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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

June 4, 2020
Question

All legal resumes should be one page…Right?

answer
Julie Q. Brush

Wrong.

There seem to be so many “rules” about resumes that take lawyers sideways and compromise their ability to create an effective document. The One Page Rule is one of them. I frequently see resumes that attempt to squeeze too much information onto one page in order to conform to this “rule” – and it really isn’t effective, or pretty. It’s like trying to squeeze into pants two sizes too small. Technically you might be able to do it, but it just won’t look good.

Arguably, the resume is the most important personal career document a professional can create. It not only provides the facts of your work history, it details your expertise, your value and all the other great things about you. In other words: Your Sell. So it’s got to be good. In order to write an effective resume, you should not approach the exercise in terms of number of pages, but rather I recommend you think about how this document will best reflect and market your background. Accurately, persuasively and concisely.

For lawyers who are more seasoned (longer work history and more experience), their resumes will tend to be longer – ie 1 ½ – 2 ½ pages (but can be shorter as well). For newbies and junior lawyers, the resume leans towards one page. As an FYI, I have yet to see a resume four or more pages that legitimately needs to be that long. If your resume falls into this category, you’re stuffing too much information in it, which I promise you, will lose the reader…and increase the chance that your candidacy will be DOA. The key is to create an effective document without being too high level, too detailed or verbose. It’s a delicate balance.

If you feel compelled to list all of your accomplishments, deals, matters, specialties or other kitchen sink items, create a document separate from the resume, which can be read independently. These Transaction Sheets, Representative Transactions, List of Accomplishments, Deal Sheets can be quite effective. Not only in allowing your resume to be more concise, but by providing more detailed information about your background in an acceptable format.

There are no hard and fast rules around the resume page length. So if you need an extra page or two to articulate all about you that is great, by all means take it. It is a myth that an employer will not read past the first page of a resume. If it’s well crafted and they like what they see on the first page, they will be inclined to read more. So press forward past the first page if need be with confidence. The One Page Rule is one “rule” that can be broken.

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Comments

Lass Evans, VP, Deputy General Counsel, Fortune 500 Company

Spot on again Julie.

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