The legal application window is in full swing and it is likely at some point along the line you will need to have a legal CV, even if you’re just attaching it to your online application form. There are many questions regarding what should be including, what shouldn’t be included and how to structure one. Annabel Smith attempts to make writing your legal CV simpler below.
Be consistent with formatting
It is a good idea to use your name as the main heading at the top and put it in a bigger font such as 16 pt, so it stands out. The rest of your text should be a standard 11 or 12 pt in a clear font. Remember, remain professional. You want your CV to be easy and quick to read, uncluttered and eye catching. Of course, there are many layout templates online, but tailoring it to suit the information you are including is a great idea.
Separating your CV into clear sections is crucial to making your CV easier to read. Start with your contact information and then continue with your education. Use percentages to make your grades stand out but order them carefully. If you end your list with your lowest grade, the reader may remember the 63% rather than the 72%. Try alphabetically or order by core / non-core modules. Think about this carefully.
Separating your experience into different categories – such as legal, commercial and voluntary is far superior to describing any work experience as ‘relevant work experience.’ This implies that any other experience you may have is automatically irrelevant. This section is your opportunity to illustrate your motivation for a career in law. Don’t be downhearted by a lack of legal experience, however. If you can demonstrate the same skills that you developed elsewhere this is just as crucial – variety is good!
Some sections you may want to include:
- Personal information – name, email, contact number
- Education and qualifications
- Employment history – voluntary, legal and non-legal are all included here.
- Hobbies and interests – any skills you have developed from these
- References – you do not need to include these directly, maybe note that references are available on request.
Use your Legal Work experience to show motivation for a career in law
Taking part in insight days, open days, vac schemes, attending open court sessions or taking part in mini pupillages are all great opportunities to work out if a legal career is right for you. Not only this, but it will help you hone down what type of organisation suits you best. Describe what you have done in the past and how its shaped your current motivations to pursue a career in law.
Use your part-time job to demonstrate your skills for law
The development of soft skills happens over time, not on a two-week vacation scheme. Developing skills such as teamwork, for example, carries more weight after working in the hospitality industry every weekend for a year, as opposed to taking part in a team building activity on work experience. The key to becoming a lawyer is to be authentic and approachable to clients. When have you had to apply common sense during your part-time job? Or used good interpersonal skills to diffuse tricky customer complaints in retail jobs? Students that can demonstrate exposure to clients and an appreciation of working in a high-pressure environment will stand out.
Don’t undersell yourself in the ‘interests’ section of your CV
Writing about your involvement in Duke of Edinburgh or school activities is all very well, but many graduate recruitment teams are looking for more recent evidence of balancing university commitments with extra-curricular activities. Think about the competencies law firms are looking for. If your CV is lacking communication skills, then demonstrate this in your interest section. If mitigating circumstances has genuinely reduced your free time to get involved in extra-curricular activities, declare this in your application form or cover letter.
Your interest section is a window into what sort of person you are – it helps you stand out from the rest.
Professionalism is essential to the legal sector and you can show just how clearly you understand this through your language and your approach to applications. Aim for a professional tone and avoid using humour in your CV – your personality can shine at interview, but during the application stage, remain professional.
It must be noted that there is no one right way of doing a CV. It is there to best reflect you, so although you should aim to keep it to two sides of A4, you need to put your own stamp on it. Feel free to send over your legal CV to firstname.lastname@example.org and a member of our team will get back to you with feedback.