Why do you need a CV?
A CV is an essential component for any prospective work application. Not only is a CV very useful as a personal tool to clearly outline your previous experience, but most career-related opportunities will also require you to submit your CV.
As a law student, your CV will most likely be used for informal work experience, such as applying to pro bono work, or an application for a training contract at a high-street law firm. If you are applying for vacation schemes, training contracts or pupillages at large law firms, you will probably be exempt from uploading your CV because they will use a standardised application form. But you’ll still use elements of your CV to fill out those forms, so it’s good practice to have an up-to-date CV anyway.
What to include in your law CV
Contact details: you should include this at the top of your CV to ensure the recruiters are able to contact you easily.
- Brief summary: it is prudent to include a concise profile that states your achievements and your current position.
- Education: list and date all previous academic qualifications, placing the most recent first.
- Professional experience: include any previous work experience, and be sure to prioritise any legal work experience.
- Relevant experience: this section can be dedicated to any experience you have accumulated that is not work-related, such as being on the committee of the law society or any voluntary work.
- Skills and achievements: make sure to include any additional languages you are able to speak, as well as any hard skills you have worked on—for example, your proficiency and understanding of an IT package.
- Interests: use this section with caution. If you choose to include your hobbies and interests, think about what image this will potentially convey. If you claim to be a team player on your CV, but your hobbies include walking your dog and spending time by yourself, this may raise some questions. However, this section may prove to be an excellent ice-breaker during an interview, as your interviewers may start a conversation around one of your hobbies to relieve any initial stress.
Writing a good CV
- Target your CV specifically to the job and law firm you’re applying to. Generic CVs do not stand out and won’t get employers’ attention. Research the employer by looking at their website, any press releases they’ve put out and their social media to ensure your CV is tailored to the company and the job.
- Keep the information relevant. The employer is not interested in your entire life story, so only include experience and skills relevant to the job
- Be clear and concise. Avoid generic terms such as “multi-tasker” and “team player”, and aim to provide real-life examples that demonstrate these skills.
- Check your presentation! Spelling and grammatical mistakes or poor layout make a bad first impression. Many employers will screen CVs on spelling and grammatical errors; too many and your CV may not pass the first round. Use fonts that are clear, easy-to-read and professional such as Times New Roman or Calibri, and include text no smaller than size 10. It is worth including subheadings to make your CV easy to navigate.
- Aim to use active words such as coordinated, implemented or reconciled when referring to any skills you have acquired as a result of previous work experience. This will help to convey strong initiative and a proactive mindset.
- You should always include a cover letter, unless stated otherwise. This will personalise your application and enable you to draw attention to specific areas of your CV.
What to leave out...
- Don't write too much or too little. Your CV should be no longer than two sides of A4 and should use bullet points to present information, such as the duties you performed in previous jobs. Overlong CVs or those with large blocks of text are very off-putting to the reader.
- Don't lie! It sounds obvious, but it’s really important to be as truthful as possible on your CV. If ever the truth emerges, you will come across as dishonest and it could cost you the job if you’ve already started to work.
- You don't need to write “CV” or “Curriculum Vitae” at the top. It’s obvious what the document is (you wouldn’t write “A Letter” at the top of a letter), so put your name at the top instead.
Now that you've brushed up the CV, head over to our Law Jobs section to put it to work!
Next article: How to write a cover letter for law