Gold statue of a woman blindfolded holding the scales of justice

If you are an attorney searching for a new job in the legal industry in Florida, or elsewhere, you may be surprised to discover how competitive it can be to land a lucrative legal position nowadays. The competition is especially stiff for new graduates who have just passed the bar and are searching for their first official “attorney” position with a law firm. It’s a crowded field, with more than 1.3 million lawyers currently practicing in the US. If you have applied for attorney positions and been rejected, or not even received a response from the prospective employer, you may be asking yourself, “what can I do to set myself apart and be a strong applicant for a particular legal position?”

This is a fantastic question with many potential answers, depending on your specific situation. A great way to put your best foot forward when applying for a legal position is to have a stellar resume that highlights your skills, experience, and the full array of your professional offerings. This may sound obvious, but you would be surprised at how common it is for a prospective employer to receive a resume from an applicant that is rife with spelling and grammatical errors, huge gaps in time, and other glaring problems. This is why it is so important to invest the time and energy into making your resume the very best it can possibly be.

When crafting your legal resume, there are a few key things you can do in order to make your resume stand out from the rest.

Tip No. 1

Keep the content concise

The recruiting teams at law firms need to review resumes quickly, especially with the number of applicants they often review for open associate positions. With this in mind, keep the content within your resume concise. Use your words wisely and highlight your qualifications without creating a verbose resume.

Tip No. 2

Know whether to highlight education or employment first

When considering whether to highlight your education or prior employment first, the objective is to make the best first impression possible. As a result, you should highlight the topic that presents you in the best light. So, for example, if you attended a prestigious law school that is well-regarded nationally and/or regionally, consider listing your education first. If, on the other hand, you attended a lower-ranked school but were able to attain clerkship experience and other professional experience, list that first.

Tip No. 3

Do not use the same resume for each job application

As you apply for each job, make sure to tailor your resume for that specific position. For example, if you are applying for an associate position with a law firm focusing on real estate transactions in Jacksonville, you do not want to use the same resume which you provided for a criminal defense law firm or personal injury law firm that may highlight your litigation skills.

Tip No. 4

Use a verb-laden narrative

When detailing your experience, make sure your narrative stands out. Use strong verbs to impress the staffing team at the firm and show them why you are the best individual to fill the open position. This means you should avoid passive tense and use verbs that draw in the reviewer.

Tip No. 5

Emphasize your professional skills

Most law firms are looking to hire a new associate with an impressive set of professional skills that may extend beyond the practice of law. For example, if you have any technical skills or the ability to speak multiple languages, you should definitely highlight these abilities in your resume to help set yourself apart from other applicants. Additionally, if you are applying to join a law firm that focuses on intellectual property law, possessing technical skills or a background in applied science can make a huge difference and really set you apart.

Tip No. 6

List law journal experience

If you have experience writing for any law reviews or law journals when you were in law school, or while in private practice,make sure to mention these publications. Being selected to write law review articles or law journal articles is an incredibly impressive accomplishment that highlights your legal writing, editing and research skills. This is so important that some large law firms actually require applicants to have law journal experience.

Tip No. 7

Review, review, review

Last, but certainly not least, you must review your resume prior to submission. Your resume could be filled with an array of impressive accomplishments (e.g., Law Review, federal clerkship experience, etc.) but if it is littered with typos, a prospective employer could view this as a red flag. They could interpret it as a sign that you do not really have an interest in the opening or that you are incapable of caring about the details of a document (which is an important skill for any attorney). The existence of typos in your resume could be enough for the employer to decide not to bring you in for an interview. Take the time to not only review your resume for content inclusions but grammatical errors as well before sending it over to the law firm.

Home / Career Advice / Resume Advice / Top Tips for Attorney Resumes
Pete Newsome headshot


Pete Newsome is the founder of zengig, which he created after more than two decades in staffing and recruiting. He’s also President of 4 Corner Resources, the Forbes America's Best Staffing and Recruiting Firm he founded in 2005, and is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance. In addition to his passion for staffing, Pete is now committed to zengig becoming the most comprehensive source of expert advice, tools, and resources for career growth and happiness. When he’s not in the office or spending time with his family of six, you can find Pete sharing his career knowledge and expertise through public speaking, writing, and as the host of the Finding Career Zen & Hire Calling podcasts. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn