As legal Recruitment experts, we are well-versed in putting together stand out CVs for the sector.
Creating a stellar CV can be a stressful process. And if you're just starting your career, gathering practical evidence of your skills can be a real challenge. So, here are a few tips to make the whole process a little bit simpler and guarantee you stand out from the crowd.
In law, tradition is still the order of the day and your CV should follow suit.
Always use a standardised font. Arial, Tahoma, and Times New Roman are all a safe bet, and guarantee the person reading can access the font whatever their operating system. Stay clear of any effect that could compromise readability, a clean and legible CV is far more useful than an ode to Picasso in securing you the job. Keep it minimalist, the hiring manager or recruiter will be grateful.
More and more headshots seem to be popping up on law CVs. If you were vying for a role in a creative industry, such as design, PR or marketing, a photo would be unlikely to raise eyebrows. However, laws in the UK dictate that it’s illegal to consider age, gender or race when it comes to hiring, so seeing a photo on a CV is not preferred by recruiters or HR departments within law firms.
A great CV will give a hiring manager a sense of who you are. After all, you landing a role you love and an employer finding the best fit are equally important. Getting this match right can depend on showing a little of who you are, as the final call often comes down to who will slot right in to the existing team.
Whether you are passionate bout cricket or a keen photographer – note it down. If you happen to share interests with the hiring manager - great! This can create a good rapport ahead of your interview.
How your CV reads is important. Try and approach it logically and so it represents you in the best light.
First and foremost, break it up into sections; education, legal experience and commercial experience. Under commercial experience add work experience that is non-legal. Under legal experience add paid legal roles and also any voluntary work, mini-pupillages and summer schemes you’ve undertaken. Under education list your degree or equivalent and your A Levels. If you don’t have a degree or A Levels then it’s fine to list O Levels or GCSEs.
Then, arrange the CV to your strengths. Are you a recent graduate? Then put your education at the top. If you’ve had legal experience that’s more than six months put this at the top and then add your education. If you have extensive legal experience and your education was a while ago, then list it as such.
We’ve all heard it. No CV should be longer than a page. Well…it’s a myth. Unless you’re applying for contract jobs, particularly in IT where skills need to be listed in a short and snappy fashion, your CV can be several pages long – if it warrants it. For instance, there’s no point waffling on about that thrilling time you worked at the local cinema if you’re applying for a Legal Secretary role. There’s no doubt that it taught you transferrable skills but everything on the CV needs to be relevant.
A good rule is, five bullet points for every year that you’ve worked at a position with the max being 10 for fairly junior positions. Of course, if we’re talking about the CV of a partner who has taken on many important cases, then it’s acceptable to write a great deal more. However, even for the most senior positions do not go over five pages. Anything more and it will start to feel like War and Peace.
When you’ve been in an industry or role for quite some time you get used to how things are done, the jargon and the daily operations become familiar. When it comes to writing your CV, approach it as if the person reading doesn't know the specifics and provide detail.
If you were using a Case Management system – name it. If you worked in a particular department – name it. Mention the cases you worked on, how big your team was, your client interaction and court visits.
Your CV is a map of your career so we need all the relevant coordinates and of course, the details for possible references too.
I said earlier, and I’ll say it again, keep it clean and simple. Keep it uniform. If you use bullet points to list your job responsibilities, do so throughout the whole document - don’t suddenly start sprinkling hyphens towards the end of the document because time is ticking and you want your CV all packaged up. If you’re working with recruiters keep in mind that they need to access your CV so sending it in a Word format is highly preferable. Also, stay away from tables, or lines for divisions – these can really cause problems when opening up documents at the other end.
Here’s an example of how to structure a job on your CV (for junior positions):
Legal Assistant 2011 – 2012
• Undertook legal drafting, worked closely with two solicitors in the Private Client Team
• Opened and managed my own case load of files using Solcase
• Interviewed clients on a regular basis, took minutes and drafted witness statements
• Performed professional and efficient legal research on a variety of topics such as Estate Administration
• Created court bundles and attended court hearing when called upon
We hope that’s given you a good overview of how to format and write a legal CV. Keep in mind that you’re trying to represent yourself to in the best light, so don’t undersell yourself or over-format your CV.
At Acorn, we’re always here to help, so if you have any questions or you’re looking for a new legal role, please do get in touch!