Top 10 Law School Resume Fundamentals


A shoddy resume could cost prospective law students their acceptance.

When applying to law school, LSAT scores, letters of recommendation, undergraduate grades and personal statements loom large. It's easy to overlook your resume among all the materials you need to submit.

But don't make the mistake of sending in a slapdash resume.

A polished and properly formatted resume establishes yourself as a professional. For undergraduates, the resume can increase your credibility – regardless of whether you have paid work experience – by showing you have mastered this fundamental skill.

For postgrads, the resume provides essential insight into how you have spent your time since college.

Think of your resume as part of the case you present for why you have the accomplishments and skills to excel as a law student. Like any piece of evidence you submit, present your resume meticulously. Weak evidence risks undermining the strength of your candidacy.

I worked with a client who applied to several programs on his own and was put on the waitlist at law schools like the University of California—Los Angeles, Duke University and the University of California—Berkeley. Because he had already devoted time to his personal statement, he wasn't prepared to start from scratch. The biggest adjustment I advised to his application strategy was to overhaul his bare-bones resume.

After he reworked his resume, he was admitted to many law schools, including top contenders like New York University, Northwestern University and Georgetown University, and even received some scholarships.

Here are the 10 fundamental law school resume-writing tips he followed.

1. Be specific: Do not simply provide a list of employers and job titles. Include locations, dates and substantive descriptions that highlight your most notable assignments.


2. Use reverse chronology: List your most recent positions first; then make your way into the past as you move down the page.

3. Add context: It may not be self-evident what an organization you worked or volunteered for did. But use descriptions of your responsibilities to help admissions committees understand the nature and industry of your work.

4. Be succinct but relevant: Demonstrate that you know how to distill complex information to its most essential components. This skill is essential to lawyering.

In your resume, include succinct yet revelatory descriptions of job responsibilities. Aim for concrete examples when possible. For example, include how much money you raised as treasurer of your fraternity.

5. Use action words: Use key words to emphasize skills you will need as a lawyer. For instance, "advocate" is a better word choice than "communicate."

6. Elevate clerical work: Don't simplify or discount clerical work – instead find ways to show the substance of this experience. For example, rephrase "assist management by answering phone calls" as "manage client inquiries about available resources."

7. Delete old information: Cut outdated details. For instance, where you went to high school doesn't matter to law school admissions committees. An exception may be if you were valedictorian, but only if space permits.

8. Use headers: Organize information under short headers. Because law school is an academic undertaking, list "Education" first, followed by other categories such as professional, leadership or extracurricular experiences.

9. Format consistently: In a detail-oriented profession like law, you need to pay attention to the nitty-gritty. Admissions committees look at thousands of resumes each cycle; they will notice if you switch between a hyphen and a dash between employment dates.

They will wonder why you sometimes use a period at the end of a description or otherwise omit it. Be consistent in how you format.

10. Know aesthetics matter: The practice of law is a serious field. Unlike applying to graphic design school where you can show off your artistic skills, don't get carried away with creative layouts and unusual fonts.

Make sure your resume is easy to read – an eight-point font is hard to see. And present yourself in a manner such that potential clients seeking to entrust their cases will feel confident you have the competence to represent their interest.

By Michelle Kim Hall