How To…Write a legal CV

Many small-medium sized firms will ask you to apply for work experience, placements and training contracts by CV and covering letter. This gives you just a few pages of A4 to sell yourself to recruiters by demonstrating you have the skills, qualities and qualifications to become a successful trainee solicitor.

Having developed and tweaked my CV over the past 5 years, I have picked up some helpful tips from lecturers, recruiters, careers advisors and online research. Here is all the advice I have been given in seven steps.

  1. LAYOUT. A good CV should be no longer than 1-2 sides of A4 paper. Make sure to use a professional font such as Times New Roman or Arial Black, keep the colour to black, and have the size between 10 and 12. Whilst you want to stand out, quirky font types, colours and sizes are not the way to do it. Keep your font and spacing consistent throughout your CV.
  1. PRESENTATION. Your CV needs to look attractive and be easy to read. Use headings to break up different sections such as education and work experience. List education and work experience in a sensible, chronological order e.g. start with your degree and work back to your ALevels and GCSE’s, and start with your most recent job working backwards. If it helps you to be concise, consider using bullet points or even a table.
  1. CONTENT.You should include:
    • Personal contact details
    • Qualifications in chronological order (post-graduate, degree, ALevels, GCSE’s)
    • Work experience in chronological order (legal and non-legal)
    • Achievements and positions of responsibility
    • Hobbies and interests
    • References.

    If you have such an abundance of the above that you feel as if you could fill 10 sheets of A4, pick out the most recent and relevant. For example, if you have a long list of part-time jobs, you can leave out the cafe you worked at aged 16 for a few months.

  1. SKILLS. The whole point of your CV is to demonstrate that you have both the qualifications and the skills necessary to embark upon a training contract. You therefore need to demonstrate that you have the following skills in your CV:
    • Communication and interpersonal skills e.g. providing pro-bono legal advice or working in customer service
    • Team work e.g. playing on a sports team or being a member of a committee
    • Attention to detail e.g. writing legal articles or newsletters at university
    • Commercial awareness e.g. a young enterprise scheme or working part-time in a shop
    • Motivation e.g. show get up and go by involvement in fundraising activities

    You do not necessarily need to repeatedly state the obvious when it comes to what skills you have; your experience and extra-curricular activities will usually speak for itself.

  1. GRAMMAR AND SPELLING. Basically, make sure you get it right. Check it, check it again, and give it to someone else to check. Poor spelling and grammar is a sure-fire way to show that you do NOT have attention to detail and will make you an easy candidate to cut out.
  1. BE HONEST. Do not put things on your CV that are not true, or exaggerate your achievements. For example, do not state that you are fluent in French just because you got a Grade A at GCSE, and do not state that you are extremely interested in financial affairs if you are not. Whilst this might make you attractive on paper, you are going to trip yourself up at interview and leave with nothing but a red face.
  1. SELL YOURSELF. If you have any special skills such as excellent IT skills, or have done something different such as teach English abroad, then make sure you get this into your CV somewhere. You need to make yourself stand out and grab a recruiter’s interest. Think about your own Unique Selling Point and include this somewhere in your CV.

I have attached an example of a CV that takes into consideration all of the above listed points. Template example CV

If anybody has any further advice or tips, please post them here so that I can add them to the list and amend the exemplar CV.

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2 Responses to How To…Write a legal CV

  1. Shaun English says:

    Very useful article, thanks!!

  2. Raoman Smita says:

    In my website I’m developing a section on legal CV writing and your article help me a lot. Thanks for this useful article.

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