5 Common Legal Resume Myths Dispelled

By Mark Wilson, Esq. on August 18, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's a dog-eat-lawyer world out there, and resumes can make a world of difference. But there are many myths about legal resumes that you'll want to dispel.

Resumes, of course, are how you get your foot in the door. But don't treat them as the be-all, end-all of getting a job; as Business News Daily points out, "A good resume will get you an interview." The rest is up to you.

When it comes to resumes, the truth is that there is no one "correct" way to craft them. There are, however, five bits of advice that either don't matter or have outlived their time. Here's what lawyers and law students need to know:

Myth No. 1: Your Resume Has to Fit on 1 Page.

Really, your resume has to be as long as it needs to be. That's not a terribly helpful recommendation, but it's true.

The "one-page resume" myth is a holdover from a time when most people didn't go to college, and consequently, there was no need for a resume to go past one page (the assumption being that the rest was filler). Law students and lawyers not only have undergraduate degrees, but sometimes other graduate degrees in addition to law degrees. People also move from job to job more often. Basically, don't omit valuable experience just because someone told you to rigidly adhere to a rule for no other reason than to adhere to the rule.

Myth No. 2: You Have to Account for All of Your Time.

On the flip side, if you spent a year after college fixing roofs, you can probably leave that out -- unless the state of the legal job market has you applying for roofing positions. Put down experience only if it's related to the job you're trying to seek. You can omit irrelevant jobs unless doing so would put a big temporal hole right in the middle of your resume. You don't have to account for all of your time, but if you spent five years doing roofs, let employers know you were at least doing something during that time.

Myth No. 3: You Need to Clearly State Your Objective.

No you don't. In Ye Olde Times, you'd have a sentence or two at the top of your resume stating what you want. Nowadays, we have cell phones, computers, and everyone knows that your "objective" is get this job! Cover letters have taken the place of the objective, and do a much better job of it, describing not only what you want, but why you want it. The old "objective" sentence is redundant.

Myth No. 4: You Only Need One Resume.

Your resume should be tailored to the position you want. Remember how, in point Nos. 1 and 2 above, we talked about how you can be selective in what you include? This is where you decide what to leave in and what to take out. If you're applying for a job at a civil rights litigation firm, then by all means put on your resume that you spent a summer canvassing for a human rights organization. If you're applying at a BigLaw firm, that summer work might be interesting, but it could also be something that you leave out if there's more relevant stuff you can put in.

Myth No. 5: You Can Be Vague About Your Job Duties.

If you talk about how you "synergize" or "disrupt," you may as well put some salt and pepper on your resume and just eat it for lunch instead. Resumes can't be general; they must adhere to the old writer's adage, "Show me, don't tell me." It's not enough that you tell your audience that you handled multiple duties at once. Take one or two sentences to list your multiple duties to show your employer how you handled multiple duties at once.

Any more legal resume myths you'd like to debunk? Let us know via Twitter (@FindLawLP) or Facebook (FindLaw for Legal Professionals).

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