The typical law school application includes several key components, such as an LSAT score and a personal statement. Another important component is the resume. While not all schools require a resume, virtually all will accept one.
Given the limited ability for you to sell yourself to schools, you should always include a resume to give a more complete picture of why you would make a great legal professional. Importantly, the resume you submit should be a bit different from the one you would normally send out for a job search, as law schools are looking for different things than employers. Admissions officers will take more time to read over the resume completely and get a feel for your background to make sure you are ready for the program.
Some tips to keep in mind when writing a resume for a law school application include:
1. Keep each section simple.
The key to a great law school application resume is to keep sections short and simple. You should always include the education, experience, and activities sections. You could include honors, skills, and interests, but you do not need to have a summary or an objectives section because they are not necessary for the application.
Mark each section clearly with headings and include only the key points in bullets so that readers do not need to work through large chunks of text. The entries in each section should be in reverse chronological order. Unless you graduated several years ago, you should put your education section before experience. Under education, include degree, major, and institution, as well as graduation date. You can include GPA if desired. Remove anything from high school as it is no longer relevant.
2. Make the document professional.
Sometimes, people try to stand out from the crowd with their resumes by including colors, symbols, or graphics. These elements only serve as a distraction and should be removed. Legal professionals keep communications concise; they don’t use gimmicks.
Be sure to include plenty of white space so that the resume is inviting to read. Large blocks of text will discourage people from delving into the content. Also, be sure that the resume looks appealing in both print and screen contexts as you cannot know beforehand how admissions committees will view it. Stick with the most common fonts and use size 11 or 12. Fancy fonts will send the wrong message. Typically, resumes should only be a page, but if you have a lot of experience directly relevant to law school, you can include a second. Never have more than two pages.
3. Give each bullet point its due.
Concision is key when it comes to writing a resume for law school applications. Only rarely should a position need more than three bullet points. Remove any extraneous information and focus on communicating as clearly as possible. Each bullet point should be only about a sentence long. If you are struggling to edit your entries down, think about what the admission committee most needs to know about you.
The verbs you use in each bullet point should be active and in the past tense, at least for old positions. If you are including current positions, you can use the present tense. The bullet points should focus on concrete tasks and responsibilities while putting a spotlight on exactly what you did in that role. Try to include evidence, such as specific numbers or accomplishments, and only include job skills that are most relevant to legal professions.
4. Represent yourself truthfully.
When applicants embellish the truth to make themselves look more appealing on a resume, they can find themselves in a lot of trouble. Law schools do not expect you to be thought leaders or industry titans, so representing yourself as such could raise suspicion.
Because your application will also include letters of recommendation, transcripts, and more, any information in your resume that is contradictory will be a major red flag for admissions committees.
Be sure to include all significant positions and try not to have any chronological gaps longer than a few months, as that will warrant some questions. Additionally, avoid making minor actions, such as one afternoon of community service, into full entries—committees will see through it.
5. Proofread and follow instructions.
Before you submit your application, proofread it thoroughly. You may want to ask a friend, family member, or colleague to read it. Make sure you are not including jargon or making anything overly wordy. Anyone should be able to pick up the resume and understand your background. Avoid cliches—they will come across as hollow.
It is worthwhile to mention that some programs will provide specific instructions for how they want the resume formatted or what you should include. Be sure to look at the requirements and instructions for each program and edit the document accordingly. Frequently, programs will include minor instructions just to make sure that applications are paying attention and reading thoroughly.