Writing a Persuasive Legal Resume

A resume is a one or two page summary of your education, skills, accomplishments, and experience. Your resume’s purpose is to get your foot in the door. A resume does its job successfully if it does not exclude you from consideration.

To prepare a successful resume, you need to know how to review, summarize, and present your experiences and achievements on one page. Unless you have considerable experience, you don’t need two pages. Outline your achievements briefly and concisely. Your resume is your ticket to an interview where you can sell yourself.

Biographical resumes may have been sufficient in the past, but substance is what will set you apart as a candidate, whether you are interested in attracting a law firm, a corporate legal department or (especially) a non-traditional employer. Granted, it is difficult to objectively identify and isolate personal skills and separate yourself from other candidates whom you see as having similar experience. Candidates are resistant to this process saying it seems like “I’m bragging.”

Rather than viewing your accomplishments as “bragging”, think of your resume as a persuasive document with you, the candidate, as the focus. Use the following 6 step points as a guide to writing a persuasive resume:

1. Start by writing a summary of qualifications, a description of your responsibilities (e.g. 10 years of trial experience; worked directly with clients; prepared initial discovery; etc.). Use action verbs, quantify and/or qualify your statements.

For example:

Consistently recognized for…

2. Next you want to put your employment history, in chronological order starting with the most recent position. Include responsibilities and accomplishments.

3. Education would be your next heading and list your schools in chronological order as well. If you have any honors, make sure to include them.

4. Professional Affiliations should be the next heading. If you have any publications or community services that you want listed, they would be last.

5. A great way to highlight your different areas of experience is through the creation of an addendum to accompany your resume. On this separate page you can provide the detail of your extensive background in a well-organized and easy to understand format.

6. Don’t forget that the top of your resume should begin with a heading that includes your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address.

Two pages are standard – it is difficult to write a substantial profile in one page. Three pages are more than most employers want to read. However, if you have had numerous presentations, publications or reported court cases that you want noted, an addendum is advisable.

This guide will get you started; Special Counsel’s Placement and Search Directors will assist you in creating the best and most effective resume as they help you explore new employment opportunities.

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