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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

October 25, 2016

Are resumes that only include a bullet point list of accomplishments attractive to employers?

Julie Q. Brush

Legal resumes are unique beasts. They differ from their sales, marketing, HR and biz dev counterparts in several ways and require different features to market legal professionals effectively. But many lawyers are unaware that key differences exist. So when seeking resume assistance, these professionals rely on resources such as resume services, books, online articles, blogs, friends, family etc. that are not associated with or connected to the legal profession. Consequently, the finalized CV is not industry tailored or appropriate – which diminishes marketability and can compromise a candidacy.

A legal resume containing a bullet point list of accomplishments – void of any information regarding a lawyer’s substantive experience and duties – is one such example. This content and prioritization are found in non-legal resumes like sales and marketing where employers place greater importance on this information in the screening process. But for maximizing a lawyer’s marketability, this approach is a clear miss.

An effective legal resume articulates the breadth and depth of a lawyer’s substantive background and duties clearly and succinctly. It allows an employer to quickly formulate a clear picture about a candidate’s core skills and responsibilities as s/he skims the page. An accomplishment-based approach does not provide that clarity and can often require the reader to work too hard to decode a candidate’s expertise and role. When this dynamic occurs, the resume fast tracks to the No Pile.

With this said, some accomplishments should be…and are included on the legal resume. But they are used judiciously and take a back seat to the substantive experience and responsibilities description. If accomplishments are heftier and need more emphasis, a growing trend is to create a separate document…commonly titled “Representative Accomplishments” or “List of Accomplishments” to highlight a candidate’s achievements, awards, triumphs and good deeds. Residing together in one place, independent of the resume.

As a lawyer, the rules of the resume game are unique to our profession. So what’s effective in another industry is not necessarily effective in ours. A legal resume focused solely on notable accomplishments is not the product of a growing trend, but rather a lack of awareness and/or guidance as to the type of information valued and sought by legal employers. And while it may be the key to candidate success in other industries, its effectiveness is marginal for legal professionals.

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