Drafting a Resume - Capital University Law School

Drafting a Resume

  • Creating an effective resume is essential to securing an interview. An employer will scan your resume for less than one minute to decide whether to interview you. Consider the following resume types and suggestions to create a resume that grabs the employer's attention.

    Three Basic Types of Resumes  

    • The chronological resume is the type of resume used most often. It stresses dates and places of employment. Often, a chronological resume begins with the most recent employment and education and moves backwards in time. 
    • The functional resume presents credentials under skill headings and is more of a narrative. This type of resume illustrates skills by focusing on accomplishments that support the skill. The functional resume is most useful to individuals who had a long career in one area. It allows the applicant to eliminate monotonous repetition of similar jobs. The functional resume is also helpful to individuals transitioning to non-legal positions. 
    • The composite resume is a mixture of the chronological and functional resumes. It emphasizes dates of employment, title of positions, and skills acquired. The composite resume also uses the layout of both the chronological and functional resume. 

    What to Include in Your Resume
    Everyone should include the following in their resume:

    • You should place your name at the top of the resume. 
    • Nicknames are not acceptable. 
    • If you prefer to be called by your middle name, use an initial for your first name. For example, Christopher Scott Jones may list C. Scott Jones or Scott Jones. 
    Contact Information   
    • Your contact information should include your address, phone number with area code, and email address. (It is important that you provide a telephone with an associated voicemail, and be sure to create a professional message.) 
    • Street names, etc. are spelled out, not abbreviated. 
    • If you have two addresses, such as "School" and "Permanent," use the address where you wish to be contacted. This is especially important if you plan to look for employment in your hometown or if you plan to be away from your school address over the holidays and vacations. 
    • An e-mail address makes you easy to reach. Include an e-mail address only if you check your account at least once daily. Be sure to use an appropriate email address (i.e. name@law.capital.edu, not "lawchic@" or "lawenforcer@"). If you do not have a professional email address, you may want to make a new account using some variation of your name on one of the “free account” websites such as Gmail or Outlook.
    • This section should include all post high school education. 
    • The information should be presented in reverse chronological order (starting with the most current) and should include names of institutions, locations, degrees awarded, dates of graduation, (dates attended, if appropriate), and college major and minor. 
    • This section can include honors and activities (e.g., scholarships, book awards, law review, and moot court), GPA, and class rank. 
    • As a Capital student, list your degree as a “Juris Doctor” not “Juris Doctorate.” You can also list the “expected” date of your graduation, such as “Juris Doctor, expected May 2013”
    • If you are a law student or a graduate with less than four years' experience, your education should be one of the first two sections of your resume.
    • If you have career-related experience, you may wish to include that information in a separate category titled, "Legal Experience." 
    • All other work can then follow under "Other" or "Additional" Experience. This information should also be in reverse chronological order. 
    • Descriptions should begin with active verbs. 
    • Be concise and truthful, highlighting achievements when possible. 
    • Be sure to include dates of employment. 
    • Jobs such as Server, Bartender, and Painter can be listed to show experience generally. You need not explain your position by bulleting your responsibilities and tasks.

    You may want to include additional sections in your resume. Consider the following.

    Professional Profile or Summary of Qualifications   
    • This section is typically recommended only for individuals with extensive pre-law school experience. 
    • It is essentially a three-to-five phrase commercial explaining your strengths and how your previous career skills translate to the career you are seeking. 
    • This section should be located at the top of your resume.
    Licenses or Certifications   
    • In this section, include bar admissions, CPA certification, engineering certifications, and any other license or certification that may be of interest to an employer.
    • This is an excellent section to indicate fluency in language, special licenses or certifications, expertise in another educational area, etc. 
    • Include skills a legal employer can utilize. 
    • Computer literacy is useful to a firm that utilizes computerized legal research systems. 
    • If not related to law, list special skills that are interesting and can differentiate you from other candidates. 
    • If you have no prior legal experience, you may choose to include a "Legal Skills" section. This will include skills gained through class work in legal writing and research. 
    • Include training in LexisNexis® and Westlaw® when appropriate.
    Interests or Community Service
    • Do not include personal data such as marital status, height or weight. 
    • Think about including serious, ongoing hobbies or interests (have played piano since the age of four) that provide insight into your non-academic side. 
    • In an interview, the employer may ask you about your interests as a means of building rapport. 
    • Interests may include published poet, avid fly fisherman, marathon runner, etc. 
    • This is one place on the resume to show your individuality.
    Military Service  
    • Military service can be a separate topic or included under employment. 
    • Indicate the branch of service, organization, rank at the time of discharge, duty station, etc.
    • If you have published any law and/or law related articles, list them on your resume. 
    • Include any significant research paper published or accepted for publication.
    • Include any ACTIVE memberships in bar associations or professional organizations.

    What Not to Include in Your Resume 
    For the most part, there aren't many things that should be left out of a resume. However, the following are not necessary in most resumes: 

    • Unless requested by the employer, you do not need an “objective” statement. 
    • You should not list references in your resume unless specifically requested by the employer. Furthermore, it is not necessary to state, “References Available Upon Request.” You should always have references, writing samples, and transcripts ready should an employer request these at a later date. 
    In addition, you should never include the following items in your resume.
    • Age or Date of Birth 
    • Gender or Sexual Orientation 
    • Weight or Height 
    • Race or Ethnicity 
    • Marital Status 
    • Social Security Number 
    • LSAT Score 

    A Note about Grades
    Grade point averages, class rank, etc., are optional. Grades and rank can also be discussed in your cover letter. First-year law students can demonstrate academic achievement/potential by listing undergraduate (and/or graduate) grades. However, after the first semester, indicating grades for one educational institution and not for another may suggest the omitted grades are poor. In addition, do not round GPAs or class ranks. You must list them each as they appear on your transcript. For Capital students, this is listed with three numbers after the decimal point, such as 3.069.

    Appearance and Formatting Suggestions
    Appearance is the key to a good resume. If upon first glance, it appears wordy, cluttered, and hard to read, it will probably not be read. The following mechanics enhance readability:
    • Avoid using a commercial resume template as they are difficult to edit. 
    • Do no use photos, logos, or monograms in your document.
    • Resumes may be more than one page so long as the second page covers pertinent information. Be sure that you can justify each entry and that the second page is a full page of text. Include your full name and page number on the second page and always staple the pages to insure that they are not separated once they reach the employer. Do not print your resume on two sides of the same sheet of paper. 
    • Avoid a cluttered appearance by leaving equal right, left, top, and bottom margins. 
    • Use action verbs and phrases in the past tense instead of sentences. For example, "drafted memoranda," "supervised staff of two," "organized mailings," "proofed text." 
    • Do not use personal pronouns on your resume (i.e., "I, me, my," etc.). 
    • Do not abbreviate. 
    • A certain amount of white space is good on a resume because it improves the overall appearance and readability of a resume. 
    • At a minimum, a resume should be printed on a letter-quality printer, with individual copies reproduced by a laser printer or a good quick print establishment. Use good quality white, cream, or beige paper. 
    • Make sure you have no typographical errors or misspelled words. 
    • Use italics, boldface, and underlining for emphasis but don't overdo their usage. 
    • Use a standard professional font such as Calibri or Times New Roman. 
    • Try to use no smaller than 11 point type for text.
    • Use appropriate section headings to separate information.
    • Use bullets to separate job tasks and responsibilities. When describing tasks and responsibilities, be as concise as possible keeping items parallel. Use sentence fragments with no subjects. Describe your tasks and responsibilities with active verbs maintaining the correct tense: present tense for current jobs, past tense for prior jobs.
    • When using active verbs, be sure to maintain the correct tense: present tense for current jobs, past tense for prior jobs.
    • Select a layout that makes the resume easy to read and highlights important content. Format should be internally consistent. 
    • Be sure that all information on your resume is correct and up to date, especially your phone number and email address
    • Have the resume reviewed by the Office of Professional Development. 

    Sending a Resume via E-mail
    Unless specifically directed otherwise, it is best to research the employer or find out what is its preferred way to receive these materials. (For some employers, e-mail is the only method to submit a resume.) If in doubt, you can always follow up an email with a hard copy sent through the mail.

    When you email your employment materials,
    • Make the subject simple and direct (e.g., “Capital University Law Student Seeking Clerk Position”), unless the application instructions indicate a specific subject that should be used (such as one that references a job reference number.)
    • Write a short paragraph explaining why you are applying (a paragraph similar to the first paragraph in your cover letter). 
    • Attach all of the documents to the email. Do not put them in the body of the email. At some point all of your attachments will probably be printed and it is important that they look like a professional document. 
    • Name the document something professional that easily identifies the document as being associated with your application (e.g., Jane Doe Resume, Jane Doe Cover Letter). 
    • Converting word processing documents to PDF before sending creates a clean document that is easily read by all computers and ensures that your formatting and content remain unchanged once sent.