Résumé Guidelines

A résumé is a tool designed to highlight your academic accomplishments, work-related experiences, talents and skills that make you qualified for a particular job.  Our office provides you with these guidelines which serve as suggestions to assist you in creating a successful law student résumé.  As each résumé is unique, we recommend that you contact Lisa Moore at moorel1@nku.edu or 859-572-5354 to have your résumé reviewed.  She can provide résumé assistance over the phone, by email or in her office (whichever is more convenient for you).

Background
Legal employers generally want an honest, easy to read, action-based résumé that is free of typographical errors and concisely describes your strengths, accomplishments, education and experience.  As with your cover letter, they look for qualities common to successful attorneys such as writing ability, organization and attention to detail.

Legal employers see many résumé from law students and sometimes only scan (not read) résumés.  A one page résumé is highly encouraged, and most law students use a one page résumé.  Multiple page résumés can be overwhelming or overly time consuming for a legal employer, and information on the second page is often overlooked.  A two page résumé may be warranted if you have extensive job experience or have changed careers and need the extra space.  If a two page résumé is necessary, be sure to fill both pages leaving no large gaps of white space.

Be careful about using résumé templates that are often found in word processing software (such as Word) as these are easily identified by employers and give the appearance that you have not put significant time or thought in to the creation of your résumé.  If you use a template as a starting point, we suggest that you change the font and layout to avoid a template impression.

Résumé Format

Paper
Print your résumé on 8.5 x 11" résumé quality paper (such as medium weight bond-not copy paper) which is white, off white or very light grey (not marbled).  Your cover letter, résumé and list of references should all be on the same matching paper. 

Margins
A one inch margin on all sides is suggested.  When deciding where to place the most important information, keep in mind that readers often scan résumés and are more likely to notice information at the top and/or left side of the page.

Avoid large gaps of white space which often leave the impression of an overall lack of experience.  Also, avoid a cluttered appearance as information is likely to get lost and not catch the reader's attention.  Maintain consistency with your fonts, headings, location of dates, etc. as this helps to create a neat appearance.  Leave appropriate spacing between sections.

Font
Use a Serif font (not a San Serif font) that is businesslike, conservative and easy to read such as Times New Roman, Bookman Old Style, Garamond, New Century Schoolbook or Palatino.  Because they vary in width, experiment with these fonts to change the length of your résumé and utilize space effectively.  The smallest font you should use is 10 pt., but 11 pt. or 12 pt. is preferable.
 
Use varying font sizes to distinguish between résumé sections such as larger font, bolded, underlined or all capitals for section headings.  Consider italics, bold, underline or indents to set apart sections and/or items within each section.

Résumé Content
The most common format used when applying for legal positions is the Chronological Résumé which stresses dates and places of education and employment, beginning with the most recent and working in reverse chronological order.  It emphasizes employer names, job titles, and includes a brief synopsis of each position and its primary responsibilities.  Typical headings include Education; Legal Experience; Other Experience; Publications; Awards; Achievements; Honors; Activities; Volunteer Experience; Community Activities; Certificates; Licenses; Professional Memberships; Languages; Skills and Interests.  Be consistent in the type of headings used for the different sections of the résumé (for example, using caps or underlining).

Career Objective
Except in rare circumstances, a Career Objective is not included in a legal résumé.

Contact Information
Include your name, home address, phone number, and email address at the top.  Employers typically contact you during normal business hours so include contact information where you can be reached during the day.

  • Name:  Set your name off in a distinctive way:  larger font (generally 2 point sizes larger (i.e. 14 or 16 pt.) than the text (i.e. 12 pt.) of your résumé); boldface, all capitals or large/small capitals are suggestions.  State your formal name and not your nickname.
  • Home Address:  If you have both a local address and a permanent address and are applying locally, we suggest you use your local address.  If you are applying to a geographical area close to your permanent address, we suggest you include your permanent address.
  • Phone number:  Include a cell phone number rather than a home number if you check it more frequently during the day.  Make sure your message greeting for your home phone and cell phone is professional and clear, not "What's up?  Leave a message."
  • Email address:  Be careful about listing an email address that is inappropriate in a professional setting such as Chaseme@yahoo.com.  If you choose to include a signature block, make sure it looks professional as well.  In your signature block, include your name, address, phone and e-mail.  You can also include "Juris Doctor Candidate, Class of 2012" for example.  Do not send emails using a work account; instead use your school account or a separate account set up for professional purposes.

Education
Law students' résumés typically begin with the Education section first, listing schools in reverse chronological order beginning with Chase.  Then list graduate schools and undergraduate schools (not high school unless you were Valedictorian but only if space permits) in which you have earned degrees.  It is not necessary to include schools merely attended, but the choice is yours if space permits. 

 

Law school:  The correct name of your school is Salmon P. Chase College of Law which is located in Highland Heights, KY.  Include the name of your degree program which is "Candidate for Juris Doctor", followed by month of graduation and year.  For example:  "Candidate for Juris Doctor, May 2012."  It is also acceptable to state: "Juris Doctor expected May 2012".  If you are applying locally, it is acceptable to omit "Northern Kentucky University" as part of Chase's name as employers within the region are familiar with our school.  Include "Northern Kentucky University" when applying to employers outside of our region.  Part-time students should consider noting their part-time status on their résumé to clarify their graduation year to employers.

Graduate/Undergraduate:  Include your major and minor, grade point average (if it is above a 3.0), date graduated, name of school and location.  If your GPA is below a 3.0, discuss with Lisa whether it is appropriate to include it on your résumé.

Study Abroad: Include it as a section under your undergraduate, graduate or law entry or as its own separate school.
 
Transfer School:  If you include a school from which you transferred, be prepared to explain the reason for the transfer being mindful of the possibility that the interviewer may have attended that school.  Explain without being negative.
 
GPA/Class Rank:  For law school, if you want to highlight your academic achievements, you may want to include your class rank and/or percentage (i.e. top 30%) along with your GPA.  This assists employers in placing your GPA in context.  It is not necessary to indicate that Chase uses a bell curve.  Generally include your GPA if it is above a 3.0.  You should report your GPA exactly as it appears on your transcript to three digits (e.g., 3.456) as employers do confirm your GPA by referring to your transcript.  

For graduate and undergraduate schools, generally include your GPA if it is above a 3.0 and any honor designation on your transcript such as summa cum laude, magna cum laude and cum laude which are italicized and written in lowercase letters.

Honors, awards, scholarships, activities and Dean's List:  Include these under the appropriate school section. 

 

Honors, awards and scholarships:  Include the name of the honor, award or scholarship, the name of the organization awarding such distinction and the date(s) received.   Also include relevant competitions in which you've participated and honorary societies.  Remember to include any course awards received such as "CALI Excellence Awards" for having received the highest grade in a particular course at Chase.

Activities:  Include relevant activities in which you've participated, organized or chaired.  Choose activities that exhibit skills that employers are seeking such as leadership, dedication, initiative, interpersonal skills etc.  Be aware of possible negative reactions to memberships in social fraternities, sororities and political and religious organizations and consider whether inclusion is beneficial.  Membership may be helpful to include especially if you know the employer/interviewer is also a member.  Use your judgment.

Dean's List:  It is often preferred to state the number of semesters on Dean's List if you were on Dean's List for more than three semesters.  If you were on Dean's List for three semesters or less, then state the semester dates.  For example:  Dean's List-four semesters; Dean's List - fall 2006, spring 2007, and fall 2007.

 

Journal Membership/Articles written:

 

Law Review:  Include membership (writer, editor, etc.) in Law Review (along with dates) and list any publications you have (co)-authored.  You can also list your written articles under a separate "Publications" section.

Thesis:  If you wrote a thesis for coursework, include it underneath the applicable school or include it in a separate "Publications" section.

 

Moot Court:  Include membership in the Moot Court Board and any competitions in which you've participated such as Bettman Appellate Advocacy Competition, or  Grosse Moot Court Competition.  Also include any awards received as a result thereof such as "Best Brief," oralist placement, etc.
 
Trial Advocacy:  Include participation in the National Trial Advocacy Team and any mock trial competitions.

 

Work Experience:  Legal Experience and Other Experience
As most employers hire based on their needs, they are generally more interested in the legal experience and skills you can bring to their firm.  We suggest you separate your "Legal Experience" from your "Other Experience" to better highlight your relevant legal work.  Do not list only full-time compensated work.  Relevant externship, internship, part-time work and pro bono legal work should also be included and identified to avoid misrepresenting these opportunities as full-time work.

 

Job Descriptions: To demonstrate that you have relevant experience that meets an employer's needs (such as practice areas or types of work), you may need to tailor the job descriptions to better highlight those applicable duties.  If you are not able to discuss an entry in detail during the interview, then do not include it on your résumé.
 
For descriptions of work you in a current position, use present tense verbs.  For descriptions of work done previously, use past tense verbs emphasizing transferable skills.  Include a description of the work that you did and the skills that you used.  Use short phrases beginning with action verbs such as "researched," "analyzed," "interviewed," etc.  Bullets are suggested.  For examples of action verbs and legal job descriptions, visit the Career Development Office's website.
 
Legal Experience: List your legal experience in reverse chronological order including the name of each employer, city and state, dates employed, job title and brief description of the skills you developed or demonstrated in the position (focus on those skills and accomplishments important to a prospective employer, and include a variety of action verbs).
 
Other Experience:  List your non-legal experience in the same manner as Legal Experience.  Remember to include any promotions, awards, and improvements for which you were responsible.

 

Publications
If you have written, coauthored or edited any books, articles, professional papers or other related publications, you can include them here or under your school section if appropriate. List the title of the work, the date and title of the publication and the publisher's name, and specify whether you were the sole author or coauthor.  Consult the Bluebook for proper citation.

Awards/Achievements/Honors/Activities
These categories can be included in any combination or alone as a separate section heading or can be included within their respective schools in the "Education" section (see the "Education" section above for more details).  Sometimes it appears more organized and reader friendly if you include all school related items under the relevant school section. 

Volunteer Experience/Community Activities
Include recent experiences and activities in which you have participated that demonstrate your leadership skills and commitment to helping the community.  List the organization, date of involvement and a short description of your responsibilities. 

Certificates/Licenses
List any specialized training, certificates, or licenses you have received.  Include the date issued and the accrediting agency.

Professional Memberships
Describe your involvement in professional associations and similar organizations.  Include the dates of your involvement and whether you took part in any special activities or held any offices within the organization. 

Languages
Include whether you are "fluent" or "proficient" in the verbal and/or written form of any particular language.

Skills/Interests
Include unique accomplishments but do not simply state "Enjoy hiking and reading"  Basic experience with Lexis Nexis, Westlaw and word processing programs should not be included as it is presumed that you have these skills as a law student.

Helpful Hints
Do not include a comma between the month and year (use "August 2007" not "August, 2007"  Do not abbreviate dates (use "August 10, 2007" rather than "8/10/07," unless space is limited.) 

Abbreviations should be limited to state postal abbreviations. Acronyms are generally not recommended unless widely recognized such as "U.S.," "D.C.," etc.  Do not use abbreviations even for degrees; state "Bachelor of Science" rather than "B.S." and "Juris Doctor" rather than "J.D."
 
The plural of "memorandum" is "memoranda" not "memorandums" or "memos."

Proofread many times to ensure that there are no typographical mistakes or other errors and inconsistencies.  Have others review it (such as Lisa) as she may notice something you overlooked.  One error may cause the reader to not consider you for employment as errors display a lack of attention to detail.