Top Ten Mistakes That Law School Applicants Make: #4

CVThis post continues our 10-part series of posts on the Top Ten Mistakes That Law School Applicants Make.

The #4 Top Ten Mistake That Law School Applicants Make every year is…
THEY TURN IN A VAGUE AND BRIEF RESUME.

Your resume does not have to fit on one page.

I repeat.

Your resume does NOT have to fit on one page.

Two full pages is just fine.

In my 12+ years of prelaw advising, almost all of my students have created a two-page resume after realizing that they could. Some had three-page resumes. Very few had one-page resumes. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of students I’ve worked with that had a well-written resume that was only one page.

Why do most people have a two-page resume?

Because they took the time to detail their current and past work experiences and extracurricular activities. They also took the time to format their resume with a minimum of 1/2-inch-margins all round and at least 11-point font.

Detail all jobs, internships, research positions, and extracurriculars after high school graduation. Get specific. Make sure to include the number of hours worked per week at each position. Law school officers really like to have this information.

Take the time to write a resume for law school as if you’re writing a resume for your dream job. Put in the effort and law schools will notice.

For more detailed tips and step-by-step advice, check out my book, The No B.S. Guide to the Law School Resume.

Photo Credit: clinton4grace via Compfight cc

Key Tips for Writing the Law School Resume

business-peopleI’ve learned a lot over the years about writing a great resume for law school.

One thing I know for sure–turning in a boring, generic resume with your law school application will do nothing to improve your chances for admission.

But show admissions officers a well-written, concise and engaging resume, and they will not only be impressed, they will remember you.

That’s the name of the application game: being remembered!

KEY TIPS FOR YOUR RESUME:

  • Thoroughly describe your college education, jobs, internships, study abroad experiences, research positions, volunteer positions, leadership positions, awards, skills and more. At the very least, you must have two main sections: Education and Experience.
  • Include all jobs and internships after high school graduation. If you graduated college many years ago and can’t fit all your jobs and internships into your resume, consider describing your experiences in the last 8­–10 years and listing the other experiences without descriptions.
  • Keep your resume legible with at least ½-inch margins and a 10–12 point font.
  • After you’ve updated your resume, ask two trusted colleagues to review it. If you’re in school, go in for a resume review with a career counselor at your college career center.
  • Revise, revise, revise until your resume is free of all errors and typos.

THE GREAT DEBATE: 1 PAGE OR MORE?

I’ve read articles and tips from so many law school consultants and bloggers saying the resume must be one page! Absolutely only one page! I always wonder, do these people talk with law school admissions officers? How many? And how often?

I talk to a variety of law school admissions officers every year and their answers to this question vary across the board. Some are fine with three pages, others want just one page, and still others say two pages max. In the end, follow the school’s directions. If the directions aren’t clear, call or email the admissions office at that school.

By the way, try to avoid half-pages (e.g., 1 ½ pages, 2 ½ pages, etc.). Half-pages make it look like you either could have written more or cut more.

IT’S ALL IN THE DETAILS

What I find most disturbing about applicants’ resumes is how few of them adequately describe their work experiences. Do not type “Duties included…” after each job title and include a list of general job duties. This kind of lazy writing shows admissions officers that you don’t want to take the time to explain your skills and accomplishments.

First, write three to five blurbs for each job or internship. Use an action verb to begin each line or blurb. Action verbs include coordinated, organized, directed, prepared, assisted, wrote, compiled, conducted and served, just to name a few.

Next, qualify your experiences with specific details so the reader understands what you learned or accomplished on the job, and quantify your experiences by using numbers to give the reader an idea of the amount or scope of the work that you did.

For example, if you analyzed a survey, how many surveys did you analyze and for what end goal?

Change a general blurb like this:
• Analyzed online survey about Puget Sound.

To a specific blurb like this:
• Analyzed online survey of 445 respondents regarding public outreach and public participation in improving the environmental health of Puget Sound.

If you worked as a barista, how many customers did you serve per shift? Give a range if you don’t know the exact number.

Change a ho-hum blurb like this:
• Prepared drinks for many customers.

To a detailed blurb like this:
• Prepared custom coffee and tea beverages for up to 180–220 customers per shift.

Do this with all of the experiences and you’ll be well on your way to crafting a stellar resume.

ADD YOUR HOURS!

It’s not something you would include on a work resume, but I’ve heard this enough times from law school admissions officers that I’m passing it on to you. You should list the number of hours worked per week for all jobs and activities (e.g., 18 hours/week). If your hours changed from week to week, list a range (e.g., 3-5 hours/week). Listing your hours per week is a small detail but an important one. It helps the admissions committee gain a better understanding of the scope of work and activities you’ve been involved in.

GETTING MORE HELP

I’ve given you some key tips for writing your resume, but if you want detailed step-by-step advice and four sample resumes, get my book, The No B.S. Guide to the Law School Resume. This guide contains tried-and-true advice from my 20+ years of helping people write stellar resumes.

Take as much time with your law school resume as you would for applying to your dream job.

Make your resume the best it can be. Do that and you will impress every person that reads it.

Have questions about your resume for law school? I’d love to hear from you! I’m here to help. Post your questions below and I’ll respond.

Business people graphic by Karen Arnold.

No B.S. Guides now on Amazon and B&N!

No-BS-3-coversI’m pleased to announce that my No B.S. Guides for applying to law school launched this week on Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

In just five days, The No B.S. Guide to the Law School Application Timeline already has 27 reviews on Amazon. Wow! The No B.S. Guide to the Law School Resume and The No B.S. Guide to the Law School Addendum aren’t far behind with 26 reviews each. And more reviews are rolling in every day.

I’m thrilled with all the positive reviews. It makes me feel so great to know that people are finding my guides helpful, informative and enjoyable as well.

Here’s one review that cracked me up.

I think Peg works for the NSA. She seems to know (or have anticipated) all of the problems, concerns or issues that arise when prospective law students are confronted with having to reduce their lives to a resume. Every “off plumb” character trait (that I can imagine) that needs accounting for in a resume is addressed in a concise 50 some pages. Oh, and even “normal” people can get good resume ideas as well.
— Paul Pavlich
Prelaw Advisor and Assistant Professor of History & Political Science
Southern Oregon University

I’m incredibly grateful to my No B.S. Book Launch Team for all their help, support and feedback. I’ll be thanking all the members more specifically in a later post but for now, I want to give a big shout-out to all the No-BS Launchers. Thanks, everyone!

 

FREE ebook! “Getting Into Law School” by AdmissionsDean

Admissions DeanUsually I’m skeptical about free ebooks distributed by private companies.

I always wonder, is it going to be full of marketing B.S. or is it actually going to have some valuable tips?

That’s what I was thinking when I downloaded the new ebook by AdmissionsDean titled, Getting Into Law School: A Guide for Pre-Law Students.

But, you know what?

It’s actually good.

It has 11 articles in it and 10 of them are written by deans, associate deans, and directors of admissions from various law schools across the U.S. (one article is written by Dave Killoran, CEO of PowerScore Test Preparation).

It’s a genius idea–have experts write the articles and then just package them together. Hardly any work on your part but you’re still providing a valuable resource. I tip my hat to you, AdmissionsDean. Wish I had thought of it.

I agree with the advice given in almost all of the articles. It’s good advice.

The only one I had a problem with was “Writing a Winning Personal Statement” by Therese Lambert of University of Miami School of Law. I completely agree with Ms. Lambert’s bulleted tips (proofread very carefully, don’t rehash your resume, get trusted reviewers to read your drafts) but I disagree with her that your personal statement should show why law school is a good choice for you (not all schools want or need to know this), and that a good way to think of what to write about is to pretend you have 10 minutes in the room with the admissions committee. She’s not the first to give this advice but I find that going about it in that way blocks most writers rather than helps them start writing. For easier ways to get started on your draft, read my posts on writing the personal statement.

I found all of the articles helpful and recommend that you read each one. In fact, it would be helpful to reach each one twice.

I want to especially point out the “Including a Resume: Formatting and Content” article by Mathiew Le of University of Washington Law School. Excellent article. One of the most overlooked parts of the law school application is the resume. Don’t just turn in your basic work resume. Follow Mr. Le’s tips and transform your resume into something that is tailored specifically for law school. It will help your application! For more help on writing your resume, check out my No B.S. Guide to the Law School Resume.

Also, pay close attention to “Interpreting the U.S. News Law Rankings” article by Robert Schwartz of UCLA School of Law. Great article. So many law school applicants just choose law schools by their ranking and they have no idea how the schools are actually ranked. More and more I’m recommending that applicants not use U.S. News’ ranking when choosing which law schools to apply to. After reading Mr. Schwartz’s article, I hope you’ll start to see why.

If you’re applying to law school this year or in a few years, download and read Getting Into Law School: A Guide for Pre-Law Students by AdmissionsDean. Each article is only 1-2 pages. You can read it in an hour and emerge much more informed about the law school application process. Don’t wait. Do it today!

ps. In case you’re wondering, I don’t get paid by any company to promote their products or services and I never will. I only write about what I believe to be valuable and helpful to the law school applicant.

pps. After you read the ebook, please let me know what you think of it by posting your thoughts in the comments section below. I’d love to hear from you!