Last week, I discussed how your resume’s descriptions of your past legal work should “add value” to the clients, firms or companies where you were employed. This week’s continuation of the “adding value” theme requires you to look at your many-times- revised-and- it’s-getting-close-to–perfection resume.

This week, I ask: Do you have a section in your resume that describes your experience drafting motions or briefs while working for a firm?  Writing briefs, doing the research, writing, and/or oral argument are all effective ways to showcase your value.  (Similarly, taking depositions and getting admissions from the other side is also a good way to show your value.  Trials, arbitrations, mediations and favorable settlements also help you hit it out of the park with the person interviewing you.)

If you have contributed to motions or briefs in a substantive way, take a look at that section of your resume again. I’m sure you started out the paragraph with a past tense action verb, such as:  

  •  Researched and wrote summary judgment             motions, motions in limine and motions to dismiss

The past tense action verbs are great; leave them in. However, if your entry looks like the one above, there is no description of what you did or what value you gave to your former employer or client. Good impressions about your law school or grade point aside, the partner looking at your resume needs to know exactly what you can do for her.

For example, let’s say she’s has to file a complex motion to dismiss in chancery court in next month and needs some help. From your resume, noted above, she doesn’t really know if you can handle this task. Instead of offering generic experience on your resume, “Researched and wrote … motions to dismiss,” try something like this instead:

  • Researched and wrote summary judgment motion in   complex  insurance coverage matter on behalf of insured, prevailing on three counts of a four-count complaint
  • Analyzed law and drafted motions in limine and briefs in an employment matter, successfully convincing U.S. District Court judge to rule against 6 of opposing party’s 10 jury instructions

By writing your resume in a way that describes exactly what you have done and how you were successful in the past helps a prospective employer make her decision. She knows you wrote a similarly complex brief in your experience and that you were successful. She sees what kinds of subject matter you have researched and analyzed. She sees that you added value to the brief, to your former client and to your former firm.

Phrasing your experience as I have done above allows a future employer to see that you can hit the ground running! Showcasing your talent in this way can help you land a job – even ahead of students who received better grades or who graduated from higher-ranked law schools. In this way, you provide a decision-maker with the tools she needs to go to bat for you in the hiring meeting. 


This article first appeared in the Law Bulletin Publishing Company's The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, in the related blog, Around the Water Cooler, and the web site of Ms. JD,

Resume - Part II
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