Training contracts are competitive, and it’s important to make your CV stand out for all the right reasons – and to leave out the things that will see your CV go straight into the bin. This article should serve as a helpful 10 step guide to the type and detail of information you should include.
1) What do you want to achieve?
Before anything is written down, it is critical to your success to consider what you are trying to achieve with your CV. Consider the jobs you want to apply for and read the job descriptions to ensure your CV targets those requirements – a City firm? A national practice? A high street paralegal role? You’ll need to include a profile upfront, aligning your skills as a candidate to the kind of firm you’re applying to join.
2) Contact details
This seems very obvious, but we’ve unfortunately seen huge numbers of CVs where contact details are omitted. If you want a prospective hiring manager or recruiter to get in touch, make sure you include your name, a professional email address, and a telephone number. Reference to LinkedIn is encouraged too.
3) Personal profile
The personal profile typically has the top spot on the CV (after your contact details), and is an executive summary of who you are and what you are looking for in your career. It should be well thought out, punchy and factual. You should avoid vague, broad-brush statements like “Works well in a team, and on an individual basis” – they’re almost meaningless. There should be substance behind the statements, such as “LLB graduate with substantial work experience and strong client contact skills. Fluent in French and German.”
All relevant educational and professional qualifications should be listed with the course name, grade, date of attainment, and institution, typically just after your profile. For a current student or recent LLB graduate, you should include your secondary school results too.
5) Employment history
We always advise candidates to list all legal work experience first, in its own section, with “Other work experience” following immediately after – that way, the reader is clearly guided to your most relevant roles upfront.
Within the above sections, your employment history should start with your most recent role and include the company name, location, dates of employment, and your job title. It’s useful to add a sentence into the CV to explain the nature and size of the business, unless it’s a widely known business like Microsoft or Unilever. You may also choose to frame the nature of your role before getting into the detail. For example, “Paralegal with responsibility for caseload of 30 projects, reporting to associates and partners within the real estate team.” Split each role into responsibilities and achievements, avoiding vague statements – be clear about what you did in that role!
Many CVs include an Interests section and too often these read something like “Socialising with friends, going to the cinema and reading” – pretty vague and uninspiring. This section is not obligatory. As a rule of thumb, you should only include it where the interests are relatable in some way to your job search. By way of example, if you want to demonstrate your teamwork skills and you play a team sport like football or netball, that would certainly be something to include in your CV.
The key thing to keep in mind is that your CV should be easy to read. Keep colours simple (just black text is fine) and fonts consistent – one font is ideal, a combination is distracting. Do not include a photo of yourself unless you are applying for a role in a country where this is standard.
With the typical experience that a law student or graduate will have, an ideal CV length is 2 pages – if yours is spilling over into three pages or more, you need to critically evaluate whether the content or formatting can be streamlined. No recruiter is going to wade through a long CV looking for relevant information; they simply receive too many applications to do so.
8) What about my leadership roles / positions of responsibility?
Graduate recruitment teams love these – they like to see candidates getting involved in activities outside their studies, working with others and demonstrating leadership and responsibility. Do include these, and be specific about your role.
9) Technical skills
Some technical skills are critical in law – a sound grasp of MS Office, experience with legal research platforms like Lexis and Westlaw , even language skills if you have them. Include these in their own section, following work experience.
Typically, it's fine to simply say that references are available on request - no need to include referee details in your CV. Always remember to ask for permission before naming someone as a referee – it’s the polite thing to do (and you want a positive reference, after all!). Uni lecturers and most managers / HR staff at any size company you’ve worked for will be able to do this for you, so don’t be afraid to ask.
Sharon Shamir, My Training Contract
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