By RoxanneB 27 May 2021 7 min read

Law and legal CV 101: the essential guide

There are many qualities of a great legal practitioner. At a glance, they are analytical, great at communication, and digital-savvy. They constantly abide by the law and protect it at the same time. If you are looking for a spot in the legal industry, it’s necessary to possess these qualities.

In this sophisticated but equally competitive industry, the verdict must come out with you as the best candidate. But even before hearing the ruling, you need to show that this claim is valid. And the first step to doing that is by submitting a meticulously prepared curriculum vitae — or CV for short.


Law and Legal CV: Why It’s Important

A CV presents a complete history of your academic credentials or career history as an experienced legal practitioner. It’s the first document you give to a potential employer, demonstrating to recruiters and hiring managers that you will be a fantastic addition to their team. 

Writing a solid CV will help market your skills and experiences in the best way possible. As a result, it will put you in a better light and increase your chances of getting the job.

Writing a solid CV will help market your skills and experiences in the best way possible.

Now that we have that in place, you should also note that a strong CV must:

  • be detailed and contain only an accurate picture of your career history
  • be precise and up-to-date, and focus on the most current employment information
  • display your understanding of the law firm and wider legal sector
  • state why you aspire to work for the organisation
  • be concise and to the point, with no more than two pages of the A4 paper


What to include and exclude in a law and legal CV

While it’s important to know what to include on your CV, as a barrister, it is also equally important to know what to exclude. 

Here, we rounded up the information your CV needs to have, as well as those you do not need.


Details to include:

1) Contact information

The recruitment officers or hiring managers will need your contact details like your name, position, email address, and phone number to communicate with you through the application process. So, be sure to include them when writing your CV. They should also be at the header for recruiters to notice quickly. 

It can also save recruiters time if you have a working link or URL to your email address. It is especially helpful nowadays since applicants usually send their CVs via email.

2) Personal statement

A personal statement gives a brief summary of your educational background, skills, work-based experience, and qualifications. It significantly helps to give recruitment officers a glance of you as an applicant and decide if they should read the rest of your CV. So, make it count.

3) Work experience

Your work experience lists all your current and previous jobs in detail. Make sure to include the job title, company name, and dates of employment for each job. Take advantage also of bullet points to list your responsibilities and achievements in every position. Most importantly, focus on your most recent law and legal work experience.

4) Education, licenses, and certifications

Your educational background, licenses, and certifications supplement your work experience and should be added to your CV. 

List down your educational background in detail — what degrees you have, what school you got it from, and when you graduated. If you have post-graduate degrees, it pays to include any theses or dissertations you have passed, especially if they match the job opening.

If you have licenses and certifications that are useful in the legal industry or in the position you’re applying for, list them down as well. Make sure to include also which institution issued your licenses and certifications and when you received them. 

5) Skills

Work-related skills consist of technical skills and soft skills. Both types matter when writing a CV for any position in the legal industry. Examples of soft skills include intrapersonal, excellent communication, analytical, and resourceful. Meanwhile, some technical skills in the legal sector are mediation, law knowledge, and trial knowledge.

List any relevant skills you have that match the position you are applying for. Make sure to use industry buzzwords that best describe these skills. This not only catches recruiters’ attention but also increases your chances of passing Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) companies may be using.


Details to exclude:

The following list contains the information that you should generally do away with when writing your CV. However, if the firm you’re applying to specifically requested that you include them in it, go ahead and do so.

1) Photo and personal details

Including personal details such as your portrait photo, age, gender, nationality, marital status, and health status can potentially lead to discrimination and prejudice. To protect your chances of getting the job, do not add these details to your CV.

Although, hiring managers in the legal industry — who are mostly legal practitioners — rarely ever ask these things to avoid being accused of discrimination. 

2) Salary details

By putting your previous or current salary in the CV, you’re giving the recruiter a chance to pay you less for the position. Your salary has nothing to do with your assets or potential for the role.

3) Full address

Writing your full address may steer away from the recruiter’s focus from the important details in your CV. It also poses privacy risks. So, you might want to refrain from listing your complete address.  

If a recruiter does ask for your address, it is only for them to prepare for possible scenarios such as relocation or remote work. So, write only your city and state at most.

4) References

Character references are a waste of space in your CV. Save that precious estate for details that matter, such as your work achievements and valuable skills. 

Include only character references when the recruitment officer specifically asks you to do so.

5) Unnecessary decors

The legal industry is indeed no fuss and frills — and your CV should reflect that. As such, avoid using stylised fonts, vibrant colours, or accent designs. 

Make sure to keep it professional and clean-looking all the time. Use standard fonts like Times New Roman, Calibri, Arial, or Georgia, and focus on neutrals like black, white, and grey. Remember also to use proper margins to complete the layout.


Final note

Whether you’re trying to land a vacation scheme, pupillage, training contract, or an associate position, you need to tailor your CV to the job you are applying for. Make sure to read more guides and samples to increase your chances of getting inside the great halls of the legal sector. Once written, we suggest having it reviewed by professionals; you can do so for free here!

Good luck in the application process, and may you get the best job out there.


Image source: Unsplash – Author Moira Perez, Guest Writer. 

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