General Resumes and Cover Letters
The resume and cover letter are among the most effective of the tools an attorney can market themselves with. Our goal at Legal Authority is to ensure that the resume and cover letter are as effective as possible. In order to make our resumes and cover letters as good as they should be, we must be as consistent as possible in the methodology with which they are created.
Nevertheless, it is important to realize that the resume and cover letter are uniquely personal to the individual. In each interaction with a candidate, we should look for three strengths the candidate has and seek to bring these out in the cover letter (if possible). Everyone has selling points, and our most challenging job is to find these. I will speak more about this in future correspondence.
The most important components of the procedure are (1) KEEPING IT SIMPLE; and (2) REMEMBERING THE “GOLDEN RULE”--- GRAMMAR, SPELLING AND PUNCTUATION MUST BE PERFECT.
The only way we can be effective with the resumes and cover letters is to keep them simple. By looking for three strengths in each candidate, we can ensure that they are doing their best to sell themselves. We need to remember that the most important service we can provide is to ensure that our candidates use perfect punctuation, grammar, and language in their resume. We can (1) bring out their strengths, but (2) cannot do much to modify the pasts of our candidates. Accordingly, it is important to ensure that our candidates make a flawless resume.
1. IF IT IS NOT BROKE-DO NOT ATTEMPT TO FIX IT.
Some resumes are simply fine as they are. They do not always need to be fixed. Trying to fix resumes which do not need work simply slows down production and the candidate’s job search.
2. IF IT IS NOT BROKE-PRAISE IT.
Many people go through life without hearing much praise. This is especially true in the legal profession where the very nature of the work invites constant criticism from professors, employers and clients. If the resume is good—tell the candidate it is. Tell the candidate the advantages of having a good resume and how this will ensure they get their materials faster. People will like you.
3. IF IT NEEDS WORK, SIMPLIFY IT BY FINDING THREE STRENGTHS WITH THE RESUME AND URGING THE CANDIDATE USE THESE AS “SELLING POINTS”.
Because a resume is a summary of someone’s life accomplishments, people can become overly verbose and descriptive with their resumes. In the legal profession, in general, employers want to know:
A. Where you have worked;
B. What your academic qualifications are; and
C. What makes you unique:
i. Why the person is unique (Reason 1)
ii. Why the person is unique (Reason 2)
iii. Why the person is unique (Reason 3)
This list could be expanded upon; however, that is essentially all employers care about. People cannot do much to change either “A” or “B”. The only thing they really have control over when you speak with them is Reason “C”. Long and overly obtuse descriptions in Reasons “A” and “B” are not necessary unless they are furthering one of the three selling points in reason “C”.
4. STANDARD FORMAT FOR MOST RESUMES.
A. Contact Information-name, address, telephone, email.
B. Education (if the person has been out less than five years-if not, invert “B” and “C”)-law school, followed by college. If special honors were received in school, the resume should note this.
C. Experience-the most recent job first, followed by other positions. Only legal positions should be listed if person has been out of law school at least five years. Describe (1) name and location of employer, (2) title, and (3) two to three line description of experience.
D. Optional-Interests section, bar admissions. For attorneys with experience, an attachment describing significant transactions or cases worked on is a good idea.
- See 6 Things Attorneys and Law Students Need to Remove from Their Resumes ASAP If They Want to Get Jobs with the Most Prestigious Law Firms for more information.
COVER LETTER GUIDELINES
The main guidelines for writing cover letters is similar to the resume writing pattern
STANDARD FORMAT FOR COVER LETTERS
Law Student (numbers are paragraphs)
1. Contact Information-from whom and to whom.
Expression of Interest in an Interview (Optional-Reason 1,2 or 3).
(Optional) Education-description of educational qualifications (Optional-Reason 1, 2 or 3).
(Optional) Description of Experience-Legal related job experience (Optional-Reason 1, 2 or 3)
(Optional) Why have certain geographic preferences. (Optional-Reason 1, 2, or 3)
(Optional) Closing-rehash of elements used above.
B. Experienced Attorney
2. Expression of Interest in an Interview (Optional-Reason 1, 2 or 3)
3. Experience-one paragraph of most relevant recent and past experience (Optional-Reason 1, 2 or 3)
4. (Optional) Educational Experience (Optional-Reason 1, 2 or 3)
5. (Optional) Why Seeking New Position (Optional-Reason 1, 2 or 3)
6. Closing-rehash of elements used above, rehash of elements above