Hello, everyone! Is this thing still on? It’s been a long, eventful year for me (mostly in good ways, but with some setbacks, as life will have it), and Dollar Barrister has suffered because of it. But I’m back, and I’m hoping to finish the second half of 2018 here at Dollar Barrister strong. So if you’re still with me – thank you! I’m excited to be writing here again and I hope to share some of what has been going on in my personal life behind the scenes in future posts (from a Dollar Barrister perspective, of course!)
But in the interim I have been meaning to follow up on my last article with a companion post about how to prepare a curriculum vitae/CV/resume when you’re looking to go in-house. Similar to my thoughts on how to write a great cover letter, this template is informed by my years of experience wading through resumes (some good, some bad). I’ve always gotten good feedback on my CV from prospective employers, and, at the risk of bragging, I’ve also always thought my form was much better than most of the CVs I’ve received from prospective employees.
As always, your results may vary, but I think this template will give you a great fighting chance at putting your best professional foot forward and open up doors for an interview with the in-house employer of your dreams. More on how to prepare for that interview in an upcoming post here at Dollar Barrister!
General thoughts about getting started on your CV
First off, I suggest using the Garamond font for your CV. It’s easy to read, it’s professional, and if you use the following structure and font sizes it will look really good – I promise!
Your name should be in 14-point font and bold. The title of each section (those in bold capital letters below) should be in 11-point font. The rest of your CV should be in 10-point font.
Each of the sections should be listed in reverse chronological order (i.e., most recent positions first).
I’m always surprised to hear the number of lawyers and other professionals who don’t keep a copy of their CV up to date. There are multiple reasons to do it beyond being ready to jump at an interesting job offer – from professional development activities to simply tracking the progress you’re making in your career. If you don’t have a CV handy, or haven’t updated one in a while, get on it now! A great place to start building from is your LinkedIn profile. Assuming you have all of the information there already, it’s just a matter of compiling it all into the right format in Word.
Note that I justify my CV – I think it looks cleaner, more professional, and more organized than if it is just left justified. And I only use one space after each sentence!
The title block of your CV should be centered and, on different lines, have your name in bold (again, 14-point font) with your phone number, preferred personal email address, and, critically in my opinion, the custom URL for your LinkedIn profile.
If you are applying for a job in a particular location where the job listing says local candidates only, it makes sense to include a physical address. But I think many employers – myself included – want tech-savvy employees with a demonstrated network in their preferred industry. Showing your LinkedIn presence is one way of doing that.
This is the toughest part of your CV. How do you describe each of your positions since law school? I try and keep each description to around a paragraph in length, no more than seven or eight lines of text. Action verbs are critical – use language like “prepared and negotiated terms and conditions” or “drafted corporate documents” and “managed litigation through outside counsel.”
Each job you include in this section should look like something this:
Acme Corporation, City, State 2016-present
Senior Corporate Counsel: Senior, front-end transactional lawyer. Provide strategic and project-specific legal, insurance, and general risk management support to executives leading a variety of corporate business lines. [Add more detail here about your responsibilities]. Acme is a [publicly traded/privately held/describe industry of company and where it is located, including revenues if possible].
Use the same format for a law firm, and go heavy on describing the practice group you work in and the kinds of clients you are servicing. I think it’s more important here – particularly if you’re looking for your first in-house opportunity – to focus on the industry aspects of your practice and less, say, on the nuts and bolts of the types of litigation you handled.
OTHER EXPERIENCE [optional]
If you worked before you went to law school, or have other professional experience that is noteworthy, include it here. For example, as I’ve mentioned before, I worked in the industry where I now practice, and include short descriptions of each role I held in this part of my CV. Use the same format I suggest above.
List your law and/or other professional school credentials first, like this:
Acme School of Law, City, State
Juris Doctor, May 2018
Don’t include more than two or three bullets; note if you were on a journal, if you had a good GPA, and if there were any other interesting activities you participated in. Use this same structure and general rule of thumb for your undergraduate work as well.
Note that interesting activities can have nothing to do with law or the job you are pursuing. For example, I played rugby in college. I remember connecting on one job interview with a senior executive who had also played, and we spent most of our time together talking about the sport, the comradery, etc. (And I ended up getting an offer.) If you want, you can also include those in the “miscellaneous” section of your CV – more on that below.
PUBLISHED WORKS [optional]
Did you get your Note published in law school? Have you otherwise been active writing in trade publications or magazines that cover your industry? If so, I suggest including them here. If you are more junior, you can feel free to skip this section, but having pieces to include should be a great motivator to start writing about topics of import in the industry you want to work in.
I also suggest you put each article you list here in proper Blue Book format.
SELECT PRESENTATIONS & SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS [optional]
Same logic here as above. I try to keep the number of published works and speaking engagements even between these two sections – no more than six or seven, and if possible highlighting notable conferences or organizations that you’ve been in front of.
The formatting I use here is as follows:
Title of the Presentation, Name of the Meeting or Conference, City, State (Date).
This is where I list my bar memberships and court admissions, as well as any non-profit or board positions. I keep this section very brief – no more than two or three bullets. You could include foreign language skills and hobbies here (I do not) but please don’t list your Office or Outlook capabilities – I think at this level they should be implied.
Some final tips
How long should your final CV be? I have been out of law school for around fifteen years and my CV is two pages long. I think this is long enough to communicate the details of my career, give some flavor as to my extracurricular writing and speaking activities, and not lose the reader. I think it’s true that hiring managers spend no more than a few minutes looking at a CV. It’s presentation, formatting, and length that can sink you right out of the gate – so don’t be that candidate!
What file format is best? I actually keep two active files – one in Word and then the other as a PDF. Word formatting is temperamental and I find that saving a copy of my latest CV version in a PDF gives me peace of mind that it won’t get messed up when I email or submit to a job.
Don’t be afraid to describe your employer. You’d be surprised how few people have heard of your Fortune 500 company before, so make sure to include a brief blurb about what it is Acme Corporation does in the description of your responsibilities. Remember, your cover letter is there to sell your prospective employer on your soft skills – like communicating and working with others. The CV is what will close the circle between the “why you want the position” and “why you are the right fit.”
Are there any tips we missed, or you think that we got wrong? I look forward to your feedback in the comments below!