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The Law Graduate Secret Handbook to CV Success

Jaydee Ward

Apr 2020

Four key points a law firm looks for on your CV

Writing a CV can be excruciatingly painful. I know it, you know it, the whole world knows it. Sitting at your computer screen trying to describe yourself as anything besides ‘enthusiastic,’ ‘hard-working’ or ‘personable’ can be a challenge in itself.

I have decided to share some insider information on how the ‘ideal’ CV should be structured when sending your application to legal recruiters and potential employers. It goes without saying everyone will have different writing techniques and ideas on how they want to present themselves. Creativity and individuality are two qualities I strongly encourage to make your profiles stand out, however there is a basic structure you need to follow when formatting your CV which will be your key to success.

What is she going on about?

Let me put things into perspective for you. As a recruiter, I review hundreds of CV’s a day. I work with many Magic Circle, Silver Circle and top UK law firms so it is my responsibility to find the best calibre of candidates for my clients. It’s an unbelievably fast-paced and competitive industry, so in the heat of recruitment poorly structured CV’s get put to the bottom of the pile I’m afraid. By following these simple steps, you’ll save yourself from the delete button and instantly get placed as a front runner for potential job opportunities.

Ok, I’m ready to start!

Before we begin, I think it’s important I establish some ground rules. If you’re thinking about putting any pictures on your CV, be that of just you or you and your dog (yes, it’s been done before) then slow down Romeo! This is not a dating application, this is professional. Including these details can be a matter of preference, but clients insist things like this are always removed before we submit you anyway. They only want to review your experience, not your face, so please leave the pictures for LinkedIn. Start off the right way by putting your name, home address, email and phone number at the top of the page.

 

STEP 1 - PROFILE

Your future employer should be able to look at your CV and get a grasp on your career history without a lengthy overview, so don’t try and summarise your whole life in your introduction:

  • Keep it short, sweet and to the point- anything more than one paragraph is too long
  • Your employer wants to know- something about you, what qualities you’ll bring to the workplace and what you’re looking for in your next role

TOP TIP: If you’re a law graduate, it’s no secret that you’re ultimately looking to secure a training contract but be careful on how you convey this in your introduction. When you’re applying for Paralegal roles your application must be genuine. Avoid writing too much about wanting a training contract otherwise employers will assume you’re using the vacancy as a steppingstone towards this. Your focus right now is to gain experience to strengthen your legal knowledge with the view to secure a training contract in the future, so make sure this is portrayed!

              

STEP 2- EDUCATION    

This is one of the first things recruiters/employers look for when reviewing your CV. Whether we like it or not, academic results play an integral part of the recruitment process for law graduates, so make this section as clear as possible:

  • Layout: Write your education history in date order starting with the most recent at the top and work backwards
  • Results: Always clearly write what you achieved in your LLB/ GDL/ LPC. Education is reviewed all the way back to your A-level and GCSE days, so make sure you clearly show these results as well
  • You can use a table to tidy things up


TOP TIP:
You are always going to be asked for your educational results regardless of what you achieved, so be upfront from the get-go!


STEP 3 - CAREER HISTORY

This is the main bulk of your CV and where many tend to get a bit lost. Bulky boxes, coloured writing, funky fonts are all aspects that just over complicate this section. Keep it simple and really focus on making key information stand out:

  • Layout: Write the dates of where you worked, the firms you’ve worked at and your job titles as clear headers. Start with your most recent employment and work backwards
  • Do not write long paragraphs- bullet point what your roles entailed so your employer can pick out key points of information with ease

For an example:

pic1

TOP TIP: Go over the role requirements in the job description for the vacancy you’re applying to. See if you can update your CV to mirror specific keywords the firm has used. You may already be doing similar tasks in your current role but haven’t used the correct terminology that the employer will be looking out for. This is such a simple yet effective way to strengthen your profile and align you to the role. Most importantly, never lie about your experience, you will get caught out.


STEP FOUR- INTERESTS/ EXTRAS

Please ensure you keep this section as concise as possible. This is just the icing to your cake, not the filling so don’t go overboard:

  • Interests: Keep these professional and engaging whilst also showing your personality
  • Languages: If you speak, read or write any languages fluently then definitely include this. However, if you only know how to say ‘where is the bathroom’ in Spanish because of a few GCSE classes then this doesn’t count
  • Skills: Some people decide to write a whole page of their skills which is counterproductive. Including this as a section is a matter of preference but if you do, please keep it limited.

 

There we have it! You don’t need to over complicate it. Take this basic structure, ingest it and regurgitate it to all your law grad friends. This is what employers like to see when reviewing CV’s so stick to this layout and I can assure you a good impression will be made. If you have any further questions, please feel free to get in touch with me directly.