A well-crafted legal CV will make it easier for you to catch the attention of the employers in this very competitive sector.
Despite the widespread use of digital application forms in the legal sector, the CV is still a vital tool in the recruitment process.
This article will guide you through the process of constructing a legal CV that will get you noticed, and includes 2 legal CV examples.
- Legal CV example
- Structuring and formatting your CV
- Writing your CV profile
- Detailing work experience
- Your education
- Skills required for your Legal CV
Legal CV example 1 – Lawyer
Legal CV example 2 – Paralegal
The CV example above shows exactly how a Legal should present their skills and experience, in a well structured 2 page document.
This should give you a good idea of how to format your own CV, and the type of information you should be highlighting to recruiters and employees, in order to land interviews.
Legal CV structure & format
Recruiters are busy, and if they can’t find the information they’re looking for in a flash, it could be game over for your application.
It should be clear, easily legible, well-organised and scannable – check out some simple tips and tricks below:
- Length: Whether you’ve got one year or three decades of experience, your CV should never be more than two sides of A4. Recruiters are busy people who’re often juggling numerous roles and tasks, so they don’t have time to read lengthy applications. If you’re a recent graduate or don’t have much industry experience, one side of A4 is fine.
- Readability: Columns, lists, bullet points, bold text and subtle colour can all help to aid the readability of your CV. Your overarching goal should be to make the content as easy to read and navigate as possible, whilst also aiming to make your key skills and achievements stand out.
- Design: While it’s okay to add your own spin to your CV, avoid overdoing the design. If you go for something elaborate, you might end up frustrating recruiters who, above anything, value simplicity and clarity.
- Avoid photos: Don’t add photos, images or profile pictures to your CV. Not only do they take up much-needed CV space, but they’re actually completely unnecessary and won’t boost your CV at all.
Structuring your CV
When writing your CV, break up the content into the following key sections, to ensure it can be easily digested by busy recruiters and hiring managers:
- Contact details – Always list these at the very top of your CV – you don’t want them to be missed!
- Profile – An introductory paragraph, intended to grab recruiters attention and summarise your offering.
- Work experience / career history – Working from your current role and working backwards, list your relevant work experience.
- Education – Create a snappy summary of your education and qualifications.
- Interest and hobbies – An optional section to document any hobbies that demonstrate transferable skills.
Now I’ll guide you through exactly what you should include in each CV section.
CV Contact Details
Tuck your contact details into the corner of your CV, so that they don’t take up too much space.
Stick to the basic details, such as:
- Mobile number
- Email address – It should sound professional, such as your full name.
- Location -Just write your rough location, rather than your full address.
- LinkedIn profile or portfolio URL – If you include these, ensure they’re sleek, professional and up-to-date.
Legal CV Profile
It’s ideal for busy recruiters and hiring managers, who don’t want to waste time reading unsuitable applications.
Think of it as your personal sales pitch. You’ve got just a few lines to sell yourself and prove you’re a great match for the job – make it count!
Tips for creating an impactful CV profile:
- Keep it brief: Aim for a short, snappy paragraph of 3-5 lines. This is just enough room to showcase why you’d make the perfect hire, without going into excessive detail and overwhelming busy recruiters.
- Tailor it: The biggest CV mistake? A generic, mass-produced document which is sent out to tens of employers. If you want to land an interview, you need to tailor your CV profile (and your application as a whole) to the specific roles you’re applying for. So, before you start writing, remember to read over those job descriptions and make a list of the skills, knowledge and experience the employers are looking for.
- Don’t add an objective: Want to talk about about your career goals and objectives? While the profile may seem like a good space to do so, they’re actually much better suited to your cover letter.
- Avoid cliches: Focus on fact, not fluff. Phrases like “Committed and enthusiastic thought-leader” and “Dynamic problem solver” might sound fancy, but they’ll do nothing for your application. Not only do they sound cheesy, but they have no substance – stick to real skills and facts
What to include in your Legal CV profile?
- Summary of experience: Demonstrate your suitability for your target jobs by giving a high level summary of your previous work experience, including the industries you have worked in, types of employer, and the type of roles you have previous experience of.
- Relevant skills: Highlight your skills which are most relevant to Legal jobs, to ensure that recruiters see your most in-demand skills as soon as they open your CV.
- Essential qualifications: If you have any qualifications which are highly relevant to Legal jobs, then highlight them in your profile so that employers do not miss them.
Quick tip: Your CV is your first impression on recruiters, so it’s vital to avoid spelling and grammar mistakes. Use a free writing assistant tool, like Grammarly, to check over your CV before hitting send.
Core skills section
Underneath your profile, create a core skills section to make your most relevant skills jump off the page at readers.
It should be made up of 2-3 columns of bullet points of your relevant skills.
Before you do this, look over the job description and make a list of any specific skills, specialisms or knowledge required.
Then, make sure to use your findings in your list. This will paint you as the perfect match for the role.
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Work experience/Career history
Now it’s time to get stuck into your work experience, which should make up the bulk of your CV.
Begin with your current (or most recent) job, and work your way backwards.
If you’ve got too much experience to fit onto two pages, prioritise space for your most recent and relevant roles.
Structuring your roles
Recruiters will be keen to gain a better idea of where you’ve worked and how you apply your skill-set in the workplace.
However, if they’re faced with huge, hard-to-read paragraphs, they may just gloss over it and move onto the next application.
To avoid this, use the simple 3-step role structure, as shown below:
Begin with a summary of your role, detailing what the purpose of your job was, who you reported to and what size of team you were part of (or led).
“Providing legal, trial and administrative support for team of 9 attorneys and 2 senior partners within a busy family law practice; reporting to the Lead Attorney.”
Next, write up a punchy list of your daily duties and responsibilities, using bullet points.
Wherever you can, point out how you put your hard skills and knowledge to use – especially skills which are applicable to your target role.
- Reviewing all legal documents to ensure they are correct and contain all necessary paperwork prior to submission to court
- Client management, maintaining key account relationships
- Managing a small team of paralegals and monitoring progression
Lastly, add impact by highlight 1-3 key achievements that you made within the role.
Struggling to think of an achievement? If it had a positive impact on your company, it counts.
For example, you might increased company profits, improved processes, or something simpler, such as going above and beyond to solve a customer’s problem.
- Liaised with senior lawyers to implement new data procedures, reducing data process time by 50%.
- Assisted the Compliance and Legal Affairs team with the implementation of a new complaint handling system which reduced departmental spend by 15% annually.
Next up, you should list your education and qualifications.
This can include your formal qualifications (a degree, A-Levels and GCSEs), as well as sector-specific Legal qualifications and/or training.
While school leavers and recent grads should include a lot of detail here to make up for the lack of work experience, experienced candidates may benefit from a shorter education section, as your work experience section will be more important to recruiters.
Interests and hobbies
Although this is an optional section, it can be useful if your hobbies and interests will add further depth to your CV.
Interests which are related to the sector you are applying to, or which show transferable skills like leadership or teamwork, can worth listing.
On the other hand, generic hobbies like “going out with friends” won’t add any value to your application, so are best left off your CV.
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Essential skills for your Legal CV
Tailoring your CV to the roles you are applying for is key to success, so make sure to read through the job descriptions and tailor your skills accordingly.
However, commonly desired Legal skills include:
Legal Knowledge – The law serves many purposes and understanding how law works in different scenarios will help you do every job in hand.
Responsibility – Meeting clients from different backgrounds is an everyday responsibility for a lawyer and many other jobs in law. You will need to be able to write clearly, listen to your clients’ needs and negotiate settlements which are important to your law firm.
Critical Thinking – Reviewing important sources and case studies is part of the job. You need strong analytical skills and excellent attention to detail to understand what every document is really saying.
Calculating costs – You may need to read technical documents in order to prepare estimates and Identify factors that impact on costs.
Commercial Awareness – All law firms are businesses and you will need to understand how businesses generally work so that you can offer insight into profit, timesheets and much more.
Writing your Legal CV
When putting together your Legal CV, there are a few key points to remember.
Always tailor your CV to the target role, even if it means creating several versions for different roles.
Additionally, remember that the structure and format of your CV needs just as much attention as the content.
Remember to triple-check for spelling and grammar errors before hitting send. If you’re unsure, consult Grammarly – it’s free!
Good luck with your job search!