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Know Your Audience: Lawyer/Attorney Resumes vs. Other Resumes

By Jessica Silverstein

I applaud all job seekers who realize they need help perfecting their job application documents. However, it is crucial to get help from someone with expertise in your field. A marketing resume looks different than a banking or finance resume, and it should. Industries mature at different rates, and you do not want to send an infographic resume to a traditional law firm.

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The list makes this candidate appear to be trying to appeal to potentially 5 different positions in one resume. That is not productive.

A candidate should focus on one practice area in each version of his or her resume.  So the resume used to apply for corporate litigation positions would highlight the corporate litigation experience, the resume used for software copyright positions would highlight software copyright experience, etc.  Of course, each career path varies, but a real estate firm, most likely, will not find specific trademark experience relevant and vice versa.

Bonus Tips:

  • Listing "JD in common law" is not appropriate in the USA.

    This is a clear indication that a non-lawyer wrote the resume and that the lawyer who sent it did not proofread it himself or herself. "Common law" is the body of laws based on judicial decisions and precedent, as opposed to statutory law. Yes, all lawyers learn common law. In fact, most of the world uses common law as the basis for their legal system. Thus, listing it on one's resume is practically redundant, and looks odd, for positions in the USA.
  • There are generally no specialties or majors in law school. If, however, a student took many classes in an intended area of practice, mentioning that is helpful. If a lawyer earned an LLM in Taxation or Real Estate or another specific area of law, that is also important to include.
  • A lawyer should not have an "Executive Summary" at the top of their resume since they are not executives as the word is commonly used. A "Professional Summary" or "Legal Summary" is more appropriate
  • Lawyers' job titles include "partner," "of counsel," "general counsel," "legal intern," and "associate," among others. In a law firm, a lawyer's title would be "Associate" rather than "Associate Lawyer" or "Legal Associate."

Bottom Line:

Knowing your audience is crucial when drafting your resume. All resumes must be drafted so that it is clear how the job seeker's accomplishments at their former employer saved time, money, and energy, and can be transferred and replicated at the position for which they are applying. However, each job seeker and resume writer must also keep in mind the job seeker's target field and create a document that is within current accepted conventions.

© Copyright Jessica Silverstein, 2012.  All rights reserved. Used with permission.

About the author...

Jessica Silverstein is a lawyer and former legal recruiter. As Principal of Attorney's Counsel she writes and revises resumes, cover letters, and LinkedIn profiles. Currently, she counsels attorneys regarding their job prospects, and how their interview skills and resumes can be used as an effective tool to reach their career goals. Contact her through her website, Attorney's Counsel or her blog . Find Jessica on LinkedIn and tell her why you should connect. Follow her on Twitter @AttysCounsel, and feel free to contact her via email at JesEsq [at]