OCI Week: 5 Mistakes Made in Legal Resumes

By William Peacock, Esq. on August 26, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Full disclaimer: On Campus Interviews are almost certainly a complete waste of your time, unless you are either the editor of the Law Review, or are on the magna cum laude path. But, you can always take these tips and apply anywhere and everywhere else.

Then again, I may be a bit jaded. My school, which required a horse, two camels, and three days of travel to reach from any major metropolitan area, had a bit of a tough time during the Great Recession, OCI-wise. If your school actually has firms show up, go ahead and give it a shot -- it may not result in a job, but hey, it's interview practice, right?

Of course, you won't even get that interview if your resume doesn't pass muster. Avoid these common mistakes when curating your curriculum vitae.

Freaky Format

This ain't graphic design school. Your resume should be, by society's standards, a bit boring. We'd call it "classic" or "professional." That means no funky fonts, experimental layouts, and seriously -- no scented pink paper.

Terrible Typos

Duh. If you're shooting for BigLaw salaries, it's worth the investment in your time to review your resume repeatedly for typos. And if you don't have an eye for detail, have a friend look it over. Don't have friends? Hire someone.

Extraneous Expertise

You may have been an excellent paranormal psychologist in a prior professional life, but what does that have to do with corporate transactional work?

You see it as an illustration of your well-rounded expertise and versatility. They see it as someone with no interest or experience in their work, who is desperately applying for anything on the OCI docket. Or they spend the entire interview asking you about parapsychology and decide, quite correctly, that you're a bit of a quack.

Unneeded Objective

"My objective in applying for this mergers and acquisitions position is to gain valuable experience in mergers and acquisitions ..." and TO GET PAID! Seriously, if you have an "objective" on your resume, delete it. They know what your objective is (dolla dolla bill y'all!)

Lame Lists

You had a job. At that job you "interfaced with others on a research project." You also "leveraged modular inclusion of prior research."

Your resume was also just lit on fire and tossed in the nearest flame-retardant trash can.

Instead of ambiguous corporate-speak, your research project "uncovered a series of cases and a procedural mechanism that was used to exclude the other party's crucial evidence related to their debt collection claims" and "you devised an indexing system for prior research that reduced instances of duplicate research, increased worker efficiency, and decreased research costs by ten percent."

What About Cover Letters?

We've got your back there too. (Hint: don't mock your lazy eye in your cover letter. Only one man can pull that off. )

Related Resources:

Copied to clipboard