It’s application season and time to update your legal CV. Law firms and Barristers Chamber may ask for your CV in support of an online application; sometimes your CV is ‘The application’ (usually accompanied by a covering letter). Your CV sets out your suitability for the roles you are applying for and needs to provide evidence that you meet the employer’s requirements. It needs to be tailored for each role to ensure you stand the best possible chance of getting through the selection process.
There is no consensus on how a legal CV should be presented so I’ve provided guidance on what makes for a good CV and referred you to other sources of information and support.
First impressions count
An employer is likely to spend about 30 seconds looking at your CV so it needs to make a great first impression. It should be 2 pages, look professional and be clearly set out using headings. All education and work/other experience must be dated and presented in reverse chronological order starting with the most recent first. Use bullet points to provide details of your experience and describe it using direct and powerful language that illustrate the skills you used (e.g. developed, improved, co-ordinated, evaluated, drafted). It’s customary not to start your bullet point with ‘I’ but to talk about you did e.g. Captained the first eleven football team, organised fixtures and training sessions and led the team during its most successful season ever. The headings, bullet points and spaces between your sections are important as they help an employer navigate your CV and find the information they need. You can find legal CV templates and examples online including the Bright Network law CV template.
Start with your name (larger text/bold type) and include your contact details directly beneath this (ideally on just one line). The sections//headings you use are up to you but typically a legal CV includes Education & Qualifications, Legal Work Experience (or you could bring your work and voluntary experience together in a ‘Legal Experience’ section), Other Work Experience, Achievements & Interests, References (just put References available on request under this heading).
For Education & Qualifications, Legal Work Experience, Other Work Experience, and any positions of responsibility include the dates, the name of the institution/organisation and your title/role on one line. Follow this with bullet points to structure the content of each section. TargetJobsLaw provide an example Legal CV (with commentary from law firms) which demonstrates how to do this and other aspects of CV layout. If you are new to producing a legal CV or need to clarify aspects of layout/presentation then you might find it helpful to refer to. Aspiring Solicitors also provide some great advice on developing your legal CV.
Education & Qualifications
Include details of all your examined grades. List your University grades for each year of study (module and grade), list your A level subjects/grades and summarise your GCSE results or equivalent if you are an international student. Law firms and Chambers ae interested in your progress throughout your degree (not just end result) and often require minimum grades to consider your application further.
Start with your legal experience section and identify any relevant experience you’ve had. Many law firms/chambers offer short periods of experience where the focus is on observation and shadowing however these are important. They show your motivation for the law and what you’ve done to gain an insight into profession, as do legal volunteering, outreach/other projects, mooting, and competitions organised by law societies. You could also include details of legal experience you’ve secured but not yet undertaken e.g. where you have successfully navigated the recruitment process and have an offer of a vacation scheme at a law firm which will take place at a future date.
Law firms and barristers’ chambers value a wide range of experience including working in retail, restaurants, bars and other part time and temporary work. These are all relevant and help showcase important skills like teamwork, customer service, resilience, and organisation to name a few. Provide brief details (bulleted) of your responsibilities and achievements using examples and powerful language that showcases the skills you used.
Achievements & Interests
Include details of all your extra-curricular interests with details of what you have done and the impact you’ve had. This includes positions of responsibility e.g. society, course rep, ambassador role and sport, drama, music, volunteering and pro bono work where this hasn’t been included elsewhere. This is a further opportunity to provide evidence of your skills and achievements and recruiters tell us they want this information. In this section you can also highlight any other relevant skills and awards (IT skills, Warwick Award) and linguistic skills indicating your level of fluency. Legal certification like Westlaw and Lexis could be included here.
The careers team provides information on CV development on its website and runs CV workshops (including Legal CVs). You can get feedback on your CV from a member of the careers team. For general CV information visit the Careers website/CVs. Details of CV workshops are available on myAdvantage/events and a recording of the Legal CV workshop is available on the Law Careers Webpages/resources. Finally for details of how you can get feedback on your CV visit HELP.
Senior Careers Consultant – WLS