5 attributes to build your perfect legal CV

No matter how many times you do it, writing your legal CV never gets easier. With only an average of six seconds to impress a hiring manager, a resumé has to tick all the right boxes if it is to make it onto a shortlist. But communicating your positive attributes and achievements in so few words can prove challenging. 

However, while the value you offer a firm may be difficult to condense into the contents of a CV, it’s this document that employers expect from their applicants. Time-poor recruiters are eager to find candidates who are distinguishable beyond their academic credentials; they skim through CVs in search for high-potential talent and are quick to discard those who don’t catch their eye. 

In order to give yourself the best chance at landing your dream job in the legal industry, you must build a CV that speaks for your skills. Irrespective of your practice area or the firm you seek to join, your professional resumé should always include 5 key attributes:

  1. A memorable profile

The importance of your opening statement cannot be overstated: not only is it the first impression a legal recruiter gets of you as a candidate, it’s an insight into how you choose to present yourself. Still, try not to let that prevent you from expressing your personal qualities, skills and experience you feel are most relevant to the role. Your opening statement should be written in third person and no longer than four sentences: your aim is to make these sentences count by hooking the reader in with information that sets you apart from the competition.

  1. All relevant experience 

Your CV should not only detail the names and dates of your past employment, it should tell a story to support your application. At first read, a recruiter should have a clear image of your professional journey and see evidence of ambition and commitment to professional development. In many cases, newly qualified candidates are quick to write off their non-legal work experience as irrelevant: in reality, the soft skills gained in any customer-facing role are transferrable in the most part – communication, problem solving and administrative skills will never be overlooked, for example, but it’s up to you to draw attention to these skills on your CV. 

  1. Your personal achievements

Consider this: if you were an employer in the legal sector tasked with bringing new talent on board, what element could help you determine which candidate had the edge over the competition? The answer is simple: achievements. If you’ve won an award, been elected to a committee or simply gone above and beyond in your work, it’s worth divulging on your legal CV. Even a mention of your award for ‘Employee of the Month’ can go a long way in showing to prospective employers your dedication and commitment in your professional career. 

  1. Activities and interests 

While it may seem like the simplest part of the CV, the hobbies and interests you choose to list have the potential to either put a recruiter off or secure you a place on the shortlist. No pressure, but this section should ideally demonstrate that you are a well-rounded professional who is passionate about taking on new challenges. Long-term hobbies that require patience and drive such as playing musical instruments or learning a new language will play in your favour, proving to a recruiter your ability to set yourself goals and see them through independently. 

  1. The right referees

While you have the right to simply state their availability upon request, taking a proactive approach and contacting former managers or tutors ahead of application will demonstrate your reliability and organisational skills. That said, you should never rush your selection: the right choice of referee can be the difference between an immediate job offer and an email that reads ‘not on this occasion’, so choose wisely.