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Legal CV tips

CV layout, information on what to include and what not to include, covering letters, tailoring CV’s and what law firms are looking for

Is a CV for a legal job any different than any other CV? In many respects the same key points will apply but when you consider the nature of legal work, those issues are brought into sharp focus.

Anyone who has ever prepared a CV will know that spelling mistakes and errors in grammar give a poor impression. Put that into the context of the work of a lawyer, where the ability to communicate clearly and effectively is essential and any errors will be highlighted ten-fold. The going hourly rate for a mid-level associate solicitor is in the region of £300-400 per hour in most commercial law firms. What client would be willing to pay those rates for a lawyer who can’t communicate well?

So, a reminder of the cardinal rules:

  • Don’t head your CV with the words curriculum vitae – your prospective employer know what it is! Instead head your CV with your name, in a larger type than the rest of your CV and in bold.
  • Follow with your personal contact details
  • Add a profile paragraph setting out a summary of your skills and experience and your goals.
  • When describing employment experience give careful thought not only to the work you carried out but also to the skills involved. For example “managed a litigation case load” won’t tell your prospective employer very much about your skills. Instead include details of the types of work and the skills required.
  • The prominence of academic qualifications depends on your level of experience. For a law student or recent graduate your academic qualifications are important and should feature early on in your CV. If you graduated 10 years ago, your prospective employer will be much more interested in your employment experience.
  • Check spelling and grammar and ask a trusted friend to proof read your CV
  • Keep it concise: 2 pages is generally the best length.
  • Keep the layout clear and simple. Your prospective employer will have many CVs to read and your CV needs to be easy to read and not packed with dense close type
  • Tailor your CV: it is tempting to take a scattergun approach to sending out CV’s but every firm and job is different. Any employer will want to see that you have a specific interest in them. Do your research and gain knowledge about your prospective employer that you can you to tailor your CV.
  • Don’t include a photo. How you look is not relevant to your application.
  • Keep details of interests and hobbies brief. However if you are a recent graduate or a law student, firms may be interested in any positions of responsibility you have held whilst at university, for example if you were the president of your university mooting society this would indicate an interest in advocacy and good communication skills.

Your CV will not secure a job but is your opportunity to get a foot in the door by way of an interview [see Legal Interview tips]. Make sure you don’t fall at the first hurdle of job hunting!

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