Nov 28, 2018

Written By Becky Kells, Editor, AllAboutLaw

NQ CV Writing – Dos and Don’ts

Nov 28, 2018

Written By Becky Kells, Editor, AllAboutLaw

So, you’ve finished getting together the basic information for your NQ CV, but you’re not quite sure how to lay it all out. Before you get started, familiarise yourself with these writing and formatting tips: make sure you know what will make your NQ CV stand out for the right reasons, and also that you know the CV blunders to avoid…

Don’t lie

This is the number one rule for CVs at all career stages, but as you enter your first role as an NQ lawyer, it becomes even more important. Employers are going to want to check that what you put into your CV matches with reality, so it’s just not worth embellishing the truth. While outright lies and exaggerated truths are certainly things to avoid, you should also avoid omitting anything you’re not proud of. If you put down all of your A-level grades except one, for example, the recruiter at the other end is only going to assume that you got a bad grade and are trying to hide it.

Instead of this…

Commercial law seat – 3 Months: had a leading role on every case that the department took on.

Try this…

Commercial law seat – 3 Months: Drafted documents and attended meetings, liaising with clients. Led a small team of three trainees when assisting on a contract dispute case.

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Do go into detail

At this point in your career, it’s completely acceptable for your only post-university work experience to be your training contract. What’s not acceptable is to list your training contract with little or no elaboration on what work it entailed. In fact, the section on your training contract can quite comfortably fill an entire ¾ of a page. After listing the firm where you trained and the years you have been there, you should list your seats in reverse chronological order, and provide some bullet points about what you did in each seat. This is your chance to show how you’ve made the most of your work experience so far: don’t skimp on the detail!

Instead of this…

Training Contract, Smith & Jones Law, 2016-2017

- Undertook a variety of seats in different areas of law.

Try this…

Training Contract, Smith & Jones Law, 2016-2017

Contributed to a wide variety of departments within a full-service law firm.

Seat – Commercial Law – 3 Months

- Met with clients and attended meetings in anticipation of a contentious commercial dispute case.

- Acted for a client involved in an out-of-court settlement, liaised with client and drafted transaction documents on their behalf.

- Oversaw a real estate transaction for an individual client from start to finish.

Secondment – Kells LTD – 3 Months…

Don’t use the passive voice

The style in which you write your CV is very important – by now, you know that a law career involves being eloquent in your writing style, and your first opportunity to showcase your skills is in your CV.

You should avoid using the passive voice in your CV – make yourself the protagonist, and use verbs to show the variety and extent of work you got done on your training contract.

Instead of this…

Seat – Employment Law – 3 Months: The employment law department dealt with contentious and non-contentious employment matters, working with a variety of large and small clients. Documents were drafted, and visits were made to court.

Try this…

Seat – Employment Law – 3 Months: Liaised with a client in a contentious employment termination dispute, drafted documents for the same case. Advised a large client on drafting new employment contract. Accompanied client to an employment tribunal hearing.

Do think outside the job description

While it’s crucial to show your full range of legal work experience, you should make the most of anything you’ve done in your current position that shows your potential to go above and beyond. Maybe you’ve assisted in marketing for the firm by providing interviews and insights, or perhaps you’ve attended networking events to boost the profile of the firm. Any academic events or seminars that reflect a nuanced range of legal interests are good – just make sure you get the balance right between academic experiences and corporate ones.

Try this…

Additional roles: Acted on a panel on networking skills in a university outreach programme. Attended a series of lectures on indefinite detention and the rule of law.

Don’t forget personal interests

The recruiter reading your CV isn’t looking for a NQ robot: the firm is fully aware that you’re a person with genuine interests outside of work, and you’ll benefit from showing this side of yourself after listing your work experience. At this point, you’ve done a year of legal training – employers can already guess that you’re passionate about the law. Write a little bit about what you like to do in your down time. It can fuel small talk before the interview begins, show that you know how to balance work and home life, and make you memorable amidst candidates with similar work experience.

Instead of this…

Personal Interests: Expanding knowledge and awareness of the law and legal matters.

Try this…

Personal Interests: Member of badminton club, keen guitarist, training to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

Do proofread and format your CV

Checking your CV for spelling mistakes, grammar blunders and factual errors is just as important as actually writing it. Again, it comes back to the skills you need to work in law – lawyers need good attention to detail and excellent communication skills, neither of which will be conveyed by an error-riddled CV.

Make sure that you spell check your CV on the computer, but also manually – reading it aloud to yourself will help you to pick up on any errors that have slipped through the cracks. We also strongly recommend handing it over to a family member or friend, as a fresh pair of eyes can notice anything you’ve missed.

Formatting is also very important. Before an employer goes through your CV line by line, they will most likely skim-read it to absorb the key details. If there is a spelling mistake, or if the CV is unformatted and takes the form of a huge block of text, it’s likely to be a “no” from the offset. Use clear subheadings and a reasonable, readable font, such as Arial or Helvetica.

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