If you have recently qualified or are about to qualify, now is the ideal time to start considering what your CV should look like. What you decide to do after qualification can set the path for your legal career, and there are many factors to weigh up.
The aim of a CV should be to demonstrate your experience and skills. Some vacancies will be extremely popular, and it is highly likely that the initial review of your CV will only last a few minutes, as a partner or member of the HR team quickly scans through it to gauge how suitable you are for the role.
For this reason, it is vital that your CV is presented clearly and concisely to ensure it stands out from the crowd. One of the most common misconceptions about CVs is that they should be no longer than two sides. While it is important to include only information that is useful, the most vital function of a CV is to both accurately and comprehensively set out all the relevant experience you have. Where possible, use bullet points and sub-headings to make your CV clearer and easier to read.
Here are our top tips to help you write your CV as a newly qualified lawyer:
Try to organise your CV into four sections:
- Personal information
- Employment history
- Interests and additional information
1. Personal information
This section is aimed at identifying you and should include:
- Full name
- Mobile number
- Email address
- If appropriate, your visa status and whether you need a work permit
Education should be presented chronologically, with the most recent academic or professional qualifications at the top. All dates and overall grades should be included (but you do not need to break down individual year grades), as well as the institution where they were achieved. For example, if appropriate, you should include:
- Degree classification and subject
- A-Levels (and AS-Levels) – subjects and grades
- GCSE grades
Other things to consider
- Include any academic awards or scholarships
- Include any languages you speak and the level to which you are proficient. This should not be exaggerated, as it might be tested as part of the interview process.
- It is not worth omitting poor grades. Firms will spot an omission and either assume the worst or ask for clarification before deciding on whether they wish to bring someone in for an interview.
- If you are an international lawyer, firms will often require a copy of your academic transcripts.
3. Employment history
- Your employment history should be presented in reverse chronological order, with your most recent employer at the top.
- You should list all your roles and experience, providing start and end dates that account for your career in its entirety.
- Any gaps or omissions will be viewed with suspicion, so it is best to be upfront.
- You may also want to tweak your CV for the role you are applying for.
Experience should be set out in easy-to-read bullet points and sub-headings, broken down to explain your involvement in the matter and the duties you performed. Each of your seats should be covered in detail but with particular attention being given to the practice area you want to qualify into. If you are applying, for example, to a litigation role, then give examples of the cases you have been involved with and what your responsibilities were.
For a corporate position, set out details of the deals you have worked on and the documents you typically prepared. Obviously, you must be careful to ensure that you do not breach client confidentiality, and, where you are not permitted to mention a client by name, you should use a generic description of the type of business they are.
The same applies for any previous jobs you might have had prior to your training contract. However, more weight should be given to recent and relevant legal experience rather than historical roles that do not directly relate to your legal career.
Whatever happens, do not embellish your experience. In most cases, this section will form the basis of many of the questions you will be asked at interview. You need to be prepared to talk in detail about any experience you include on your CV.
- This should be a short section to outline your outside interests and show that you are a rounded individual.
- Include any sporting achievements, hobbies, or interests that help you stand out from other candidates.
- Anything controversial is best left off the CV, as you do not want it to end up becoming the focus of an interview.
Additional information to include
Secondments: Include as much information as possible, including the client (if appropriate), sector and dates, as well as what your responsibilities were and what you took away from the experience.
Marketing & BD: Describe any marketing and business development initiatives you have been involved in. Particularly anything that generated work for the firm.
Achievements: Any legal societies you are part of or any published articles or materials.
Once you have put your CV together, make sure you proofread it. Even better, share it with a friend or family member who can provide you with some feedback on how to improve it.
At MRA Search, our consultants add value to your job-searching process by offering in-depth market knowledge and expertise. They can also provide guidance on selecting seats and an honest assessment of your most viable options in an empathetic and supportive capacity.