Writing an Effective Resume

An effective resume highlights those experiences and accomplishments that are directly relevant to your career goals.  The purpose of a resume is to secure an interview.  When your resume arrives at a potential employer, it introduces you to the employer and is used by the employer to assess whether you have the skills and experience needed for the job. Your resume is your calling card, and therefore it is critical that your resume be flawless. 

Recruitment coordinators and hiring attorneys receive thousands of resumes each year, and thus your resume should meet, if not surpass, the average resume in its presentation.  Although the old standby was to use formal resume paper, so many resumes are being photocopied once they reach an employer that it may be rare when the person evaluating your resume is reading the original. Nevertheless, if you can afford the formal paper, use it. 
Since there is no such thing as a "minor" typo, the resume must be carefully proofread.  Have a counselor in the Career Services Office review your resume for form and content before reproducing it. Here are some tips to help you get started.

Layout and Appearance

The resume should in almost all cases be limited to one page.  Legal resumes are different than business resumes; review the models in our resume handout

  • Times New Roman is a standard legal font and by using it, your resume will look professional in the hiring attorney’s eyes. 
  • Major headings, school names, and employer names can be highlighted with boldfacing (do not underline); the font for your name can be a little bit larger than the font for the rest of your resume)
  • Stay away from “special effects" like the use of color paper and creative layouts.  Always keep your audience in mind - lawyers – who are generally conservative and pay close attention to detail. 

G.P.A. and Class Rank Information

Information concerning your G.P.A. and class rank should be included in your resume under certain circumstances. 

  • If you are in the top third of your class, include your rank.
  • If you are not in the top third but have a GPA of 3.0 or higher, you can include your GPA on your resume. 
    If in doubt as to whether or not to include certain information, ask us!  Please note, if you list your G.P.A. or rank – it must be mathematically precise.  Code of Conduct: Please be sure that all information on your resume is completely accurate.  Any misrepresentation on your resume could constitute a Code of Conduct violation, resulting in a disciplinary proceeding.

*Honors:  There are only a few items that qualify as “Honors” on your resume: Law Review, Moot Court Board, Trial Advocacy & Practice Society (TAPS), Dean’s List (with specific semesters), and The Honors Program.

Career Objective

Do not include a general statement regarding career objectives and goals

High School

Information concerning preparatory or high school education is generally not of interest to employers and should not be on your resume

Personal Data

Omit personal data such as physical appearance, health or marital status


Do not engage in self-assessment on your resume or in your cover letter.  For example, do not describe yourself as having "excellent communication skills" or "excellent writing skills".

Employment Descriptions

In describing legal experience, do not simply say "researched and drafted memoranda."  Rather, indicate which particular areas of law you researched and whether you drafted memoranda of fact and/or law.  Your descriptions should focus on responsibilities and contributions rather than routine duties.  Never use "I", "my" or any other form of the first person in describing your tasks. Omit phrases such as "duties/responsibilities included."  Be sure to call particular attention to those skills relevant to the practice of law.  For example, legal research and writing, negotiating, analyzing data, drafting, decision making, communicating and supervising are skills that should be noted.  When describing your work, use action words like "direct", "review", "manage", "analyze", etc.  Past tense should be used for former jobs and present tense for current employment.


Avoid characterizing employers you have worked for, such as "the foremost law firm in Suffolk County.


Do not include “References Available on Request” on your resume.


Students with little or no legal experience, or no work experience, may wish to include the interest category.  Under the heading of "Interests" or "Other" you might want to mention interests, hobbies, or perhaps unusual travel experience.  Significant community service can be mentioned here or under its own heading but it is generally not advisable to list political or religious activities.


Computer skills

You can include computer skills under the "Additional Information" heading or "Skills" heading.  Many interviewers use the information in these sections as a way of opening up the interview on a non-threatening note.  However, as space becomes an issue in the preparation of your resume, you should eliminate this section.


You should always add a second language with this heading.