I’ve never had worse writers block than when I had to write a resume from scratch. When I left practicing law and was applying for recruiting jobs, I scrapped my tried and true resume and sat staring at a blinking cursor for quite some time. You may also feel that starting over is the best course if you’re applying for a job for the first time in years or a job in a slightly different practice. And it may indeed be better idea. Here are some good rules of thumb for creating a modern, current resume:
- Make it more than one page. You’d be shocked at the number of one-page resumes I receive from advanced associates. This is totally unnecessary and, in fact, can lead you to sell yourself short. For anyone who has graduated from law school, you should definitely be starting with a resume that goes at least a quarter of the way down a second page.
- Prepare a supplemental page that is either a transactions or representative matters list, depending on your experience level and practice. This is something you won’t want to be working on all at once at midnight before applying. Ideally, you’ll be keeping a list in draft form (i.e., as a Google doc or in OneNote) on an ongoing basis.
- Lead with your strengths. If you are (justifiably!) proud of your educational history, then put that in the top quarter of page one. If you feel you’ve punched above your educational weight and are more proud of your firm name than your law school, put your education in the last section. I would make an exception here if your recruiter tells you that one of the main partners also went to one of your educational institutions – then definitely put that front and center for that application.
- Do include interests. Not everyone will agree with me on this one, but one of my candidates included that she enjoyed sous vide cooking (which, yes, I had to Google), a rather niche interest. It actually came up in one of her interviews. These types of details are a good demonstration of your humanity, and you never know what might differentiate you from the pack. Work at a dog rescue? Serve on a non-profit board? It’s all fodder at interview, and interviews are all about finding points of connectivity.
- Create more than one resume. If you’re a litigator with some privacy experience applying for some general commercial litigation roles and some niche privacy roles, having two resumes will serve you well. You’re likely going to want to emphasize very different aspects of your work and educational history. Don’t slack on this point; it can be a difference maker.
- Pick your font and formatting with an eye toward the market in which you’re applying. The San Francisco market is fairly forward looking and while, of course, substance reigns, appearance matters and clean, readable lines are valued. No clunky fonts or layouts, please.
If you’re having trouble getting started on drafting this wildly important document, get in touch with a trusted local recruiter. I keep a few examples on hand that can help you to get the process moving.