You’ve made the scary decision to take on the financial burden of Law School, putting your professional life on hold for three more years. Now you’re thinking about what comes next. Will you be able to find a job with a great law firm when you graduate?
In this article, I’ll outline some of the steps you can take while attending Law School to increase your chances of finding a great professional home after graduation. Keep in mind that I am a Personal Injury Lawyer in California, so my advice may not apply to your desired practice area or geographic location.
Let’s Start with the Basics
When I print out a resume and add it to the pile, I’m looking for a few key things:
Contact Information (Email and Phone)
Complete Secondary Education History
GPA (Undergrad and Law School)
Expected Graduation Date
You would be amazed at how many resumes – especially the ones electronically submitted using popular job platforms – are missing key details. I want to hire someone who pays attention to the details. So, take a few moments to double-check everything you submit.
What kind of person are you?
Personal injury lawyers meet with individuals and families during moments of crisis. The accident itself is shocking and unsettling. Then there’s the weeks of trying to pick-up the pieces and figure out how their injuries will impact their future dreams. Chances are, life isn’t shaping up the way they planned.
Accident victims need an attorney that is sympathetic and understanding. Sometimes it’s our job to simply listen. Sure, more information could help with building a successful claim. But when we listen to clients it’s with a focus on ensuring we are doing everything we can to support the client in the moment.
If you want your resume to end up on our short-list, you need to include some examples of organizations or charities you’ve engaged with. When we see that an applicant gives back to their community and finds ways to help others, we know that their heart will serve our clients well.
Here’s an example:
Volunteer Experience: Salvation Army, [Insert a few words describing your efforts.
How skilled are you at distilling large chunks of information into a simple brief or oral argument?
For the sake of everyone that handles your resume, PLEASE invest time in creating a clear, concise document. If I have to flip through page after page to get the information I need, I’m going to just toss the application in the recycling bin. Why? I need to hire associates that have the capability to understand complex situations and distill the data into bite-sized presentations.
Think about the average car accident case. There are hundreds of factors at play – speed, direction of travel, the moments leading up to the accident, weather, traffic conditions – the list goes on and on.
A great attorney will dive into the details and present the information in a way that’s easy for judges and juries to understand. If you’re right but your presentation is confusing, you’re still wrong.
If there are really only three or four pieces of information that matter, and you present hundreds of data points, you’re burying the lead. Don’t make me work harder than necessary to reach your point of view.
One page is all I need in order to decide whether or not I need to schedule an interview.
Customize your resume for the hiring Firm’s practice area.
should you become a personal injury lawyer? Maybe your skills and passions could be put to better use in the criminal justice system. Choosing a practice area is an important decision.
Hopefully you have done some soul searching both before and during law school. Your elective courses should be focused on the area of the law that you intend to practice.
While you’re in law school, find ways to gain experiences that are relevant to the practice area you want to enter. For example, I love seeing resumes from law school students and recent graduates that highlight courses they’ve taken that cover tort and personal injury law, as well as the rules of evidence.
Even if you didn’t realize that you wanted to become a personal injury lawyer, you’ve probably taken courses that covered specific topics relating to personal injury law. Tell me a little about them on your resume! That shows me that you’ve crafted your resume specifically for a career in personal injury law.
If you’re scratching your head, looking for ideas, check out the American Bar Association’s (ABA) schedule for continued legal education (CLE) courses and seminars. If you’re a member of the ABA, they’re FREE.
I also had one applicant highlight the fact that they worked as an EMT while in college. She shared with me that her experience responding to accident scenes inspired her to pursue a career that would help victims seek justice. And yes, I did crack a few jokes about ambulance chasing during her interview. It was great.
I’ve covered a decent amount of ground in this article. I hope I’ve inspired you to invest a little more time before sending generic resumes to every law firm in town. You should definitely invest in additional courses, certifications and extracurricular opportunities if they’ll be relevant to your practice area. If you follow the steps I’ve outlined, you’ll position yourself well for a lucrative career doing what it takes to protect victims and their families.