Craft a Law School Application That Gets You In: Sample Résumé Teardown

BulldozerIt’s easy to give general advice about how to make your law school résumé the best it can be. It’s harder to actually do it, right?

Instead of talking generally, I thought it would be helpful to do a résumé teardown for a sample (fictional) law school applicant, so you can see how a humdrum résumé can morph into something pretty impressive!

The Before

Let’s get started. Take a look at Jane Doe’s resume below. It’s not horrible, but it’s basically just a list of all the jobs she’s ever had, with some basic information about her education.

Jane Doe's starting resume

Jane’s starting resume

Before we move on, what would you change?

My Advice

Several things jump out at me:

  1. Her education is more relevant, and more impressive, than her work experience. Consequently, it should go first.
  2. I want to see more detail throughout. Jane mentions she wrote an honors thesis, for example, but doesn’t give the title or tell us what it’s about. Similarly, her job descriptions are weak and don’t provide information about what she specifically accomplished.
  3. She’s devoted way too much space to irrelevant jobs. While it’s nice that she’s had a part-time job in college, and that she worked several summers for the YMCA, this isn’t the most critical information to highlight. If it’s there at all, it needs to be consolidated dramatically.
  4. The formatting is dreadful. Jane’s résumé looks like what it is – a list of jobs. With a little creativity, it can look a lot more professional and will be easier to skim for highlights.
The After

Here’s Jane’s revised résumé.

Jane's revised resume

Jane’s revised resume

Without even clicking for the full-sized version, it’s apparent that this résumé looks more professional. It’s got clear hierarchy, and appears to be dense with information.

Why It’s Better

If you open it, you’ll see several changes:

  1. Jane’s education is now front-and-center, as it should be. She’s added more details about her honors thesis and academic achievements, and has fleshed out the descriptions of her extracurricular experiences. She’s expanded the section on her study abroad experience, adding law school-relevant coursework and information about the non-profit internship she did in London. Hopefully, by the time the reader reaches the end of the revised education section, he’ll be convinced that Jane is a credible law school candidate. Even if he only glances at the rest of her résumé, it’s done its job.
  2. Jane has beefed up her job descriptions, focusing on her specific accomplishments and giving the reader a sense of what she really worked on. She’s highlighted her leadership experience, noting where she supervised, organized, or taught other members of the organization.
  3. Jane consolidated all of her YMCA jobs into a single listing, and eliminated her barista and waitress jobs. With the space she saved, Jane highlighted a very significant volunteer project, which she founded and has worked on extensively for seven years. Initially, Jane didn’t think of this project as “employment” so she just mentioned it briefly under volunteer activities. This was a mistake! Non-paid employment is employment, and Jane’s involvement in the Prison Library Project is extensive, ongoing, and directly relevant to her law school application. It should be emphasized in her résumé.
  4. Jane reformatted everything, using bold, italics, caps, and underlining consistently to add emphasis. It’s easy to scan her new resume, because the layout is consistent.
  5. Finally, Jane expanded her personal interests section to be more specific and more interesting. She added specific places she’s traveled, and drilled down to make her hobbies appear more unique. This approach better highlights her personality, and makes her seem more well-rounded.

How to Craft a Law School Application That Gets You In

Find out how to make every component of your law school application the best it can be:

Return to Applying to Law School 101.

So, what do you think? Did Jane nail it, or are there still things that could be improved?

Image by Michal Zacharzewski, SXC via stock.xchng.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the great info! What if you did not complete a thesis and was an “ordinary” student that worked 40+ hours a week and was in school full time? Is there a way to put this in your resume or should you explain in your personal statement??

    • I think you’d want to include it both places, since that’s a serious time commitment and shows initiative. The job itself can go on the resume (including the time commitment, so it’s clear it’s not just a 10-hour/week part time thing) and I’d probably include something about it in your essays. Maybe not in your personal statement if it’s not relevant to what you’re writing about, but certainly in an addendum.

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