Law CVs: dos and don'ts

As the first impression you make with a potential employer, your law CV should market your skills as effectively as possible.

  • Last updated Oct 14, 2019 4:14:22 PM
  • Jan Hill

There are several types of CVs, and you will need to choose the layout that fits your experience level and career goals. Here are the three most commonly used formats:

Chronological: The most widely-used format and the best option if you plan to stay in the same industry and have no gaps in your work history.

Functional: Also known as a skills-based CV, this one focuses on achievements and skills rather than experience and education. A functional CV can be the right choice for those who have gaps in their work history, want to change careers, or are new to the legal industry.

Combination: A mixture of both the chronological and functional styles that incorporates work history as well as skills. 

Here are some dos and don’ts regarding a law CV:

Law CV dos

- Keep your CV short and concise—two or three pages at most.

- Use high-quality stationery—black ink on white paper is preferable.

- If you are newly qualified, include details about the practice areas you were involved in during your training contract, especially if the firm you trained with is comparable to the one to which you are applying.

- Put your contact details at the top of each page to allow an employer to contact you quickly.

- Arrange dates vertically in either the right- or left-hand margin.

- Tailor the document to the job—hiring managers are quick to spot a generic CV.

- Focus on skills and experience that match the role for which you are applying.

- Incorporate positive language and exhibit a confident tone.

- List education and work experience, the most recent first.

- Fully explain your career history, role, status, and achievements, providing examples to demonstrate your skills.

- Include all your professional memberships and related academic achievements.

- Emphasise your technical skills, and include any legal software platforms in which you are proficient.

- Mention achievements that set you apart from the competition, using specific examples of times when you worked independently as well as part of a team.

- Seek feedback from at least one other person before finalising your CV.

Law CV Don’ts

- Avoid binding or stapling your resume to make it easier to copy or scan. If it is more than one page long, use a paperclip.

- Skip a heading like ‘Curriculum Vitae.” Instead, include your full name in a larger font with your address, phone number, and email address listed below.

- Try not to be wordy—don’t tell your entire life story.

- Avoid long sentences and large blocks of text. 

- Never misrepresent your education or work experience. If discovered, this will likely lead to immediate dismissal.

- Don’t leave unexplained gaps in your employment history. Explain if you were travelling or taking a career break, trying to incorporate a positive spin, if possible.

- Leave out hobbies and personal interests unless they demonstrate positive skills that the firm is looking for, such as team-building or networking ability.

- Don’t provide salary expectations or your reasons for leaving your current position.

- Don’t reveal your referees’ identities until an employer asks for the information. When references are requested, contact referees to describe the position you are applying for and the skills the firm is likely most interested in. 

And don’t forget to attach a cover letter to your CV, whether it is requested or not. It will reinforce your CV and allow you to expand on the essential points mentioned there.

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