Resume Tips: What Critical Information is Missing from Your Legal Resume?

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What's not on most legal resumes that should be? 

That's the provocative question I was recently asked by a reporter. Over nearly twenty years, I've reviewed thousands upon thousands of resumes for attorneys and law students. Here are four pieces of critical information they usually leave out -- costing them job opportunities.

1. Language skills and cultural fluencies. We all know our world is increasingly interconnected. Law firms and their clients are global. Even small business can have international supply chains, business immigration concerns, and other cross-border issues. Even individuals can have international adoption, property ownership, tax, and other matters. Yet lawyers often fail to include language and cultural fluencies. Notice that I add cultural fluencies -- knowing a language is fantastic, but understanding history, socio-economics, culture, social norms, and business mores is what helps get deals done.

2. Skills gained during breaks from the law or the workforce. Second-career lawyers often leave off work performed prior to law school, and experienced lawyers who have a taken a leave from the law or from the workforce altogether often leave off what they did during that time. Hiring attorneys, however, don't like to see gaps on legal resumes. They'll assume the worst (for example, that you were living in your parents' basement bingeing on Cheetos and World of Warcraft). Don't leave a gap in time on your resume. Think about the things you did or accomplished during that time. There may be skills you learned that are directly applicable to the job at hand, but anything that shows work ethic, dedication, drive, time management, and organization is plus.

3. Being recruited or handpicked for roles. Most of the time, lawyers don't include on their resumes how they went from one job to the next. However, it's a question I always ask clients because sometimes you very much want to include this on your resume. If you were recruited into a company by the CEO or general counsel, then say so! If you were handpicked for a role on a major corporate transaction or litigation, then say so on your resume! It demonstrates that you're in-demand. Extra kudos if you can include why you were recruited or handpicked. Do you have a specialized skill set, philosophy, track record of success, or experience that the company or law firm desperately needed? You might be able to include this on your resume. 

4. Supervising, training, and mentoring. If you're using online job boards as research tools (and I recommend you do), then you'll see that many employers -- particularly corporate legal departments -- are looking for attorneys who can help develop or cross-train internal talent, both inside and outside of the legal department. Most lawyers realize they should include presentations and publications on their resumes. But they also should consider including any in-person or virtual teaching they've done, even if it's not specifically law-related.