Making the Most of Your Resume |

Making the Most of Your Resume


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Is your resume sending a negative message? I can
Is your resume sending a negative message? I can’t tell you how many sloppy, disorganized resumes I see on a regular basis, and what a poor impression such a resume leaves on your reader. I’ve seen resumes in which each new job is simply added, as acquired, without editing down previous jobs, even when they are no longer relevant. I’ve seen resumes that pack an enormous volume of words into a small space, and are consequently difficult to read. I’ve seen resumes that are splattered with big, impressive words and business-y phrases that tell me nothing about the person’s skill set. All of these mistakes will send your resume immediately to the trash bin.

Update Your Resume.

Although I do not slavishly adhere to the one-page resume principle, I think that most of the time, one page is probably all a person needs. People run into trouble when they avoid thinking about what actually needs to be on the page, and what doesn’t.
A resume reader wants to know what you can do, and it is your job to tell her. Period. The reader (in many cases, me) does not want to know what you did three jobs ago, when you were a junior associate doing basic document review or junior due diligence. I do not want to know in which law school organizations you participated nominally. Therefore, each time you update your resume, you should be adding skill sets relate directly to jobs you might be applying for, and deleting items that no longer matter, or are too junior for the work you do now. Did you dabble in different practice groups as a first-year? Remove those that are not current. Did you do a pro bono project in an area that is irrelevant to jobs you are seeking now? Remove it. Also, summer associate positions, internships, and research assistant positions may be condensed to one line or even a simple title the more senior you get.
If you are a sixth-year associate, you will want to emphasize the high-level skills that are relevant to someone seeking a sixth-year associate, and include very little else. Include items that show that you have supervised junior associates, have had extensive client contact, assume primary document drafting responsibility, operate with very little supervision, and are capable of running with the ball; items that show that you are trusted, independent, and know your way around your area of the law.

If you are more junior, your resume should convey that you have been trusted with progressively greater responsibility, like primary document drafting, court arguments and depositions, handling matters by yourself, and supervising others (even paralegals or contract attorneys).

Be Clear About Your Skills.

A resume reader needs to be able to look over your resume, and, in roughly 5-10 seconds, be able to know what you can do. Readers do not have time to read each word, and trust, me, they won’t. Clarity is paramount. Do not think of your resume as a document to be read; think of it instead as a document to be glanced at.

Your resume is not the place to be overinclusive. People have a tendency to want to include everything they have ever done. Please, please don’t do this. Instead, make your resume as visually simple as you can. I love bullet points, and I despise paragraphs. Do not make your reader work. Give her all the information she needs using as few words as possible. You can describe a large project that shaped your skill set. For example: “I supervised thirty junior associates on a two-year, $300M due diligence project involving a merger of Fortune 50 clients.” Or, rather than list each representative matter, you might condense your experience into a descriptive bullet point. For example: “I have taken the lead on dozens of depositions in state and federal court matters,” or “I have drafted 20+ patent applications involving LED lighting and similar electrical arts-related products.” Focus on your role in the project rather than the project itself, again, keeping in mind that the reader wants to know what you are capable of doing, not what the firm or its partners did, or how big or fancy the client was.

Lay Off The Business Speak.

Keep it simple. Don’t try to impress your reader with businesslike phrases like, “added value” or “provided excellent client service.” These are meaningless phrases and are nothing more than your subjective opinion. Please, just include the facts. I remain a fan of the reverse chronological resume in which you bullet point relevant skills and/or projects, stating examples of matters you have handled and the specific tasks you performed. If you have drafted specific agreements on a regular basis, say so. For example: “regularly drafted agreements related to borrower’s collateral, such as guaranty/security agreements, mortgages, and control agreements.” This tells me that you are capable of walking into my firm and performing these tasks by yourself.

I highly discourage those wordy header paragraphs at the top of attorney resumes that say things like, “Proactive, go-getter attorney with deep management experience and excellent people skills seeks top law firm to help me grow my practice.” Again, this is your subjective opinion, which does not interest me, your reader. I also discourage a general listing of matters you have handled over your 20-year career, because, too often, your reader will be confused as to when you handled these matters, and whether you are still able to handle comparable matters. Be specific about what you handled, what your role was, and in what time frame you handled these matters.

In a nutshell, your resume must, above all, be a clear, visually uncluttered, easily glance-able document. You may literally only have 5-10 seconds to impress a reader who may or may not be giving your resume her full attention, and if she can’t quickly tell what you can do, she will simply click on the next email in the queue. Clarity and simplicity are the keys to an excellent resume.

About Harrison Barnes

Harrison Barnes is a prominent figure in the legal placement industry, known for his expertise in attorney placements and his extensive knowledge of the legal profession.

With over 25 years of experience, he has established himself as a leading voice in the field and has helped thousands of lawyers and law students find their ideal career paths.

Barnes is a former federal law clerk and associate at Quinn Emanuel and a graduate of the University of Chicago College and the University of Virginia Law School. He was a Rhodes Scholar Finalist at the University of Chicago and a member of the University of Virginia Law Review. Early in his legal career, he enrolled in Stanford Business School but dropped out because he missed legal recruiting too much.

Barnes' approach to the legal industry is rooted in his commitment to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. He believes that the key to success in the legal profession is to be proactive, persistent, and disciplined in one's approach to work and life. He encourages lawyers to take ownership of their careers and to focus on developing their skills and expertise in a way that aligns with their passions and interests.

One of how Barnes provides support to lawyers is through his writing. On his blog,, and, he regularly shares his insights and advice on a range of topics related to the legal profession. Through his writing, he aims to empower lawyers to control their careers and make informed decisions about their professional development.

One of Barnes's fundamental philosophies in his writing is the importance of networking. He believes that networking is a critical component of career success and that it is essential for lawyers to establish relationships with others in their field. He encourages lawyers to attend events, join organizations, and connect with others in the legal community to build their professional networks.

Another central theme in Barnes' writing is the importance of personal and professional development. He believes that lawyers should continuously strive to improve themselves and develop their skills to succeed in their careers. He encourages lawyers to pursue ongoing education and training actively, read widely, and seek new opportunities for growth and development.

In addition to his work in the legal industry, Barnes is also a fitness and lifestyle enthusiast. He sees fitness and wellness as integral to his personal and professional development and encourages others to adopt a similar mindset. He starts his day at 4:00 am and dedicates several daily hours to running, weightlifting, and pursuing spiritual disciplines.

Finally, Barnes is a strong advocate for community service and giving back. He volunteers for the University of Chicago, where he is the former area chair of Los Angeles for the University of Chicago Admissions Office. He also serves as the President of the Young Presidents Organization's Century City Los Angeles Chapter, where he works to support and connect young business leaders.

In conclusion, Harrison Barnes is a visionary legal industry leader committed to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. Through his work at BCG Attorney Search, writing, and community involvement, he empowers lawyers to take control of their careers, develop their skills continuously, and lead fulfilling and successful lives. His philosophy of being proactive, persistent, and disciplined, combined with his focus on personal and professional development, makes him a valuable resource for anyone looking to succeed in the legal profession.

About BCG Attorney Search

BCG Attorney Search matches attorneys and law firms with unparalleled expertise and drive, while achieving results. Known globally for its success in locating and placing attorneys in law firms of all sizes, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys in law firms in thousands of different law firms around the country. Unlike other legal placement firms, BCG Attorney Search brings massive resources of over 150 employees to its placement efforts locating positions and opportunities its competitors simply cannot. Every legal recruiter at BCG Attorney Search is a former successful attorney who attended a top law school, worked in top law firms and brought massive drive and commitment to their work. BCG Attorney Search legal recruiters take your legal career seriously and understand attorneys. For more information, please visit

Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

Harrison also does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for law firms, companies, and others who hire attorneys each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

You can browse a list of past webinars here: Webinar Replays

You can also listen to Harrison Barnes Podcasts here: Attorney Career Advice Podcasts

You can also read Harrison Barnes' articles and books here: Harrison's Perspectives

Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.

Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.

To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.

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