I am back! I had writer’s block for a while, but I finally am back and have topics I want to blog about. As you may know, I just accepted my post-law school attorney position in NYC! Fall 2019 has been challenging but so rewarding. I am convinced I would not have been as prepared if I didn’t have the help from multiple people within the Criminal Law arena and outside of the Criminal Law arena. Going through this process made me want to discuss resumes and cover letters while applying to internships or post-graduate attorney positions.
I am in NO way an expert in resumes or cover letters but this is just an overview of what I believed worked for me in my journey. So, let’s dive in! Let’s hope I am not too rusty with this whole blogging thing. 🙂
In the header part of the resume, I put my name, physical address, and email. I have gotten mixed reviews on putting addresses. However, I decided to put mine.
I never thought about font when it came to resumes. I always did Times New Roman because that seemed like the most popular font to do. However, I posted a tweet sometime this summer asking what font people preferred, and there were SO MANY options!
Here are a few options that were brought up: Georgia, Garamond, Helvetica, Times New Roman, Calibri, Arial (some say no Arial or Calibri), Book Antiqua, Cambria, New Times Roman, Comic Sans, or Century Series.
Personally, I tried them all out and fell in love with Garamond and that is what I used for my post-law school applications. It looks professional and saves up space. One of my followers recommended ALWAYS use justified margins.
SECTIONS: All my resumes I created have been separated into sections to make it easier for the reader. Some of my sections included Education, Legal Experience, Interest, and Certifications.
Education Section – in this section, I first put the school I obtained or will obtain my degree from including a comma and the city and state the school is located. Below, I put the degree earned or degree I will be obtaining sometime in the future.
Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado
Bachelor of Arts in Sociology
XYZ Law School
Juris Doctor Candidate (NOT Juris Doctorate)
In my law school education, I put law journals I am on as well as the activities/organizations I have done in law school and listed positions I held within the journals/organizations. Additionally, for my undergrad education, I listed my study abroad experience and activities/organizations I was a part of and positions held. I listed my position like, “Black Law Students Association, Secretary” and decided not to put any dates next to it.
Legal Experience Section – I labeled this section legal experience because it will only be the work I have done within the legal field such as internships and externships. However, this can be more broad to say Experience or non-law related experience, etc.
In this section, I give an overview of the most important things that I have one in the position. I listed firm name and then directly below I listed my position at that firm and put it in italics.
The XYZ Law Firm
I personally do bullet points but I know some people will say do not do this. During my internships and externships I would keep a journal and take notes on all the assignments I did. I do that because of this section. After you list the firm and title, then list the assignments you did while at that place of employment. I always started the sentence with words such as, Prepared, Conducted, Performed, Drafted, Negotiated, Managed, Attended, Reviewed, etc.
Interest Section – I have been informed that in the Midwest, people typically do not like this section. However, when I was in the northeast and the south, people said they would like to see it. So, ask around and see what the norm is to see if this section is needed or not. If you decided to add this section be sure to not make anything up and be prepared to potentially talk about it in an interview.
SMALL CAPS – Small caps is a tool I used for my name at the top of the resume, section titles, and schools listed in the Education Section. However, this is just stylist.
Small caps is a tool someone told me to use to look better. You can do this by highlighting the words you want to put in small caps, right click, then click on font, click small caps, and then press okay. I personally liked adding small caps because it looked so much better with it.
Be consistent in whatever you decide to put in your resume. An example of this is if you are doing bullet points and you put a period at the end of the bullet point, then do it for all them. Do not have some with periods and some without periods. Either do the either document with periods or without periods. This can also come up in the dates. For example, June 2019-August 2019 OR June 2019 – August 2019 OR June 2019- August 2019. One of my resumes had a couple of these mixed because I overlooked it. Choose ONE.
COVER LETTER –
In a cover letter it must be short, sweet, and to the point. Cover letters should only be one page. I used a four paragraph breakdown when I was applying. Additionally, just like the resume, used Justified Margins.
I use the same header as my resume so everything is consistent with what I am submitting. This is the same for references.
Next, I put the person you are addressing name, person’s title, the office name and office address information.
John Smith (put the name of the person you will be addressing in the body.
Legal Hiring Recruiter
The XYZ Law Firm
1000 Legally Complicated Lane
Denver, CO 80239
1st – Introduce yourself
I personally do not put my name at the beginning because my name will be at the end. I have started my law school cover letters off like addressing the person who will be reading the cover letter and then going into it.
Example: I am a third-year law student at XYZ Law School, and I write to apply in the Internship position at The XYZ Law Firm.
2nd – Why that office?
Next, I talk about why I want to hold that position at that office. Like interviewing, you should do research on the place you are applying so you can describe why you want to be there. What inspired you to do the type of work they are doing? What is the reason you became interested in the position? What are they doing that you want to do? What goals do they have for the firm?
3rd – Work Experience
I have heard a few times that you should not solely be saying why this experience would be good for you but also address why they should hire YOU out of all the other applicants. This is where you can stand out. It is important NOT to repeat what is already in your resume. Here, I gave a story about my work experience that I had that make me capable of doing the position I was applying for.
4th – Skills
At this point, we have given a brief introduction, said why we want to be there, and listed the experience that makes us able to do the position. We must not forget about those soft skills, such as communication skills (written and oral), leadership skills, problem-solving skills, interpersonal skills, adaptability, organizational skills, paying attention to detail, critical thinking, and time management. I personally like to add this because if I fall short on work experience or any other area I point out that I have the soft skills. Additionally, these can be everyday skills needed to do the position well.
I close out with, “My experiences demonstrate my goals and values are well-aligned with [insert office name]. I am confident my passion, legal experience, and education will enable me to be a great [insert position applying to]. I then write the enclosures (if mailing) and attachments (if electronic submission) and thank them for their time and consideration. In the past, I have put I look forward to discussing my qualifications in an interview.
Additionally, I put “Sincerely,” or “Respectfully,” and put the enclosure/attachments below it.
Enclosures/Attachments: References, Resume, Unofficial Transcript, Writing Sample
No matter what, have a couple people look over both documents before submitting it. I had a few people look over mine and they all caught something different. I liked that I had people in the same field of law that I was applying to look over it but I also had people look at it that were in a different field of law. There may always be changes that you can make. However, you must know when you want to submit. Look over it one last time and then submit!
I hope this was helpful. This is what has helped me up to this point. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or concerns. I would love to read over your resumes and cover letters. Also, do not be afraid to reach out to your local career services, other law students, or practicing attorneys.