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Looking to Hire? Legal Resume Red Flags to Look Out For

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By Betty Wang, JD on June 13, 2013 12:55 PM

We all know from law school and having been through the job-search-wringer that your legal resume is often the make-or-break for many folks. But, it doesn't just stop with the candidate -- those of us who are tasked with having to sift through all those resumes and to make judgment calls off one-page (hopefully) documents per person is exhausting, as well.

On top of that, a legal resume is an entirely different monster from other types. There are certain aspects that are perfectly acceptable on a legal resume, but not on a non-legal resume, and vice versa. How do employers at firms begin to even wrap their head around this?

So, if your firm is looking to hire a fresh-faced grad this coming fall or now, here are some legal resume red flags to look out for.

Gaps during the summer.

While most schools are fairly ambivalent about what their students choose to do in the summer, law school is an entirely different story. Most, if not all, law students find internships and jobs during their summers. This is practically required. For good reason, too. We all know that learning the substantive law happens in the classrooms, but the hands-on, actual exposure to real legal work all happens outside of school. This is in those two crucial summers that law students get to have this opportunity. Many students of course may run into personal problems that preclude them from working in the summer -- any externships during the school year, or explanations in the cover letter are a second place to look, in that case.

Spelling and grammar mistakes.

 It may seem harsh, especially if the error is accidental, but spelling and grammar are two rather fundamental skills that law students and lawyers especially should have down. It's arguably indicative of how much time one has put into working on and editing their resume.

No eye appeal.

Another no-brainer. Much like spelling and grammar errors, tossing out a resume because it doesn't look pretty may sound harsh, but, again, it's hugely indicative of more. If other candidates are willing to put the time together to format their resume neatly and style it, then why shouldn't this one? A bulletpoint list or sentences that run way into the margin and just bulky paragraphs are not only eye sores -- they are almost disrespectful to the employer.

Too much irrelevant information?

Not only are legal resumes meant to be tailored to be more or less exclusively legal, but each one that goes out should then further be angled to that particular job. So, it's already a bad sign if the candidate has exaggerated or listed all their stints working in retail during college, but if they have listed all this excess experience centered around the fact that they've been exposed to the corporate environment, document review, and a passion for mergers and acquisitions -- when you're looking to hire an associate for your small, civil rights firm, this is an obvious toss away.

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