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.

21 thoughts on “Key Tips for Writing the Law School Resume

  1. Hi Peg,

    I do some freelance and part-time writing for various online news sites and media sources. Would it be appropriate to put a “Selected Publications” section in a law school resume?

    Thanks for all the advice, this is great!

    Best,
    Sam

    • Yes, absolutely! That would be a GREAT addition to your resume. Always good to point out your writing skills and accomplishments. Thanks for writing in, Sam.

  2. What kind of an effect does the hours per week have? Can it have a negative effect? I currently tutor immigrants in English and for the U.S. Citizepship Test. Its only 2 hours and 1 hour per week, respectively. It’s not a whole lot, so how would that look? Thanks!

    • Good question. I’d list your two tutoring gigs together under Volunteer Experience or Community Involvement. It’s fine to list your tutoring as 3 hours per week total. Concise and honest.

      By the way, I think it’s GREAT that you’re helping people with English and with studying for the U.S. citizenship test. You go, Roshan!

  3. I graduated college five years ago and I have had plenty of real world experience. Do I still include my internships and bartending gig I held throughout college? I had an internship almost every semester. If I have to include them all, should I just condense it to a paragraph form i.e. law intern (2009-2010); music intern (2007-2008)? Thanks!

  4. Great question, Jackie, and excellent that you have 5+ years of real world experience! Law schools love that. Yes, I would include the internships and bartending gig you had during college. It’s important for schools to see what you did outside of the classroom.

    Don’t just list years. List months and years for all your positions. And remember to add in hours worked per week as I mention in my post.

    You might want to check out my No B.S. Guide to the Law School Resume for some sample resumes that show how to fit a lot of work experience into a small amount of space. Good luck!

  5. Hi Peg,

    Would it be appropriate to include a prestigious internship on the resume if I haven’t started it yet/will be starting it in the middle of the application process?

    • Hi T, YES, absolutely, it would be great to include your prestigious future internship on your resume. You may not be able to write many bullet points (descriptions) for it now, but you can list the starting month and year, and any general duties you might already know about your future internship duties. Congrats on securing this internship!

      • Thanks for the response! I just got my LSAT score and it’s not as high as I’d hoped; it probably won’t be feasible for me to retake it in February. There are some family/personal circumstances that precluded me from studying to the best of my ability, but I don’t know if I should address these in an addendum or if it will sound like I’m making an excuse for my score (it’s in the low 160s). Can I message you personally to explain my situation?

        • I’m sorry to hear your December score is not as high as you wanted it to be but if it’s in the low 160s, it’s still a good score that can get you admitted into many good law schools across the nation. What were the family and personal circumstances?

          • My dad got knee surgery in the few months before the LSAT so I was busy taking care of him during his recovery. In addition, my aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer so I was anxiously also waiting to go to visit her in my homeland in case her health deteriorated even more. Finally, my best friend was diagnosed with severe depression and was suicidal, and she turned to me as someone to confide in, so this all took a toll on me mentally. I just don’t know if I should take the February LSAT since I’ll be busy with my internship, and my GPA is over a 3.9 (I graduated from the Honors Program from my school).

          • Whoa! Yeah, that’s a lot of family and personal circumstances. Okay, in this case, yes, write an LSAT addendum. Try to describe these three things as concisely as you can. One page or less, double-spaced.

            Your 3.9+ GPA is AWESOME. That will go a long way. Great work! I would just apply now with your great GPA and 160-ish score. If you haven’t been prepping already for the February LSAT, I would not take it.

          • Thank you, I will definitely write an addendum. Do you have an example of such an addendum on your website, or do you have any tips as to how to make it sound like I’m not making excuses? Should I explain why I won’t be retaking the LSAT in February? I believe I have a solid resume, and hopefully got compelling letters of rec, so do you think I still have a chance at T14 schools?

          • Check out my blog post at: http://prelaw-guru.com/blog/write-addendum-law-school/
            I also recommend getting a copy of my No B.S. Guide to the Law School Addendum: http://books.prelaw-guru.com

            Whether or not you’re a good candidate to get into T14 schools, it’s hard for me to say. I don’t have enough details on your application situation to forecast that. It will be hard if you have a LSAT in the low 160s. But your high GPA may buffer your LSAT a few points.

          • Just to give you an example, I have a client who was accepted this year to Georgetown with a 3.8 and a 164. She also had a remarkable life story and a stellar application. So, it is possible.

          • Hi Peg,
            That is encouraging to hear. I know you don’t do one-on-one consulting anymore but how might I give you more information about my application that would help you help me become an impressive candidate for such schools?

          • Everything on my site, from my blog to my books to my video tips to my online personal statement class, are all meant to help you (and anyone else) put together a STELLAR (aka. kick-ass) application for law school. It’s all right here at your fingertips. Read, research, do the work, and you will have what you need to become an impressive candidate for law school. Go for it!

          • Hi Peg,

            Thanks for all the help thus far! I do understand and appreciate the suggestion to not take the LSAT in February, but I think I’m going to go ahead and try to score a few more points. That being said, if I apply to schools that don’t accept the February score now, should I include the LSAT score addendum we talked about previously? Should I say anything about taking the February LSAT (aka tell them to go ahead and review my application), or will they automatically ignore the fact that I’m taking it again? Likewise, I’m still planning on applying to schools that will accept my February score now but will tell them to hold my file until I get my scores. Should I include the December score addendum still with my application and tell them to hold my file because I’m retaking it in February in there? I know you mentioned previously that an updated CAS report will automatically be sent to schools that I’ve applied to after the February LSAT score release, but does this mean that the schools will automatically start reviewing my file again or will I have to send an email to request them to do so? Thanks!

          • Hmm, I don’t see a comment where I suggested you NOT take the Feb LSAT. I wrote that I thought you were a good candidate as is. But if you feel a strong need to take it because you think you will improve, then take it. You did write in a previous post that you didn’t think you’d have time to prep well for it since you were going to be working at your new internship.

            When you apply to schools, the application will ask you to indicate if you’re taking a future LSAT. You would indicate the Feb 2016 test. Most schools will not review your application until they have your Feb score–you don’t have to tell them that. They will review it after they get the message from LSAC’s CAS that a new score is waiting.

            Yes, you can attach your LSAT Addendum when you apply.

        • I’m very sorry, T, but starting in 2016, I only answer questions on the blog so that other prelaw students can learn from our interchange. I don’t answer emails anymore. If you can explain the circumstances in general, I’m happy to respond and give you my take on it.

          • My dad got knee surgery in the few months before the LSAT so I was busy taking care of him during his recovery. In addition, my aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer so I was anxiously also waiting to go to visit her in my homeland in case her health deteriorated even more. Finally, my best friend was diagnosed with severe depression and was suicidal, and she turned to me as someone to confide in, so this all took a toll on me mentally. I just don’t know if I should take the February LSAT since I’ll be busy with my internship, and my GPA is over a 3.9 (I graduated from the Honors Program from my school).

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