Career Advice

Use these tips to make your resume law job ready

Legal Embassy


Having a resume that is ideal for law jobs in Canada is as important as having the requisite qualifications for the jobs. Over the last decade, millions of essays have been penned by experts on how to write a perfect resume. This heightened interest in resume does not mean the experts reeling out the essays are flogging the topic. Rather, it is an indication that having an impeccable resume is key to securing a job.


But why is resume writing so topical?


According to a 2012 study by TheLadders, an online job-matching service, recruiters spend 6 seconds in screening a resume. This is because recruiters have a limited amount of time to go over the avalanche of resumes that prospective job applicants send in. For law-related jobs, the competition is fiercer. And as the competition for law jobs in Canada becomes intense, so should job applicants become creative and adaptive to current trends for resume writing if they are to improve their chances of getting a job in the field of law. (For tips on getting law jobs by law students and law grads, read: Getting Your First Job After Law School).


Therefore, let's talk about some industry-tested strategies that can increase your chances of landing an interview for legal jobs in Canada


  1. Treat your resume as an interview

Before you type the first word in your resume, first of all, imagine yourself sitting before an interview panel and ask yourself these questions: What do you need to tell the panel to land the job? What aspects of my qualifications and work experience are relevant for the desired law position? Once you have the answers to these questions, then you are on track to producing a resume that is law job ready.


Your resume is your biography. In the opinion of leading human resources experts, Zinni, Mathis & Jackson, in Human Resources Management, your resume is the most important opportunity to present your background information and advertise yourself. In the same vein, TheLadder affirms that recruiters spend 80% of their resume review time on the following items: name, education, previous and current employers, and previous and current titles with the start and the end dates.


Pretty much, your resume is an expression of your life story, qualifications and character in black and white staring at the recruiter. Therefore, it makes sense to devote sufficient time and attention to preparing it.


When a recruiter screens your resume she is asking herself a number of questions. Are you qualified? If yes, can her fellow employees trust/like you? If yes, are you a "flight risk"? Therefore, every effort you put into your resume should be aimed at answering these for you in the affirmative.


That sounds like a difficult task … ehn? Not at all. It is what you have always done. Remember when you went for your first date: how you dressed and how you rehearsed your lines? Apply this “date” mindset when you are preparing your resume. The more you think about your resume answering those questions for you as if you are in an interview, the more you come close to crafting a detailed, yet concise resume.


  1. Use power words

Your resume must be laden with strong descriptive verbs, not verbs that are weak and overused. According to Work It Daily, a leading career website, the use of power words in your resumes, will increase your chance of getting hired by 80%. Please make sure the verbs you used are testy and sticky. In short, ensure your resume has words and phraseology to create a halo effect on the recruiter. Then you have increased your chances of getting a call. It is that simple. To find excellent examples of power words that you can use for law job resume, check Work it Daily, The Muse and Workpolis


  1. Use industry relevant terms

In order to come across as competent and professional, your resume should incorporate industry terminologies that are relevant to the law jobs you are applying for. This is not to say you should stuff your resume with legalese. No. That won't help you either. But instead of saying you drafted a legal document, you should mention the name of the particular document you drafted. Is it a lease, a share purchase agreement, a memo, or a factum? Let the legal recruiter or hiring manager know.


It cannot be said enough that using legal terminologies in describing a situation that requires technicality gives you a strong edge. If the law position you are applying for is highly competitive then you should know that recruiters would receive too many applications that it may be impossible for them to manually sort each application. In this case, they will need to use some keywords in the job description in the advertised position to search the pool of resumes database, to scale down the received resumes to a sizeable number that will now be manually reviewed. For this purpose, if the designation of your law degree is different from the traditional designation in the jurisdiction you are applying for jobs, ensure you specify in parenthesis that your degree is an equivalent of the designation issued in that jurisdiction. This will make your resume to scale through in case the keyword used in the search query for academic qualification is different from the designation of your degree. Read our post on the tips to use if the designation of your law degree is different from the traditional designation in the jurisdiction you are applying to.


  1. Proofread it carefully 

The norm is that recruiters will pass over any resume that has grammatical errors: wrong spellings, typos or omissions. Recruiters are just not willing to pardon these mistakes because they suggest sloppy work ethic, laziness, and lack of attention to details on the part of the applicant. And as legal professionals, strong communication skills (writing and speaking) are an essential part of your job. Therefore, a higher editorial standard will be expected of you. (For more, read the 5 Critical Differences Between Legal and Business Resumes.)

The good news is that there are free tools you could use to make your resume error-free. But don't over-rely on Microsoft Office’s grammar check and auto correct functions. Depending on the version of Microsoft Office that you use, it may not pick some mistakes. Instead, use grammarly And if possible, have someone review your resume for you before sending it out.


  1. Follow the rules

Some organizations have specified format and a number of rules job applicants’ resumes must meet. The rules often include items from font type, font size, paragraph spacing, number of pages to the information to include in the documents. This is quite common with jobs application process in some government departments and crown corporations in Canada. Also many international governmental organizations and international consulting firms have their own resume formats. (To find out about how to land an international law opportunity, read the 7 Strategies Canadian Lawyers Should Use When Looking for International Law Jobs). Therefore, please ensure you find out if the organization you are applying to have resume specifications and if they do please ensure you comply with these rules to the letter. Otherwise, your application will be tossed out.


While it is impossible to have a perfect resume, however, if you follow these tips, you can produce one that is excellent. Always remember that what the resume does is to separate the wheat from the chaff. Therefore, it holds the ace to your getting a job. It is worth investing your time in.


Image Credit: Flickr/Flazingo