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.
Do that and you will impress every person that reads it.
Business people graphic by Karen Arnold.