job applicant passing her documents


It’s January. The combination of end-of-year bonuses having been paid and new-year resolutions being made usually results in some career pondering—do you want to be in your current job at the end of 2022? Or would you like to move on to something new? Historically, the months of February through April are the busiest for the legal job market; in the age of COVID-19, the legal market has been hot year-round. If you’ll be looking for a new job this year, read on for some tips to apply to legal resumes to get ready for your job search.


1. Flashy is not the way.

Perform an internet search for sample resumes or resume tips and you get a ton of results, including templates featuring pictures, multiple colors, and ultra-creative fonts and formatting. While many of these flashy resume templates look fun, the legal profession is not at the forefront of resume formatting changes. Complex formatting may also hurt you when an employer’s applicant tracking software (ATS – more on that below) cannot read your resume content properly. More traditional resume formats with some modern tweaks are the way to go for legal resumes.


2. Focus on your accomplishments, not (just) your job responsibilities.

At its core, a resume is a marketing document. It tells the reader what you think they should know. Be judicious and strategic about what you include and highlight any accomplishments in your prior jobs. Make these measurable accomplishments wherever you can: e.g., “obtained five-figure settlement” rather than “settled case.” And of course, always be honest.


3. Avoid repetition.

Each job entry on your resume should be worded differently than the last, even if your responsibilities are similar. This will hold the reader’s interest, which is key when you consider that the average hiring manager spends less than 30 seconds on each resume. Try using different verbs to describe your actions.


4. Use keywords.

Many resumes are run through ATS, software designed to quickly identify resumes that seem to be the most relevant by searching for keywords from the job description. If you’re applying for inhouse positions, be aware that the vast majority of Fortune 500 companies use ATS. To give yourself the best shot at getting past ATS to a live human, tweak your resume to include keywords from job postings to which you intend to apply.

Pro tip: Save your document as a txt file and take a look—does it read well? If so, your content will likely be viewed by most ATS software.


5. Skip the Objective section.

Resumes used to include an objective section at the top, explaining the goal of the resume. If you think about it, this was always a waste of space—obviously, your objective is to get the job you’re applying for! Over time, objective sections have been replaced by professional summaries, including an legal resumes. These are an opportunity for you to frame your experience to the resume reader. The point is to encourage the reader to learn more about you based on an interesting and inviting summary at the top of the page. This is also a place to include more keywords.

Bonus tip: Include a cover letter whenever it’s an option! A CareerBuilder survey found that 40% of employers are more likely to read your resume if your application includes a cover letter.


How’s your resume looking?

If it’s been a while since you job hunted or you think your resume could use a professional review, I am a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and offer resume review and writing services. Learn more here.


Top photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

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