Rewriting Your Resume to Escape the Law

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on February 01, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Leaving so soon? Maybe the practice of law has not delivered on your expectations. Or maybe you feel the call of another career opportunity beckoning you. We each have our reasons and we won't judge you. After all, there are at least 101 things to do with your JD besides practice law.

If you're looking to say farewell to the practice of law, keep in mind a few tips that will help you craft your resume for a non-law-related field.

This Is Gonna Stink

By now you have maybe two or three standard resumes saved up and ready to go on the cloud. You're planning to freshen up your best resume and hope for the best.

We have bad news for you: you have to re-write it all.

That's right. We know it took you hours to craft your resume into the finely polished opus that it is. The problem is that it's a finely crafted lawyer's resume. In order to break out of the law and fundamentally change the direction of your professional life, you need to start all over again.

Humans and Robots

In the past, only humans in the HR department reviewed incoming resumes. Today, more and more businesses are employing software to filter the first batch of resumes. These are known in the biz generally as Applicant Tracking Systems (ATSes). If your resume makes it past this first array of ATS filters, then it gets reviewed by a human being.

How each program is set up is proprietary, but what it means is that in order to maximize your chances of even being looked at, you'll have to (ethically) massage your work experience to mirror as closely as possible the requirements associated with the position you want. You're an attorney, so you should know what divides puffery and lying on your resume. If you're lucky and skilled enough, the ATS will approve you.

This technique of pleasing the company software is something that will most likely only be employed by large corporations. Small to midsized firms just don't do this (yet) because the HR person can usually handle the small number of resumes that pass through the door, or because the budget is simply too small to justify the cost.

Cover Letters

You'll also have to create a few template cover letters. One or two should be enough depending on the different sectors you're looking at, but this step cannot be overlooked. The cover letter is what the human will be looking at closely.

You must make sure that your letter is free of errors. Make sure you also highlight your skill as a legal practitioner as a means of giving something fresh and new to the company. For small companies that don't use resume scanning software, this letter is even more critical.

How to Begin

  • Put aside several hours to tailor your resume for specific jobs you have in mind. Use key phrases to mirror the requirements and massage your experience within ethical boundaries.
  • Also spend a few hours to rewrite two or three cover letters depending on the sector you'd like to pursue.
  • Don't give up. Many lawyers have left the law and found success in very different professional areas.

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