Oct 24, 2021

Written By Natasha Jones

How can I make my legal CV stand out?

Oct 24, 2021

Written By Natasha Jones

With increasingly fierce competition for roles in the legal industry, it’s more important than ever that your legal CV stands out in the pile. Whether you’re a law student seeking a part-time role in a high street firm or a recent graduate looking for a paralegal position, read on to see how you can make your legal CV shine.  

Structure

First things first, how should you set out your CV? Although no single structure is set in stone, most legal CV templates contain the following sections:

Contact details

Personal statement

Education

Work experience

Other relevant experience

Skills/achievements

Interests

References

It’s not always necessary to include every one of the above sections and, as space is an important consideration, not all candidates do. Some dispense with the personal statement section, for example, while those with extensive work experience often leave out the skills and achievements: the professional track record speaks for itself.  

Students with little to no work experience may wish to focus more on other relevant experience, highlighting positions of responsibility held or voluntary work undertaken.

You might also want to think about playing around with the ordering. Graduates with a longer career history sometimes list their work experience before their education, for example.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to structuring your legal CV, and you should not be afraid to tweak the layout according to how you feel your experiences would best be showcased. Generally though, the structure above is a great starting point.

 

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Work experience

The work experience section is probably the most important section to get right. This is your chance to showcase how you could make an impact at the firm.

Your work experience should generally be listed in chronological order, identifying the company, your job title and the dates of your employment. The description of the role should be in bullet points, and you should list the most relevant tasks first.

How you talk about legal work experience is key. A common mistake applicants make is to be descriptive about their responsibilities without emphasising the end result. “I engaged in face-to-face sales” is not as effective as saying, “I engaged in face-to-face sales and increased sales numbers by 15%”. 

In a client facing position, you should show how your actions made an impact on the client. Did your actions result in excellent client feedback, for example? Remember, firms are looking for candidates that will make an impact.

If you can, you should categorise your work experience into two subheadings, legal and non-legal. If you’re a law student with no legal work experience, don’t worry!  Emphasise any commercial work experience instead.

When it comes to non-legal work experience, think outside of the box! What transferable skills did you gain that are relevant to the role? Think about how you can use your non-legal work experience to demonstrate your motivation for pursuing a career in law.

 

Tailor your CV

When drafting your legal CV, have the job description open, pick out the key competencies being sought, and tailor your CV accordingly.

The work experience section is a great place to demonstrate that you understand what the firm is seeking in a candidate. You might also want to summarise why you want to work in that particular role and why you would be a good fit in the personal statement section.

Although you may be applying to multiple law firms and it can be tempting to submit the same CV to each firm, it is worth taking the extra time to adapt your CV to each firm you’re applying to.

The person reading your CV may well have reviewed hundreds of CVs for that position, many of which will be extremely generic. It will really stand out to them if you have clearly invested time in tailoring your CV to their specific firm.

 

Remember the basics

It goes without saying that your legal CV should contain no spelling or grammatical errors; law firms will not look favourably upon candidates with no attention to detail. Another tip is to make sure you use British English when applying to UK law firms.

Try to keep the format of your CV as simple as possible. It should be in black and white, typed in a professional font, and laid out in a clear, straightforward way. 

As a general rule, your CV should be no longer than two pages. Your style of writing should therefore be concise and to the point, mimicking how lawyers would communicate with their clients.

Finally, consistency is key: ensure you use the same font and font size throughout. Your line spacing should also be consistent. 

 

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