Getting to the Top of the Pile: Crafting a Successful CV
No matter how you use your law degree, employers are forever seeking innovative and stand out candidates. And what better way to show them, then in your CV. Within law schools, having a fantastic resume is particularly important for students applying for clerkship or graduate programs. The role of your CV is to provide prospective employers with a summary of your achievements so they can decide whether or not you're the right fit for their company.
(Unfortunately) As a law graduate, you’ll often find that your educational pedigree is similar to other applicants, many of whom will have completed near-identical degrees at equivalent institutions. Consequently, it’s worth taking the time to figure out what differentiates you from the crowd before emphasising this in your CV. For example, you might bill yourself as a lawyer with strong communication skills and highlight that you volunteered for a community law centre. Or perhaps you speak another language, love travel or have a specific area of interest. Giving your CV a novel ‘twist’ is a surefire way to make sure it doesn’t get lost in the pile.
There are lots of fun and different ways to help boost your 'legal' resume, and it's never too late (or early) to start. Some of our ideas include:
Join a university society (like QUTWIL) and become part of the executive team
Participate in a moot or negotiation competition (organised by QUTLS)
Volunteer for on campus programs such as 'LLBHelpMe' and 'Torts Peer Mentors'
Volunteer at a community legal centre
Apply for an exchange
Complete an online internship via InsideSherpa
Sign up to professional associations such as Women's Lawyers Association of Queensland (WLAQ)
Look for unpaid work experience in your summer holidays
Apply for jobs as a paralegal (or similar) in a firm
Learn a language
Play a team sport (you'd be surprised how far this goes)
Participate in firm information evenings and events around campus - you never know who you might meet!
Check the QUT Jobs & Careers page for opportunities
Your CV should be concise, accurate, error-free, well organised, clear, easy to read, and visually pleasing. Keep in mind that the employer will probably spend no more than 30 seconds reviewing it. To be effective, it must be brief while still offering enough information to be interesting.
Your law CV should include:
Your contact details, including your phone number, address and email
A summary of your education (including your GPA)
A career overview, with an emphasis on industry positions or transferable skills gained through other jobs you’ve held
A list of any professional accreditations or other qualifications you have (for example, a certificate of proficiency in a different language)
Details of your referees (or an offer to provide them).
Have a clear and simple structure that highlights your most relevant achievements
Most student CVs should be 1-2 pages in length
Use a standard font such as Times New Roman, and a font size of 11 point
Think carefully about whether you include a photo, icons, colourful templates etc
If sending virtually, ensure the file name is clear (e.g. Lucy Lawyer - Resume)
Save and send your CV as a PDF so that it looks neat and tidy
Save different versions of your resume, specific to each firm you're applying to
Some other tips:
Read the job description. What is the firm looking for?
Ensure the tone of your CV is polite and professional, and your entries as specific and detailed as possible
Use 'action verbs' to describe each of your past experiences. Find a list of 'action verbs' here.
Leave room for things that make you seem interesting or well rounded. For example, include a cooking qualification as a point of interest, but you needn’t claim it will be integral to your success in law
Always attach a specific cover letter
Ask a friend to proof read your work for any errors
The QUT Law School provides plenty of helpful resources via Blackboard. You can also make an appointment with the Faculty Careers and Employment Advisor - Lee Moy.
We have also included some example resumes below to help you get started:
By Jessica Rosengren