everything, using bold, italics, caps, and underlining consistently to add emphasis. It’s easy to scan her new resume, because the layout is consistent.
- Finally, Jane expanded her personal interests section to be more specific and more interesting. She added specific places she’s traveled, and drilled down to make her hobbies appear more unique. This approach better highlights her personality, and makes her seem more well-rounded.
How to Craft a Law School Application That Gets You In
Find out how to make every component of your law school application the best it can be:
Return to Applying to Law School 101.
So, what do you think? Did Jane nail it, or are there still things that could be improved?
Image by Michal Zacharzewski, SXC via stock.xchng.
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Law school resumes are similar to the ones used apply for a job, with a few noticeable differences. Keep in mind that your law school resume needs to be academic focused, with an audience of an admissions committee instead of a prospective employer. Therefore, there’s no reason to include an “Objectives” or “Summary of Qualifications” portion since they obviously know why you are applying. Instead, highlight the skills and accomplishments that the law school is looking for, such as your academic achievements, interests, leadership, activism and study abroad experiences.Being honest on your law school admissions resume can help push your application to the top of the list. After reading literally thousands of resumes, members of the admissions committee are pros at finding the “fluff.” Meaning that adding extra responsibilities in your work experience section or rounding up on your GPA is lying (and they’ll have your transcripts to back it up!). Of course it’s important to put your best foot forward, but if the admissions committee even suspects you’re exaggerating, your resume will be tossed to the bottom of the pile.
Key points to remember:
- Use your content to stand out, not the format: Your resume needs to conform to what the admissions officer will expect so they focus on the content instead of spacing or elaborate formatting. So keep it down to a page, written in Times New Roman or Arial Font at 10pt. Also, it’s important to organize your resume in a way that makes sense, and if applicable, refer to yourself in the third person.
- Unglamorous jobs are better than no jobs: showcasing your past employment is always important, even if your only experience was at a pizza parlor. Simply having a job (full-time or part-time) showcases that you are responsible, can (assumedly) handle money and are a useful part of your community. There’s no need to go into detail about the process of delivering pizzas, but be sure you include it anyway.
- Honesty is the best policy: Remember that the law schools you’re applying to will receive your transcripts, complete with your class standings, etc., so be sure to keep your integrity intact and be honest – even rounding up on a GPA could reflect poorly on your character.
This sample resume is part of the InternationalStudent.com Resume Writing Center.