What does a law school resume have in common with a job application resume? Other than their persuasive purpose, only a partial resemblance exists. The differences are important to understand, which is how this writing guide for prospective law students can help. It’s supported by an example of what admissions officers typically look for in a law school resume.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What law students do, and how a successful law school resume demonstrates their fitness for this competitive field of study and practice
- How to write a law school resume — the fundamentals, framework and format
- Optimizing each resume section: header, education, experience, skills and more
- Getting every visual detail right
In addition to more than 350 occupation-specific resume examples with writing guides, Resume.io offers tips and tools for virtually everyone on the career continuum, from students to retirees.
What do law students do?
From court case research and brief preparation to contract analysis and mock trials, law students dive deeply immersed in the core legal knowledge and abilities they’ll need as practicing lawyers.
It’s a career choice that’s already tested their competitive mettle in the law school application phase. Crossing that admissions hurdle foretells the kind of high-stakes job wins that could lie ahead.
What good does a law school resume do?
Of course, it takes more than an outstanding resume to get into law school. It’s not meant to be the sole law school application document, nor to replace any other. Some law schools don’t ask applicants for a resume, or it may be optional.
But experts agree that the only valid reason not to submit a resume is if you are told not to. Otherwise, it’s a self-marketing opportunity no one should miss.
As encouraged by LSAT Engine, an online tutoring resource for law school hopefuls, a resume ideally portrays you as a well-rounded and involved member of your community. This can be beneficial when the admissions team is looking for reasons to accept, waitlist, or deny someone.
Gabriel Kuris, founder of Top Law Coach, provides this usnews.com perspective: “A good resume for law school should clarify the skills and experience you bring from work, school and other activities. It won't paint a full picture of who you are, but it should provide a frame for the admissions committees to understand the rest of the application.”
According to LawSchoolNumbers.com, an open-source database for law school applicants, resumes can have make-or-break importance. “The ideal situation is that an admissions officer comes away from your resume thinking that they would like to meet you, or read your personal statement.”
There’s no way to predict how much time or attention your law school resume will receive. But think about the edge-winning advantage you could gain over other applicants with underwhelming resumes, or none at all — even GPA and LSAT rock stars. This incentive should not be taken lightly, so your law school resume should not be given short shrift.
Before getting started, here are some things to keep in mind. Relevance is relevant in each instance.
Your job resume won’t cut it.
Remember — you’re not applying for a job; you’re seeking career entry. The resume you need is decidedly different, if not entirely rebuilt.
Resumes from previous job or internship applications are a good starting point, however. They help jog your memory and flag information you could fine-tune for a law school.
What are law schools looking for?
Job 1 is for you to find out and pay attention. Scrutinize the target law school’s application requirements, specifically resume guidelines.
What exactly do admissions officers want and expect? They might even ask you to exclude some resume content, or organize and label it a certain way. And be mindful of any resume length indications.
Making long stories short
That brings us to the jury still being out on whether the standard one-page limit applies to law school resumes. Resume.io isn’t alone in advocating this restriction for all job resumes, with rare exceptions. For law school resumes, we also think a single page is best, and likely achievable for the vast majority of applicants.
Having said that, we realize some law schools have no objection to resumes being two pages or even longer. Again — check the application guidelines.
Selective and specific
As long as you’re satisfying the law school’s explicit requirements, here’s why a one-pager could be advantageous to demonstrate your worthiness as a lawyer-to-be:
- Being able to write concisely and precisely is essential for lawyers.
- It also reflects their ability to make relevance-based judgment calls by being selective and specific.
Consider the other elements in your law school application package — notably the separate requirement for a personal statement.
Wait, what? Isn’t that supposed to be part of your resume — the top section, known as a summary, profile or personal statement? Yes, absolutely when you’re applying for a job. It’s a synopsis of who you are and why you’re the best hire.
Law schools are also keen to know the person behind your resume — so much so that they request a companion document for that purpose. In essay format, this personal statement gives admissions officers a deeper, introspective insight into why you and law school are a good fit at this time in your life. Your resume should be compatible, consistent and complementary alongside the personal statement, but not redundant.
One less resume task
With the provision a long-form personal statement — usually two pages — comes a free pass to exclude the summary altogether in your law school resume.
That’s right … more space for other crucial content!
How to write a law school resume
Let’s get down to basics, with an outline of essential law school resume sections:
Consider this the barebones framework of components. What the second and third sections include depends on individual circumstances. At least one activity-related section may follow, plus additional content deemed relevant. We’ll take a closer look later.
Choosing the best resume format for law school
Within each section of your law school resume, bullet point listings should appear in reverse chronological order — from most recent to earliest dates. This is consistent with the most commonly used resume format for job seekers.
Otherwise, there’s one significant difference in the way law school resumes are organized: education comes ahead of experience, instead of vice versa in a job application resume.
For the same reasons we emphasize the importance of a distinctive header on job application resumes, law school applicants should not overlook this design detail. It makes your contact information prominent and accessible: name, phone, email and perhaps your LinkedIn profile URL.
Law school resume education example
This first-and-foremost section of a law school resume is usually more detailed than its education counterpart in a job resume. Starting with your most recent degree or certification, list them all in order from highest to lowest level.
Impressive GPAs belong here, along with cum laude distinctions and academic awards. Major and minor subjects might be worth mentioning too, and even coursework or thesis titles if they reflect pertinent expertise and interests.
High school information should be omitted.
Below is the education section from a law school resume example.
Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY September
2017 - May 2021
- Magna cum laude.
- President of the Philosophy Club.
Experience sample for law school resume
Often entitled “professional experience,” this part of your law school resume resembles the employment history section that would come first on a job application resume. Besides any work experience you’ve acquired — whether in an established career or part-time jobs paying your way through school — be sure to include internships.
Again, in reverse chronological order of dates for each employer, compose three to five bullet points describing your experiences.
Use action verbs that speak to what you did, learned and accomplished; avoid rattling off “responsible for” duty lists. And be selective — don’t bore admissions officers with a kitchen sink collection of all your previous jobs. Unless it’s relevant, skip it.
Facts and figures count
Just as we always advise job seekers in every resume writing guide, law school applicants should pinpoint aspects of their experience in measurable terms if possible.
Peg Cheng, Prelaw Guru founder, shares this resume writing tip from the PowerScore Law School Admissions Guide: “You should list the number of hours worked per week for all jobs and activities. It helps the admissions committee gain a better understanding of the scope of work and activities you’ve been involved in.”
Depending on the nature and scope of your professional experience — especially if scanty — you might also want to highlight volunteer or community service work here instead of in a subsequent activities section.
These law school resume samples for employment history and internships can be modified.
Student Research Assistant at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY
September 2019 - May 2020
- Served as an effective student research assistant on the project: Social Analysis of Technological Human Interactions.
- Coordinated the collection of data and ensured its reliability.
- Administered strategies essential to the successful management of the research project.
Teaching Assistant at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie
September 2020 - April 2021
- Worked closely with Professor Timothy Jones to develop learning materials for courses.
- Instructed a weekly class on Introductory Logic.
- Hosted office hours two afternoons per week to provide students with additional support and guidance.
Community involvement example in a law school resume
Volunteer and community service service roles are sure to put law school applicants in a favorable light. As noted above, these bullet points could be incorporated into your resume’s experience or activities section, depending on how extensive and relevant.
In our law school resume example below, community involvement is highlighted on its own.
Cultural Center Volunteer, Poughkeepsie October
2019 - May 2021
- Worked to enhance the center's multi-cultural program offerings, workshops, and events.
- Assisted with the planning for performances and exhibits.
- Wrote and submitted several articles to local news outlets regarding the latest events and programs open to the public.
CV skills example
Even if various skills applicable to your future law career are reflected elsewhere in your CV — which they should be if those sections are written effectively — creating a separate skills list adds prominence.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers has identified the seven most relevant transferable skills for law students as the ability to:
- Communicate with people inside and outside an organization
- Work in a team structure
- Make decisions and solve problems
- Plan, organize, and prioritize work
- Obtain and process information
- Create and/or edit written reports
- influence others
Check out a law school CV sample for the skills section below.
- Oral Communications and Listening
- Abilities Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
- Knowledge of Legal Terminology
- Highly Organized
Other possible law school resume sections
Other potentially relevant information for a law school resume appears below. How it’s organized depends on the best fit — either in separate dedicated sections or under education, experience or activities subtitles.
- Extracurricular activities
- Awards and honors*
- Leadership positions
- Interests and hobbies
* Below is an “achievements” example for a law school resume — an alternative to placing in the education section.
National Honor Society
2018 - 2021
Resume layout and design
Looking the part of a legal professional is imperative for a law school resume document. Readability is conveyed in an arms-length appearance of being immaculate, uncluttered and orderly.
Closer inspection reveals carefully thought-out layout and design details. One section flows logically into the next, offset by proportional amounts of white space in the margins and between lines. Fonts are carefully chosen to optimize body text legibility and bold impact in headings. Graphic touches are minimal.
- Law school applicants should always submit a resume unless they are told not to.
- A hallmark of law school resumes is the academic emphasis, with a more detailed education section preceding work experience.
- Relevance should determine what your resume includes and how it’s organized. Also be mindful of the law school’s application requirements and instructions.
- Apply the highest standards for professional appearance in your resume layout and design choices.