Creating a Legal Resume

Your resume is usually the first information about you that an employer will see.  Be sure it represents your qualifications in a relevant, updated, accurate and precise manner.  You should carefully review your resume for each job application and, if necessary, customize it for that job and employer.


Top Ten Starting Points:

  1. "Objective" and "Summary of Qualifications" sections are not traditions on legal resumes, but may be used if you are applying outside the legal field (for example, using your J.D. degree in a non-Bar licensed job).
  2. Most commonly, organize information in reverse chronological order within each category.
  3. Using color and graphics is strongly discouraged on a legal resume.  Avoid multiple fonts or those that are difficult to read.  Keep it simple.  Focus on content.
  4. Target different employers with different resumes.  Highlight experiences, leadership roles, coursework, student activities, clinical/externships, etc. by category organization and page placement.  Customize for the job and the employer.
  5. “Computer Skills” are likely not relevant to the job unless specifically requested by the employer.  If you include “Language Skills” be accurate.  Include hobbies or other information as space allows; be ready to discuss and include items that are interesting but not odd.
  6. Placement on the page: the eye reads from left to right - get important information on the left margin.  Information on the top third of the page gets the most attention.  Lead the eye down the page with clear headings and bullets for rapid scanning.
  7. Wording:  Use active voice.  The first-person subject "I" is understood, so don't use pronouns in your descriptions.  Try and remove any unnecessary words; be concise.
  8. Length: The default is one page, unless you are applying for a public interest or government position.  For government and public interest, stick to two pages or less.
  9. Save your resume in pdf form before sending, and test e-mail it to yourself (and a friend) to be sure it retains its format through transmittal.
  10. Do the “10 Second Test” – hand a printed version of your final resume to a friend for 10 seconds.  Take it back, ask them to recite what they remember, quickly.  See if you are making the quick first impression you want to make.


Representing Grades and Rank on Resumes:

  1. If your rank is in the top half, include it.  Employers will assume you are in the bottom of the class if they see no mention of grades or rank.
  2. Represent ONLY the exact numbers as given by the Law School Registrar.  NEVER estimate or round up your rank or GPA.  NEVER use approximate numbers.  If you have any question, consult the Law School Registrar.
  3. Never get grade/GPA information from the University Registrar; always use the specific GPA/ranking information you have been given by the Law School Registrar.
  4. Grade Distribution (ranking information) lists are circulated and posted after all semester grades are released.
  5. List a specific numeric rank, if you receive one ("Class Rank:  23/221").
  6. Represent your ranking cohort as assigned by the Law School Registrar: top 10, 20, 25, 33, 50, or 75 percent.  
  7. The highest attainable GPA is 4.3.  If you list your GPA as x/y, then y is 4.3 ("GPA=2.72/4.3").


Basic Resume Samples:


Additional helpful resources and articles:


Schedule an individual appointment with your Legal Career Services advisor to finalize your resume, cover letter and other application documents.  Symplicity makes it easy to schedule at your convenience, and you are advised to meet with your LCS advisor [at least] each time you make significant resume revisions.  To schedule:

  • Log in to your Symplicity account:
  • Click “Calendar” – the top right tab
  • Click the “Request an Appointment” button on the lower left
  • If you are unable to access your Symplicity account, please e-mail for assistance.